Tourism and Community Lodges
Recognizing the value of visitors worldwide traveling to the Virunga Volcanoes Massif and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to experience a once in a lifetime encounter with the magnificent mountain gorilla, IGCP has worked from the beginning to add value to this experience and ensure sustainable tourism benefits the local communities which border the area’s national parks. Tourism based on mountain gorillas provides a promising way to mitigate pressure on the environment and natural resources and on local residents’ livelihoods.
Since 2002, IGCP has collaborated with communities near gorilla groups to help build community associations that are connected to tourist facilities, working in harmony to build projects which benefit the local people in addition to the facility owners. These collaborations have resulted in two luxury tourist lodges which share a portion of their revenue with the associations, as well as employing people from the local villages. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge occupies a stunning panoramic position at the base of Sabyinyo (“Old Man’s Teeth” in the local language) Volcano on the border of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is nestled high on a misty ridge adjacent to the Southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Both lodges offer comfortable accommodation and easy access to local gorilla families, while also working hand in hand with the local community associations to benefit as wide a range of individuals and households as possible.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Set at the base of the craggy peaks of Sabyinyo Volcano on the borders of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was officially opened in 2008. The Lodge was hatched in 2004, when IGCP joined with its partners African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to create an innovative tourist accommodation venture that met gorilla viewing demand while also contributing to local sustainable livelihoods. Community members became primary shareholders in this venture, producing an equitable income generation model that also encouraged support and conservation of Volcanoes National Park.
SACOLA – the Sabyinyo Community Livelihoods Association – was formed by local households for local households, and entered into an agreement with IGCP and its partners, in addition to the Lodge’s commercial developer, Musiara Limited/Governor’s Camp. The successful SACOLA model has today led to a number of community based income generating projects, such as a women’s basket weaving cooperative, beekeeping and honey production and a local cultural center and community walk. In addition to support from IGCP and its partners, SACOLA is funded through Lodge accommodation fees, a portion of which goes directly to the community association.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge consists of eight comfortable stone cottages scattered apart from each other at the base of Sabyinyo Volcano and overlooking several other volcanoes in the Virunga range. Its gourmet meals, innovative environmental touches like fireplaces that heat water for hot showers, and panoramic views of the National Park and green patchwork of surrounding countryside make it a rare world class destination which has solid conservation and community development credentials.
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Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
Teetering on a cool, misty mountain ridge which feels as though it could be swallowed whole by the wild green wave of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge has already seen success since its official opening in 2008. The Lodge concept was introduced in 2002, when the Uganda Wildlife Authority, along with its partners IGCP and AWF, sought to mitigate conflict caused by the local Nkuringo gorilla family leaving Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and raiding community crops. UWA sought to empower local people by giving them a stake in gorilla tourism, which in turn would bring them into the process, becoming partners in the drive to encourage the Nkuringo gorillas to re-enter the forest and allow households to grow their crops without fear of damage.
The Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF) was founded in 2004 to encourage progressive and sustainable gorilla tourism in the area while also benefiting local communities. Initiated the same year, the Clouds Lodge project is managed by the NCCDF with its partners IGCP and AWF, and its commercial partner Wild Places Africa. As with the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, a portion of each tourist’s lodging fee for each night goes directly into the NCCDF general fund, which is then distributed to the community through various projects such as vegetable farming, livestock raising, community walks and basket weaving and wood carving cooperatives. Today Clouds benefits over 30,000 people in over 23 villages surrounding the southern boundaries of the National Park.
Clouds Lodge’s attractive exposed wood beam ceilings, cozy cottages, newly opened day spa and breathtaking view of the entire Virunga Volcano Range make it a truly special destination where gorillas are only one part of the local attractions. Its active community-based development foundation ensures gorillas and the Park, as well as communities and their households, benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime tourism experience.
Click here for more information on booking a stay at beautiful Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.