Accommodation all around the world is very seldom all that interesting… little more than a hopefully a nice-ish room in a decent location to spend the night while you focus on the activities you want to do for the day. So when you come across those places that are truly a destination unto themselves, it’s a really great surprise and something to be shared with as many people as possible.
Ruzizi Lodge is one of those places where the accommodation itself is enough to keep you happy and when my friend and I visited last month, we were quite happy to veg out on the beautiful porch gazing across the lake. We’re simple people. When you add in the fact that the lodge lies inside Rwanda’s Akagara National Park then you have something very special, indeed.
It’s the little things that really set the professional, high-standard operations aside from the the others. Like a glass of juice on arrival after a long drive to the park, or the umbrellas available in each room for guests to use. These simple gestures go a long way to making a guest feel welcome and I think the Ruzizi Lodge staff really know how to take care of their guests. They’re pros and it shows.
The lodge is under the management of African Parks who have been hard at work improving many aspects of Akagera, in addition to bringing a high level of professionalism to Ruzizi Lodge. The most obvious improvement has been the reintroduction of lions but they’ve also improved the park’s facilities and have added boat trips, tours, and cultural experiences so that there’s a lot more on offer than searching for the wildlife. They’ll help you arrange everything at the lodge so that you have some activities to keep you busy if you’re a bit less laid back (lazy?) than my friend and I.
The lodge is made up of nine tents with modern bathrooms (with hot running water) attached at the back. The rooms are set back from the shore of the lake but are close enough to hear the hippos say hello. The rooms are very nice. They’ve been designed in a style similar to what I found at the Virunga Lodge just outside of Musanze. Spacious, African patterns adorning the walls and sheets, comfy beds, and nice bathrooms. The lodge is built with eco-tourism principles in mind and it’s entirely reliant on solar energy and prides itself on being environmentally conscious.
Each of the tents are connected with a wooden boardwalk set high up enough to be among nature without being at hippo-risk. The boardwalks all lead to a beautiful central dining and chilling area with a great deck overlooking the lake and a fire pit for guests to congregate around. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t get to enjoy a fire, but before it started to rain we did enjoy a pretty spectacular lightening storm flashing from across the lake.
My favourite thing about the place had to be the front porch with a couple of chairs and a little table. It’s such a simple feature but because of the location, sitting out there was really a great way to while away the time and it’s an excellent place to come to relax among the sounds of the park. Bring a bottle of wine and some snacks and you’re set for a few hours of quiet contemplation or conversation.
Some words of advice about the nature… when they tell you to make sure your tent is closed, make sure to heed this warning. Though we were somewhat vigilant about keeping our tent closed, we maybe weren’t obsessive enough and in the evening we were joined by hundreds of flying insects. They mostly left us alone and were actually quite amazing, really, but it wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world. But really… we probably had ourselves to blame due to lax tent door control.
Also make sure to be careful with your food scraps lest ye be attacked by an army of monkeys. Well… not attacked so much as put onto the monkey world’s radar as they scope you out for more grub. That little innocent bread crust or those cracker crumbs will bring in the monkey masses so be warned. Though they were somewhat intimidating, they were also quite fascinating. It’s really amazing to have an opportunity to be so close to nature here. There’s also a beautiful deck with a fire pit for relaxing in the evenings where hippos often drift up to to say hello.
When accommodation offers half board the hope is that the food will be good and Ruzizi Lodge doesn’t disappoint. Their breakfast gives you a choice of the usual eggs in a variety of ways, but you also have the option for French toast, pancakes, or even English muffins with is a nice touch. The coffee is good, the setting is beautiful and it’s a great way to wake up and start the day – even if your wake up is as early as 5:30am for a safari.
We stuck around for lunch which was excellent with several options to choose from priced between Rwf 7,500 and 9,000. I tried to order the Coconut Paneer Skewer but was told this has to be ordered in advance, so take note and contact them ahead of time if you’re dreaming of paneer (as I always am). I opted for a really good burger instead and my friend had the Chili Tomato & Prawn Pasta with Avocado Salad which was a bit more adventurous and very tasty. They fired up the grill for dinner and we were served some mammoth brochettes along with nice starters and sides. The drinks were affordably priced and both meals were really nice, especially starting on the beautiful deck with a cocktail.
Rates at Ruzizi Lodge are on a half basis with accommodation, dinner, and breakfast included. Lunch isn’t included in the price but you can order it in advance to eat at the lodge or they can prepare a lunch box for you to take into the park. Activities, drinks, and park fees are extra though accommodation is free for children under 5 years old with only meals and drinks charged. Children aged 6 to 16 are given a substantial discount and there are lower rates for Rwandans and residents of Rwanda.
Due to switching to full board in 2017, prices are set to increase so make sure to get in touch to verify, but a double tent (either with a double bed or a twin) is currently $165 per person (or $130 for residents and Rwandans), or $230 ($185 with the discount) if you’ll be in the tent on your own. There’s also a special tree-top tent that’s more spacious and luxurious for $240 per person ($200 with the discount).
Ruzizi Lodge really is a special place and I loved my stay here. Great food, nice services, and a truly unbeatable location all make this an excellent choice for an escape with visiting friends or family or even as a weekend away for a break from life in Kigali. They book up early, especially on the weekends so get in touch with them to make your reservation.
It really is a great way to spend a few days away from the big city and take note that 100% of the profits from the lodge are put back into the management of Akagera Park as a whole. It’s well-run initiatives like this that are why we’re seeing such great things as the park and I’m happy to have contributed a bit.