It’s been a phenomenally busy time for Rob and Ingrid as GMs responsible for piloting Bisate Lodge through its opening and initial months of gorilla-tracking guests, and quite frankly they deserve a round of applause and a well-earned break; which is where they are right now! And why it is not they who write this newsletter at the end of November, but rather the lucky two relief managers, Dave and Ondyne, flown to Rwanda from down south and entrusted with looking after the simply incredible Bisate team. Having been here for two weeks already it’s probably safe to say that we feel it’s the Bisate team looking after us rather than the other way around. And as for Rwanda, the country and its people … it has to be experienced to be believed. Hard to put into words, but if we did you’d be reading the opening sentences of a whole book right now. But this is a newsletter, so let’s get to it then …
It’s that time of the year when we get to experience four seasons in a day! Actually it’s probably more accurate to say two seasons a number of times a day – sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain. Generally the early mornings are clear, offering beautiful views of Bisoke and Karisimbi, but you need to get in quickly for photo opportunities as the clouds come rolling in with amazing speed, bringing afternoon showers and the occasional electric storm.
We had 197 mm of rain this month, but we’re not complaining as it’s doing wonders for the hundreds of saplings waiting patiently in our nursery to be lovingly transported to their new homes in the hills surrounding Bisate. It does, however, add a new slippery and muddy challenge to the gorilla tracking, but then Bisate has one of the best laundry services around so we say, “Worry not and go get dirty!”
So, what’s happening with the gorillas? Well, some of them are quite forward, with one plopping himself down on one of our guest’s feet and another gently pushing a visitor out of the way en route to some of her favourite greens.
An exciting story unfolding this year has been the start-up and expansion of yet another family. The Muhoza silverback was a solitary male patrolling the Sabinyo slopes earlier this year. Being in that particular area meant that the chances of meeting up with other family groups sharing that territory were pretty good – and that’s exactly what happened. The first encounter was with the Hirwa family dominant silverback, from which Muhoza exited triumphant – his bounty: three of the females joined him.
A while later he bumped heads with the Agashya family and again came out tops with another three of the females crossing over to join his family. He subsequently managed to attract another female from one of the unhabituated families, and while all this was happening, one of the females conceived and subsequently gave birth, taking the numbers in this relatively new family up to nine – all of the above being natural events taking place as they should in the world of gorillas, and as such giving credence to the protection of this incredible place called Volcanoes National Park.
Reforestation and Conservation
It’s all planting, planting and more planting, as we continue to reintroduce indigenous vegetation and expand the natural habitat. Thank you to all our visitors who helped our cause this past month by planting a tree of their own, together with the help of our resident agronomist, Jean-Moise, and guide Aline.
We’re just short of 17 000 trees planted to date and with the favourable weather and super fertile volcanic soil to be found here, they’re all growing rapidly. Right now, it’s mainly bamboo and Hagenia taking root, but we’re hoping to be able to add Dombea and Neobotonia over the coming months before the main rains in April next year.
We’re happy to note that as the reforestation expands and the vegetation takes hold, the return of endemic species keeps on growing too. This month a few new species were identified on the Bisate property, namely the reed frog shown in the photo and the Rwenzori nightjar, which was identified from its call by Rob and Ingrid.
The many different waxbills, streaky seedeaters and of course the ever-present, lunch-eyeing white-necked ravens have kept our avian fans entertained, and we even had a few happy guests surprised by a very relaxed side-striped jackal when out on an early morning walk along the Bisate nature trail. That was a very lucky sighting indeed as there are not many of them around and they are generally very secretive.
Again we’d like to thank all our guests for their donations to our surrounding communities. Your generosity since opening in June this year has brought great joy to the inhabitants of Nyarudizi and Ruginga villages with Aline visiting them several times to hand out clothing, shoes and stationary; as always very gratefully received.
November was bumper training month for the Bisate team and everyone has done extremely well. Alex Chaplin and Zara Shaikh flew in from Maun and Cape Town respectively at the beginning of the month to run service and minimum standards training with the staff. The Bisate team LOVED the additional attention, doing very well, as is clearly evident in the service on offer here. At the same time many of the Bisate students managed to graduate in their practical assessments on Lobster Ink, the Wilderness Safaris in-house training programme. On 5th November a graduation ceremony was organised and a total of 305 certificates were handed out. Amazing effort, Bisate Team … well done. And a big thank you to Alex and Zara for your enthusiasm, energy and input … much appreciated.
The enthusiastic spill-over has also been well received by our guests, some of them enjoying private dinners in our wine cellar for birthday celebrations, delicious birthday cakes and Clement holding his very first wine tasting for an almost full camp just the other day. Based on the knowledge he shared, and the confidence with which he did so, it’s hard to believe this is newly acquired. One would swear he’s been doing it all his life.
It’s been an awesome month at Bisate, and a first for some of us, with wonderful people all around; remarkable Rwanda, its people and especially the Bisate team. Equally so the intrepid travellers who came all this way to share it with us and the gorillas, and we feel it therefore fitting to end off with some of the things they had to say about their stay …
Until next month, take good care
The Bisate Team
“Thank you for the time of my life. I love this lodge and this country and hope to be back someday soon. I will never forget this time. Amazing wildlife, but also coupled with a fabulous place to stay with amazing staff. World class.”
“A fantastic lodge. I could not fault anything. I love it. I now understand why our clients have been raving about it.”
“Thank you for this unforgettable experience. Can’t wait to come back to this beautiful country with its amazing people. Stole my heart.”
“This was a trip of a lifetime! The lodge and all staff were amazing and we had two fantastic treks with the gorillas. Thank you Bisate Lodge for such a wonderful adventure.”