Six thatched villas have popped up on a hillside near Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The pod-like structures belong to the new eco-resort Bisate Lodge, and take their design inspiration from the King’s Palace at Nyanza. But that’s hardly the most remarkable thing about them, because this is no ordinary hillside – it’s an eroded volcanic cone.
The word bisate means ‘pieces’ in Kinyarwanda, a reference to the once-whole cone that has been worn away by natural erosion. Bisate Lodge was designed by Nicholas Plewman Architects as part of an effort to honour local culture while restoring the indigenous forest. The huts pay homage to the natural landscape with a shape that echoes the surrounding hills and stone cladding that nods to the region’s ancient volcanoes. Inside, the décor comes courtesy of local fashion entrepreneur Teta Isibo, who focused on creating a characteristically Rwandan aesthetic.
“As a designer who focuses on fusing traditional Rwandan craftsmanship with contemporary design, the Bisate project is super exciting for me, as I feel its design embodies this same principle,” said Isibo. “I’d love to achieve a strong local flavour, one that is envisioned by the whole team, and to make the lodge look and feel authentically Rwandan.”
To that aim, Isibo integrated textiles, texture, upcycling, and the local imigongo art form (which uses hardened, coloured cow dung to create geometric patterns) into the interiors of Bisate Lodge. Each villa has its own living room and en-suite bedroom, and is set around a central volcanic stone fireplace. Emerald green chandeliers made from recycled glass hang from ceilings. Cowhide rugs dot the floors. Guests enjoy the views of the Karisimbi, Bisoke, and Mikeno volcanoes from their private decks.
That authentic Rwandan flavour is also reflected in the seasonal menus of Bisate Lodge, which fuse Rwandan flavours and ingredients with contemporary international cuisine. To minimise Bisate’s environmental footprint and contribute to community development, the retreat sources the majority of its produce from an in-house kitchen garden and from neighbouring farms.
Bisate Lodge is set on a 103-acre property within easy driving distance of Volcanoes National Park, where visitors can embark on morning treks to view the region’s famous mountain gorillas. Other Lodge activities are rooted in the resort’s commitment to sustainability. Guests can plant trees as part of a reforestation programme, visit local schools, sample the goods at the nearby Gato Keza coffee farm, and participate in other community-engagement opportunities.
“We wanted to ensure that our brand of responsible ecotourism made a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation,” said Grant Woodrow, COO of Wilderness Safaris, the sustainable ecotourism operator behind Bisate Lodge.
Reservations for this stunning retreat can now be made through the website, starting at US$1,100 per person per night.