After huge amounts of research for our dream visit to see the mountain Gorillas I finally decided to spend our 3 nights at Virunga Lodge.Whilst I definately don't regret it I do think there is room for improvement when you consider how much it costs to stay there.
I agree with other reviews that the drive is quite rough going but they were working on road improvements when we were there & we thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the local people & villages on the way.The location of the lodge is wonderful & the bandas have great views over the lakes & mountains.The rooms are very comfortable with ample space & adequate facilities including limited electricity in the early morning when you are getting ready for your trek & early evening too.We found the beds to be very comfortable ( there are 2 double beds) & the hot water bottles very welcoming.
The staff have a seperate door access to your bathroom & before you wake up they bring enough warm water for you to have a wash & they need about an hours warning to arrange hot water for the bucket shower when you return later. We always showered together just in case the water ran out.
Although we were prepared for the compost toilets I must admit they took some getting used to & were a constant source of discussion amongst the guests!We were lucky enough to meet some really nice people whilst we were there ( Hello Yvonne,Evelyn,Bill ,Lucy,Stephanie & Michael) & we all had a good laugh about the loos. Apparently because they cause some distress to some guests there is talk about plumbing in proper toilets but considering how precious water is in Rwanda I'm not sure this is the answer.I will assure people though that there are no problems with smells of any kind so the set up does work.
Like other reviewers we found all the staff very friendly & there did seem to be a lot of them about, but it seemed at times they were busy doing nothing.
I would like to emphasise that we're not the sort of people that expect others to run around after us but we had a few unfortunate incidents of poor service which was mildly irritating.There were misunderstandings of what morning beverages we ordered.We waited 40 minutes for a beer & 1 hour 10 mins for orange juice to be brought to our room after returning from a gorilla trek & we had offered to go to the bar to get them ourselves but the staff insisted no & on our last night we hadn't realised that the chef hadn't asked us what we wanted for dinner that night so when we sat down with the other guests there was no meals ready for us.As we are not fussy they brought us food within 10 mins but of course we weren't eating at the same time as the other guests we were sitting with( you all eat at a communal table).The reason we thought this was poor service is because there are only 8 rooms there ( some more being built now) & they surely must have counted how many guests they had to feed!
The food is quite nice & you won't starve but we certainly didn't go to Rwanda for its cuisine.
We just think that the staff need better training & if we hadn't paid so much for our stay then we wouldn't be so critical.
The sad part is if you are using Virunga Lodge as your base for Gorilla trekking as we did, then you don't really get the time to appreciate its peaceful & beautiful surroundings unless you can afford to stay there & not go out.
Also it doesn't offer lodgings for your drivers so they have to stay elsewhere then drive to collect you for your 6am departure & take you on the 45 minute drive to check in at the Virunga Park headquarters,where you then stand around till 8am ish before being allocated a gorilla group.
In hindsight (or for our next visit?!) I think I would probably stay somewhere cheaper & closer to the park headquarters because trekking to see the Gorillas is such an amazing experience that even fussy old me wouldn't be too worried where I stay as its irrelevant to what you've been lucky enough to witness up in the mountains.
Also in case any people reading this are still a bit apprehensive about the trekking to see the Gorillas (as I was) then don't be as most people we met had very enjoyable walks & not at all strenuous( as we found) although the Susa gorilla group are the most challenging to find if you want that.
Another point to make is that we were told to take Malarone malaria tablets for Rwanda which we bought in the UK & found when we got there that as its 3000metres its too cold for mosquitos! However if you're staying in Kigali there is malaria there.
Sadly we didn't get chance to visit the local village school but other guests did & said it was very enjoyable.We got our guide to take us to an orphanage in Musanze as we'd taken clothes,footballs ,tennis balls & small cuddly toys with us & we had a truly rewarding ( but naturally upsetting) time.
So wherever you chose to stay, ENJOY CLEAN & BEAUTIFUL RWANDA & ITS LOVELY FRIENDLY SMILING PEOPLE AND THE ADORABLE GORILLAS.
We had a truly amazing time and would love to go back again!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.