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“superb views and 5-star service ecolodge”
Review of Virunga Lodge

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Virunga Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
224 reviews
93 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 192 helpful votes
“superb views and 5-star service ecolodge”
Reviewed January 5, 2009

Fantsatic - I cannot reccommend Virunga Lodge enough for anyone staying in the area for gorilla tracking. The location is stunning - up a very steep track at the top of a volcanic crater - so fantastic views across two lakes, which make for great sunrises one side and great sunsets the other. It is an ecolodge - we were a bit concerned about reports of long drop toilets, bucket showers and limited electricity. But is was actually fine and added to the "back to nature" feel - the ecosan toilet worked very well (no smells!), and the staff were happy to bring you as much hot water as you liked for a shower. There was always hot water in the morning for washing - each lodge has been designed to allow the staff into the back of your bathroom (which is separated from the main room by a covered corridor) without disturbing you. The main lodge has lots of areas to sit and look at the views and each evening there was a very welcoming fire. Anytime the solar electric ran out there were plenty of candles and storm lamps provided (but do take a torch). A great treate was the hot water bottles in our bed each night - it gets quite chilly. The rooms were spotlessly clean and the bed very comfortable with great pillows, duvets etc. You can have your clothes washed anytime and they even clean your boots if they get muddy tracking the gorillas. Food was excellent - all drinks are included in your package - the wine was of a good standard, from South Africa. The helpfulness and friendliness of the staff really make this place. This lodge is not the closet to the gorilla tracking or the newest but it is truley stunning and very comfortable - a very memorable experience. The lodge also puts a lot back into the local community - using local food and supporting the local school. One evening the local village put on a dance show - not at all cheesy and a very nice experience. There are great walks from the lodge to the village - we found the local people to be proud and friendly - we did not find that the children begged - rather they were happy to smile at you and wave and practice a little english. Rwanda felt like a very safe place with friendly people who although poor were happy. And the gorillas - see them whilst you can, there are only 700 or so left in the world. They are truely beautiful and although large, serene and not scary. And the small effort to trek the volcano worth the effort (it was not as tough as I was expecting).

  • Liked — the location - fantastic views
  • Disliked — nothing - it was a great experience
  • Stayed December 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank gerbilsontour
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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266 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (75)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Long Beach, California
Level 6 Contributor
77 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
Reviewed July 20, 2008

The location, design, philosophy and operation of this lodge places it in a class by itself.

One has to consider their responsibility to nature when traveling if we are to preserve it for future generations. We calculated that this obligation easily offset the higher prices over the more common tourist lodgings that typically do not consider environmental impact a priority in their operations.

As noted, it sits atop a verdant hill with views to the lake, volcano, fields and forests. Yes there are pit toilets, butt,, any similarity to those found in our national parks or scout camps is only at the bottom line... The meals were quite good, considering the location, and the presentation was beyond reproach. The cottages were clean, spacious, quiet and comfortable. Solar heated water for showering was carried and placed in the buckets whenever we needed to rinse out remnants of the jungle.

The staff is well trained and operates with class one would expect in high-end city hotels, yet within the constraints of being extremely eco-friendly. Tourists from other lodges and hotels visited our lodge for lunch, dinner and entertainment to, as one visitor put it, "see how the other half lives". We felt luxury in the wilderness because of the impeccable operations.

In the US, we found that the entire trip could easily be arranged with the help of their local sales office. Jane Behrend was extremely experienced, competent, friendly and far better than the travel agents who were supposed to be doing the job. I would just book the whole Rwanda portion through her next time!

Please see attached photos, in addition to those of others posted here. If you like, visit photo,net and type Steve Shinn in the search window for other shots of Rwanda and other parts of the continent.

I just discovered that the review I wrote for this lodge last summer did not make it to the post... likely my fault, too many buttons an such. Please feel free to email me at nationalbird3@gmail.com for any questions. We would love to visit any photo links that you might post so please post and send them

  • Stayed July 2007
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Steve S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wimbledon
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed July 12, 2008

If you are expecting a luxury resort by western standards you will be disappointed. However, we were warned by our travel agent that there is no running water and that electricity is unreliable so we were prepared.

Positives:
- The location: I have never stayed anywhere this beautiful. Lakes below, volcanic mountains all around. Wow.
- The staff: Everyone we encountered made every effort to ensure we had a positive experience. Because you see the same people every day there is a wonderful familiarity that larger westernised hotels will never achieve.
- The other guests: The lack of "entertainment" on offer really made all the guests talk to each other and share their experiences of the gorillas and Rwanda. We made some new friends!

Negatives:
- Lack of running water: the toilets really do take a lot of getting used to and I do like my long showers.
- The price: We bought a package through out agent but I think it works out as about £500 per night. Given the "rustic" nature of this lodge, the price does seem a bit much. That said, I know that the owners put a lot of money back into the local community (esp the local school) so that makes the price much easier to swallow.
- Children begging: on the drive up to the lodge and when we went for a walk and they saw us and came running up the hill. Tourists should not encourage this.

My view is that at the end of the day this is a remote part of Africa and the country is desperately poor. If you bear that in mind you will be impressed by what Virunga Lodge has achieved and you will struggle to find a better location anywhere.

  • Liked — The views
  • Disliked — The toilets
  • Stayed June 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank WimbledonWanderer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Anchorage
Level 5 Contributor
54 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 51 helpful votes
Reviewed June 20, 2008

I loved the Virunga Lodge. The views were phenominal and I loved my cottage. The food was wonderful and I took a few hikes, read on my porch while looking out over the gorgeous lake nearby and thought the staff was wonderful. I have no complaints. Kathy in Alaska

  • Liked — The views
  • Disliked — Nothing
  • Stayed May 2008, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
1 Thank Fireweed
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
long island, ny
Level 4 Contributor
25 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 86 helpful votes
Reviewed May 26, 2008

My husband and I stayed at Virunga for three nights in January so that we could go on two gorilla treks. Admittedly, the views are spectacular. But beyond that, Virunga falls miserably short. The accommodations are incredibly rustic. I was picturing more Ralph Lauren chic. Virunga's rooms are really basic. The mattress was thin and hard as a rock. Housekeeping was non-existent. They did not replace any towels and the sheets were dirty. There is no running water. Instead, they bring a bucket shower that literally lasted like 5 minutes. The water was definitely hot though. The electricity is not reliable. You might have a few hours, but not much more. The toilet was literally a hole built into a piece of wood. The toilet lid was totally dirty. Honestly, it was disgusting. I guess the unsanitary conditions of the resort make sense given that there is no running water.

While I read lots of reviews of Virunga, I don't believe I had an accurate picture of what the hotel was really like. I was very uncomfortable during the entire stay. Everything felt dirty. This was the last place one wants to come home to after a sweaty day trekking in the mountains.

The drive to the parks was not long in my opinion. However, you should realize that you are driving up and down a cliff. So if those things freak you out, you should consider a different hotel.

I am not saying to avoid Virunga. Some people are able to "rough it" better than others. We are not those people. If you are accustomed to luxury accommodations, you should stay at the new Sabinyo Silverback Lodge. Unfortunately, the lodge opened after I had already paid for Virunga. So in reality, we had no option but to stay at Virunga. For the price ($1000 pp pn) that they are charging it is a sin that this resort is so uncomfortable.

  • Liked — The Views and Ability to see the Gorillas
  • Disliked — Overall Uncomfortable Accommodations
  • Stayed January 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
7 Thank am470
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, IL
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed January 22, 2008

I recently returned from a trip to Rwanda to do two gorilla treks and felt compelled to comment on two lodges I stayed in near the Volcanoes National Parc. The first is the Virunga Lodge which was heaven on earth. And because of where the lodge is situated on top of a very lodge hill I felt like I was in heaven. Especially when I sat on the porch of my cottage and watched the sun come up over a gorgeous lake. It's an ecolodge so be prepared for long-drop toilets, showers by water in a bag and limited electricity. Also be prepared for breath-taking views from the lodge and your cottage, a wonderful Rwandan atmosphere, a cozy main lodge with a nice fireplace and good wine, wonderful food and fabulous hospitality. Didas deserves a special call out for making our stay extra special right down to the gifts he gave us when we left. I want to go back. See Sabyinyo Lodge review for a different type of lodge experience.

Helpful?
1 Thank windycitygal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, USA
Level 3 Contributor
11 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed January 15, 2008

The lodge location and views are truly spectacular and convenient for gorilla trekking trips, it's a short drive to Park HQ.
As this is a remote Eco Lodge, don't expect 24hr electricity, mains hot water, plumbing etc. That said, the staff do a wonderful job to make your stay very, very comfortable. Spotless comfortable rooms with views, morning hot water delivery and bed-warming service make this a luxury wilderness experience.
The staff are super friendly, polite and accommodating; but you should not expect 1st world luxury hotel training. The dining experience is good and wholesome, but not gourmet cuisine.

  • Liked — views, friendly staff
  • Disliked — N/A- do expect limited amenities
  • Stayed December 2006
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank hfl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Virunga Lodge

Property: Virunga Lodge
Address: Lake Bulera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda
Phone Number:
Location: Rwanda > Northern Province > Musanze District > Ruhengeri
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 19 Specialty Lodging in Ruhengeri
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The magnificent Virunga Lodge is the premier luxury gorilla lodge of Rwanda and one of Africa’s finest and most renowned lodges. The lodge is perched high on a ridge with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the Musanze valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east. It offers the finest views in Africa, uniquely decorated rooms in the Rwandese style, fantastic food and exceptional and personalised service by our carefully trained staff. It is the first accommodation choice for the luxury traveller tracking the endangered mountain gorilla. Each of our ten luxurious bandas has a private terrace from which our guests can watch the sunrise over the dramatic landscape of mountains and lakes. Luxuriously appointed, with the accent on vibrant Rwandese fabrics and stylish locally inspired furniture. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Virunga Hotel Ruhengeri
Virunga Lodge Rwanda/Ruhengeri

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