The conical design of the villas and main building is the brainchild of Johannesburg-based architect Nick Plewman, who took his influence from the erstwhile royal palace in Nyanza in Rwanda’s Southern Province. And, while it’s all intricate thatch and weave on the outside, inside it’s all exposed brick walls and concrete floors, softened with colourful throws, cushions and rugs for a distinctly local flavour. It’s a theme that carries on into the restaurant, where bar tiles are matched to green-bottle chandeliers and the staff uniforms are made from traditional fabric. And, in the food, too – expect a daily changing menu showcasing fresh, local ingredients.
Guest rooms here are an absolute delight – six luxurious villas perched on the hillside with views out across the forested slopes of Mount Bisoke, taking in from private bamboo balconies accessed through black-steel-framed doors. Inside, log-burning fires and custom-made armchairs add both style and cosiness, while in the bathrooms, walk-in showers complement luxurious black-resin bathtubs. There are no TVs here, but there is WiFi if, for some reason, you need to keep the outside world within reach.
And, if you can tear yourself away, there’s much to experience in and around the hotel grounds, from guided nature walks to tree planting as part of a lodge-backed reforestation programme. Adventures further afield take guests in search of golden monkeys and up into the jungle to visit Dian Fossey’s grave and former Karisoke research station. The real star of the show, however, is of course the chance to visit a gorilla family in the Volcanoes National Park.