Today we look back at 10 highlights from Bisate’s first few months of operation. We’re inordinately proud of all of the inspiring people behind it, along with their life-changing projects:
Welcoming our First Guests
On 26 June 2017 we welcomed our very first guests to Bisate. This was a momentous day for the team who had spent months preparing the lodge for the grand opening.
The team had little sleep ahead of the guests’ arrival but this did not take away from the excitement that everyone felt when they dressed in their brand new kitenge uniforms.
This excitement is still very much alive amongst Bisate staff who are proud to show off the lodge and make each guest feel special.
The Official Opening of Bisate
The official opening of the lodge took place on 1 September 2017. His Excellency President Paul Kagame honoured us with a visit and cut a symbolic bamboo twine signifying our commitment to reforestation. This celebratory day involved song and dance and the planting of a hagenia tree at the entrance to Bisate.
A Life-Changing Experience
One of the most heart-warming stories (and there have been many) to come from Bisate is the story of Joseph and Maria…
Joseph and single mother Maria are neighbours in the Bisate community, and are responsible for many of the tailoring jobs for the lodge and greater area.
Before Maria met Joseph she had no sewing experience. To add to this, she had no possessions or income. Joseph decided to volunteer his time and expertise and taught Maria how to sew on a machine purchased with contributions from the Bisate Lodge team.
The good news is that Maria now has a constant stream of work and in August 2017 had saved enough money to buy a small plot of land where she is growing her first crops. She’s also managed to purchase materials to make a bed, the very first piece of furniture for her tiny home .
Visiting Bisate? Ask to join the community tour – you may even get to meet Maria and Joseph and see the talented twosome at work!
2017 saw a wonderful boom of new-born baby gorillas – a total of 19 births were recorded in August, which meant that guests had an excellent chance of seeing these small (and most adorable) babies – a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Rwanda’s 13th Kwita Izina (gorilla naming) ceremony took place in 2017 with thousands of people coming together to celebrate the country’s success in conserving mountain gorillas. The above-mentioned 19 babies were named, adding to the 239 baby gorillas who have received names in previous ceremonies.
Wildlife at Bisate
You don’t have to go far to see wildlife. Bisate is home to many thrilling endemic species, great and small, and seeing wildlife return to this reforested area has been one of our major highlights.
Among these we have been fortunate to see two golden monkeys which are often spotted by guests on the property while walking up Bisate Hill.
Always Smile Fund
The Always Smile Fund was started by the Bisate team as a way to give back to the community and help one another. Staff members contribute towards this fund on a bi-monthly basis – giving USD2 from their gratuities and salaries towards the fund. Besides giving one another support on special occasions like weddings and births, the fund is intended to support local community members to obtain health care and health insurance.
Another highlight here was the beginning of a women’s cooperative. Not long after Bisate opened, a group of ladies from the community began working together to make arts and crafts. These independent and entrepreneurial women are now selling their crafts to guests and community members, and showcasing their talented skills!
Christmas decorations made by ladies in the Bisate community
Bisate’s reforestation project has been an unprecedented success with over 17,000 trees planted to date. Guests have the opportunity to be a part of this visionary conservation project and are encouraged to plant a tree during their stay. In this way, every guest becomes a conservationist.
New Land for Gorillas
We are proud of a new emerging partnership with the Rwanda Development Board and the African Wildlife Foundation to expand the Volcanoes National Park and habitat for Critically Endangered mountain gorillas by 27.8 hectares.
As part of the official handover, which took place at the park headquarters on 10 January 2018, 50 hagenia seedlings from the indigenous tree nursery at Bisate were planted by a number of dignitaries to symbolise the beginning of the reforestation project. Read more here.