Mountain gorillas: critically endangered and numbering less than 1,000 in the wild, a trekking safari to see these magnificent apes is a unique and poignant experience, and sadly, one that is once-in-a-lifetime. The good news is that the majority of the funds collected from trekking tourism are ploughed straight back into efforts to conserve the gorillas and their rainforest habitat, and with a plethora of lovely lodges attracting even more lovely trekkers (you!), those funds are ever-increasing. If you want to find out which country is best suited for your gorilla safari have a look here. But in this one we focus on which lodges you should stay to make the most of your gorilla trekking safari? Read on for our favourites…
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Rwanda
A classic on the Rwanda gorilla trekking circuit, staying at Sabyinyo is like visiting an old friend. Warm, welcoming and super-cosy, the terracotta chalets look over a landscape straight out of ‘Gorillas in the mist’, complete with rolling hills and lilting fog. The ever-present Virunga Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop and that’s exactly where you’re headed for your gorilla trek. The lodge is only a few minutes away from the gate into Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the trek starting point, leaving you more time to enjoy a morning coffee and a hearty breakfast (good for the energy levels!) before trekking.
Clouds Lodge, Uganda
At 2000 metres above sea-level, there are no prizes for guessing where Clouds apt name comes from, and the sprawling views of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest will stop you in your tracks whichever way you turn. It’s a family-run business, set up in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation and the local Nkuringo community, and there’s a strong emphasis on conservation in all its forms. At the lodge itself, interiors are stylish, charming and more than a little bit luxurious and the perfect base to return to after a day’s gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Oh, and did we mention that there’s even massages on offer to soothe those post-trek aches?
Mikeno Lodge, DRC
If you like your gorilla trekking with a side of adventure, then Virunga National Park in the DRC is the place to go. Not only is the Congolese section of Virunga one of the most spell-bindingly beautiful places to trek on the continent (it is in fact an UNESCO World Heritage site), it’s also home to five habituated families of Mountain gorilla, making for an intimate, personal and totally life-changing encounter. So where to stay? Mikeno Lodge of course, a boutique lodge with twelve lava-stone chalets in the grounds of the park headquarters. Settle in with a G&T and watch the eerie glow of the distant Nyiragongo Volcano from your veranda. Magic.
Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
New lodge openings are always exciting and Bisate is no exception! Due to open in June 2017, this uber-funky creation is promising to inject a touch of glamour into the Rwanda gorilla trekking circuit, with stylish conical chalets modelled on traditional palaces, exquisite interiors and even more spectacular views across the brooding volcanoes. Gorilla treks will take place in Volcanoes National Park but that’s not all the lodge will offer: we’ve heard rumours of treks to the nearby golden monkeys, Dian Fossey’s grave and the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Burera, visits to the local community and the chance to participate in the reforestation programme. Now that’s what we call a lodge!
Buhoma Lodge, Uganda
You’ll definitely need your walking boots at Buhoma and not just for the gorilla trekking. Each of the chalets is perched high in the treetops and connected by meandering wooden walkways and a fair few stairs, but the panoramas of the magical Bwindi Impenetrable Forest spread out below are oh-so-worth-it when you’re inside. Eco-tourism is a buzzword here, and the entire lodge was built using local materials (by local craftsmen) and is run on solar power with a gravity-fed water supply. And the real draw? It’s a stone’s throw from the main entrance of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the starting point for gorilla trekking in Uganda.