Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
At a Glance
Trekking for the Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains
Sit on the deck and soak in the spectacular views
Visit the socio-economic development and conservation projects in the area
Beautiful walks around the lodge
Trek for the Golden Monkey
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. There are two annual rainy seasons: the big rains which last from mid-February to the beginning of June, and the small rains from mid-September to mid-December. Rainfall, especially over the mountains, is heavy during these two periods, particularly from March to May. The long dry season, June to September, is the best time for tracking gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park and for hiking in Nyungwe Forest Reserve.
To start planning your holiday to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated on the edge of the Parc National des Volcans. This eight room lodge has fabulous views of the Virunga Mountains and is a great base from which to trek into the mountains to hopefully see the mountain gorillas.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated in the foothills of the mighty Virunga’s, the chain of 15,000ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Lodge is some 3 kilometres from the main entrance to the Parc National des Volcans in Northwest Rwanda near the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lodge is a comfortable 2-hour drive from central Kigali. The site itself is approximately 1 kilometre from the Park boundary on the gentle foothills of Sabyinyo, one of the most impressive of the five volcanoes visible from the site.
From the Lodge guests have magnificent views to the verdant slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes to the North and over the agricultural lowlands to the South. It is possible to make the short journey to the Park headquarters each morning for a gorilla trek in only a few minutes, and the Lodge is a perfect base from which to explore this unique and fascinating corner of Africa.
The lodge has five cottages, two suites and one family cottage, all offering private verandas, bathrooms and sitting rooms with fireplaces. The rooms have large beds, a dressing room and all have en-suite bathrooms. The family cottage is very similar but has an extra bedroom and bathroom. The main lodge offers the opportunity to relax with both the bar and the dining room with great views from the outdoor decks. There is a library and a games room and there is also a community awareness centre, offering more information and advice on the resident gorillas. Set in landscaped gardens, the buildings are made from local stone with terracotta roof tiles, creating a contemporary Rwandan ambience and blending in well with the local surroundings. However the main reason for visiting Sabyino Silverback Lodge is to see the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park.
Accommodation at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge comprises five double cottages, two suites and one family suite. All are stone buildings with Rwandese terracotta tile roofs, and feature large sitting areas, fireplaces, stylish en-suite bathrooms finished with Venetian plaster a dressing room and a sheltered veranda. Heat exchangers in the fireplaces provide a plentiful supply of hot water.
Children of all ages are welcome at Sabyinyo Lodge. The family cottage was especially designed with families in mind and is therefore a good choice if you are travelling with little ones. However, it is important to note that children under the age of 15 years are not permitted to visit the gorillas.
Contained within the main lodge building, the bar and dining room has fireplaces to warm them during cold weather, and outside decks for al-fresco drinks and meals during the warmer weather.
A well-equipped shop is situated within the main lodge building.
One of the most rewarding of all wildlife experiences is Gorilla trekking. Gorilla treks take place in the morning and depart from the Park Headquarters at around 07:30am. Also on offer from the lodge are escorted walks, escorted mountain bike excursions and escorted bird watching walks in the local area. Also recommended is a visit to the nearby Genocide memorials to learn about and understand both the genocide and the incredible progress Rwanda has made since.
Jules Maury (Staff)
Walking up the challenging steps to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is great practice for the Gorilla trekking that awaits you and arriving onto the lawn facing the volcano view makes it all the more worthwhile. This is for the Out of Africa experience of days gone by with every mod con of today. A charming lodge with lovely reception rooms stuffed with comfortable but beautifully chosen furniture, roaring fires that are lit both morning when you leave at dawn for the trekking and at night for cocktails before dinner and an outside terrace for lunches in the sunshine or pre dinner drinks in the evening. The house in Africa you would want for your own. The elegant and homely suites that are cosy with working fireplaces and butlers that bring you tea in the morning for your walk up call. Delicious food and everything you could need for a trek from gaiters, backpacks, gloves and rain ponchos ensure you can cut down on your luggage travelling to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Plus their excellent laundry service! A true African lodge experience with all the sophistication and charming elegance that a European touch brings to this lovely property nestled into the hillside close to the famous Gorilla habitat. Governors has been pioneering transformational safaris in the Mara since 1972 and everything about this lodge personifies a real safari experience.
What do you do when you come face-to-face with a mountain gorilla? I opted to crouch. I'd fallen behind, with my back to the rest of our trekking group, when I was confronted by a young male coming the other way. It was a moment I'll long remember. Dark, unblinking eyes fixed on me in an instant. Then, all huge knuckles and hairy shoulders, he approached. Fascinated, I was rooted to the spot. He sauntered past, no more than 30 centimetres away from me.
Rwanda is renowned for its gorillas and they didn't disappoint. In the far north-west of the country, in the Volcanoes National Park, seven groups of eight visitors get to spend an hour each day near some of the planet's last remaining mountain gorillas.
We'd set off an hour earlier after Fidel, our guide, had given us a briefing. "We're visiting the Sabyinyo group," he had said. "It comprises 12 gorillas, including the largest silverback, Guhonda. His name means 'chest beater'. All of the gorillas have names; we tell them apart by the shape of their noses."
Our trek through bamboo forest and fat-leafed foliage was relatively sedate but at nearly 2750 metres above sea level, it still occasionally had me panting for breath. During our hour with the group, which passed incredibly quickly, we were also lucky enough to get very close to Guhonda. He, too, eyed us over, almost posing.
Further turns around clumps of bamboo brought us to a huge blackback, a smaller male and a baby. We watched enthralled as he clambered and tumbled around in the bamboo. He was charming. Father looked on unperturbed as visitors just metres away snapped like mad with their cameras. It was so close, so intimate, that I felt almost embarrassed.
The choice of gorilla group was apt. The lodge where we were staying was called Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, the most comfortable of the accommodations around the national park. Unsurprisingly, tourism is an integral part of the mix. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is working hard to encourage visitors to do more than just visit the gorillas. And rightly so.
A two-hour drive brought me to Kigali, the capital. The road dipped and swooped past tiny mud huts perched precariously on steep hillsides, each an island in a sea of banana and cassava plants. The warm air was full of the scent of eucalyptus and cooking smoke.
Amid all the excitement of progress, I thought, Rwanda's bright future is inextricably linked to the wonders of its primeval past.
Rwanada can be visited at any time of year. The best time for gorilla trekking is the long dry season, from June to September, when it's not as slippery underfoot.
National park permits need to be booked well in advance, particularly for gorilla walks, because just 56 permits are issued daily. It's far easier to get your tour operator to organise them. At $US500, the permits aren't cheap but much of the revenue goes towards community work, as well as paying for the trackers, guides and rangers who protect the gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park isn't just about the gorillas. You can trek to see rare golden monkeys for $US100 and there's the excellent Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village run by locals, many of whom were poachers. cbtrwanda.org.
Experiences and activities in the Virungas
Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans surely must rank at the top of any list for the sheer majesty of its landscapes. It's a land of soaring cloud capped volcanoes, beautiful mountain lakes and warm welcoming people.
Golden Monkey trekking
Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys in Uganda and Rwanda is a great trip where you will witness these inquisitive animals leaping from branch to branch around you.
Gorilla tracking in Parc National des Volcanoes, through the mountainous forest on the slopes of the Virunga range, is a magical experience. Seeing a mountain gorilla in its natural habitat is one of the world's most thrilling wildlife experiences.
Location & directions
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
The Virunga Mountain range span Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Parc National des Volcans, known more commonly as the Volcanoes National Park, is located in north-western Rwanda. The Volcanoes National Park on the Rwandan side is lucky to have more than half of the world's mountain gorillas, and is probably the best place in Africa to see them. There are five habituated families of gorillas which are generally visited, having from 7 to 35 individuals in each family.
How to get there
It is an 8-hour 30-minute international flight from London to Nairobi and then a 2-hour international flight to the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali and from there the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is a 2-hour 30-minute drive.
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