Go ape at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, a primate-approved palace on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park in Ruhengeri, Rwanda. This bucket-list bolthole gives guests a chance to get up close and personal with the gorillas next door, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The Virunga mountain range is a chain of volcanoes that spans Rwanda’s northern border, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After your trek high into the forests to meet the anthropomorphic apes, smell the roses: in cocktails on the terrace, in your treatment at the spa or growing in the garden.
Get this when you book through us:
A carved walking stick to take gorilla trekking with you (and home)
Double rooms from £4776.90 ($5,800), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
Guests in residence on the last Saturday of every month can spend a morning helping out the local community by participating in Umuganda, a nationwide programme where everyone mucks in on to-do-list tasks such as protecting the environment.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, rose garden, free laundry (within reason), gym with personal trainers. In rooms: trekking kit (bag, hat, water bottles), TV, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine and Terres D'Afriques bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The multi-level Silverback Suites are the ultimate retreat for your great-ape getaway: they have private pools, a dining terrace for barbecues and views out across the volcanic landscape, all with a birdsong soundtrack and an eau de eucalyptus scent.
The outdoor pool is open for post-trek swims around the clock.
At the spa, treatments make use of the hotel’s homegrown roses and local coffee.There are wellness programmes spanning three days, including detoxing coffee and coconut scrubs, and deep-muscle massages to follow your mountain-gorilla trek. Anyone unable to sleep after the excitement of their great-ape adventure should book the 90-minute Sleep Nest Ritual, which combines chimes and rain sticks with acupressure and aromatherapy.
Camo, neutral linens and general conservationist gear; extra points for binoculars.
All ages are welcome, but the experiences in the national park are not geared towards children – the minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15. Younger children can enjoy the games room at the Jack Hanna Cottage, nature walks, archery and cycling, though.
The fruit and veg comes either from the chef’s garden or local farmers, food waste is sent to the female farmer running a nearby pig farm, plastic is outlawed and the turndown gifts have all been created by local artisans. The resort also works with Handspun Hope, an organisation supporting vulnerable female survivors of the 1994 Genocide and those living with HIV/AIDS.
Overlooking the gardens out on the Nest’s terrace, or shrouded by eucalyptus forest up on the yoga deck.
No cork hats, please.
The Nest’s menu changes daily, based on seasonality and the stock of local suppliers. There are regular barbecues where guests can try traditional Rwandan dishes, such as agatogo, made from green bananas, mushrooms and peas grown in the garden. Don’t miss the Boma experience, with performances by a local dance troupe around the fire. Breakfasts cater to early risers, lie-ins and everything in between.
The Nest Bar is the perfect place to share your silverback stories over a Rose Fizz, made with flowers from the garden, by the fire.
Breakfast starts at 6am, lunch at noon and dinner at 7pm.
Plates from the room-service menu, including the local-favourite chapatti roll, can be delivered to your room at any time of day or night.
The hotel is in the eucalyptus-scented foothills of the Virunga volcanoes in the far north of Rwanda, close to the national-park gateway, Ruhengeri.
Kigali’s international airport is two and a half hours away by car. The hotel can arrange transfers for up to three passengers for US$450 each way. Most international arrivals will require a stopover; options include Amsterdam, Istanbul and Doha.
Most mobility here is done on foot (namely: ambling in search of apes), but there’s a car park if you have come by car.
Helicopter transfers from Kigali airport to the resort can be arranged with Akagera Aviation.
Worth getting out of bed for
The resident great apes are the main attraction around here – go trekking in the Volcanoes National Park to meet the mighty mountain gorillas. You’ll also be able to greet the golden monkeys and more than 300 species of birds. And you can learn even more about gorillas at the Dian Fossey Fund’s new Ellen Degeneres campus, close to the resort. Guests will also be able to visit local villages, mountain-bike through the eucalyptus forests and visit the cottage of the wildlife expert Jack Hanna, now home to a library where you can brush up on the country’s conservation work, a games room and a kitchen for cooking classes with the chef.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this far-flung hotel in Rwanda and unpacked their trekking gear and handmade turndown toys, a full account of their bucket-list break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside One&Only Gorilla’s Nest in Ruhengeri…
Live out your Dian Fossey dreams at this gorilla gateway in the eucalyptus forests of northern Rwanda. There are just over a thousand mountain gorillas left in the wild and this is one of only two places on the planet where you can see them. As you’d hope for a hotel in such a special setting, connections with the local community, an appreciation of Rwandan culture and respect for the environment are paramount.
You’ll need to apply for a permit in order to get to know the gorillas, whose time is as costly as a Nineties supermodel’s (it’s US$1,500 for an hour spent acquainting yourself with the pricey primates). The strapping silverbacks can lift up to 815kg, but they’re more likely to be chomping at leaves than bench-pressing. Back at basecamp, the views of the Virunga volcanoes and the eucalyptus forests keep coming, especially at the terrace of the Nest. The spa is ready to soothe sore limbs after your high-altitude trek to meet-and-greet the mountain gorillas. It’s the one and only indeed.