7000 feet above sea level, on the edge of Parc National des Volcans (where five volcanoes rise to 15,000 feet), in Rwanda, a country where 800,000 men, women and children were killed in 100 days, and the future seemed dark back then, sits Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge — a luxury lodge, an emblem of hope; a motif of what a group of people can do to change ordinary lives, for the better.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is built and operated by The Governors’ Camp Collection, a 40-year-old company run by a group of shareholders, and which comprises seven award-winning luxury safari camps and lodges in Kenya and Rwanda. It was built in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation and its partner in Rwanda, the International Gorilla Conservation Program. But right in the beginning, it was decided that the ownership of the lodge would rest with a community trust to be set up specifically to receive rental and other income from the lodge, which would be used to drive socio-economic development and conservation initiatives in the area. A community trust, SACOLA, was established.
In May 2006, agreements were signed; in June 2006 construction of the Lodge began; in August 2007 it received its first guest; in September 2007 SACOLA began its mission.
The SACOLA Community Trust projects range from the creation of vegetable gardens for a community farming project to the reconstruction of a local primary school for 1,600 students to rural electrification project; construction and maintenance of local roads; building of homes for refugees from the genocide and so on. Also, the Lodge also contributes to the conservation and preservation of the Mountain Gorilla and its fragile habitat and the wildlife conservation project in Gishwati Forest, 50 km away.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is an illustration of the seamless amalgamation of socio-economic development (of the public and the private), conservation of nature and the collective consciousness working at rebuilding a country, one community at a time.
The Lodge itself can be described as ‘thoughtful’ in its design, architecture and the premises on which it operates. The Lodge is only minutes away from the headquarters of the Parc National des Volcans from where one can trek on foot to see the magnificent Mountain Gorilla – perhaps one of the most dramatic, thrilling and poignant wildlife experiences possible. The lodge, situated in the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000 ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, affords wonderful views of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside.
The Lodge, set in 11 acres of land, comprises five cottages, two suites and one family cottage. They are stone buildings with Rwandanese terracotta tile roofs and feature large sitting areas, fireplaces, stylish bathrooms finished with Venetian plaster and verandahs with dramatic views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the surrounding lowland farmlands. The close relationship between the Lodge and SACOLA can be explored in the Community Awareness room in the main lodge building, or by visiting the various projects run by SACOLA.
Heat exchangers in the fireplaces provide a plentiful supply of hot water. The family cottage comprises two independent ensuite rooms connected by a shared verandah. The main lodge building includes reception, sitting room with snug area, dining room, library/games room, a responsible tourism/community awareness room, shop and bathrooms. Three large fireplaces provide warmth, and all rooms are finished with a polished wooden floor. Two patio areas afford excellent and dramatic views to the Virunga Volcanoes and the surrounding lowland farmland.
“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence,” wrote the celebrated Chinese writer Lin Yutang. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is ‘that’ road of hope for some of the communities in Rwanda.
For more details check: www.governorscamp.com