It has been a relatively quiet month up at the lodge, and we have enjoyed meeting couples, single travelers and small groups of friends. Itâs always a pleasure getting to know everyone over canapes and a cocktails in the lounge beside the roaring fire before dinner. The weather has been usual for this time of year, with many misty mornings, cool days and the occasional downpour in the afternoon, followed by generally beautiful clear evenings and starry nights.
Photo courtesy of Alisa Bowen
Our guests have all enjoyed trekking to see the âgorillas in the mistâ and have generally been back at the lodge sitting by a fire before the rain comes inâ¦
Needless to say massages and bubble baths have been popular afternoon occurrences as well as screenings of âVirungaâ or âGorillas in the Mistâ on our flat-screen T.V with a bowl of popcorn and glass of wine in the lounge!
Our maintenance team have taken the opportunity whilst itâs quiet during the mornings to get onto building steps on some of the steeper sections of our paths; something that I know many of our guests will be thankful for! They have also felled a number of the big eucalyptus trees that had grown up in front of one of the family cottage, to open up the incredible view that lies beyond and this will also provide us with enough firewood for the whole season.
In the beginning of April, we welcomed back Antonia Stogdale of Antoniaâs Kitchen, Bush-Cookery Courses. All of our chefs received their level two training course with her over a ten-day period; learning a variety of new dishes that are focus on using local, healthy ingredients; we are delighted with the results and have had lots of positive feedback from all of our guests too.
It was a pleasure to also welcome back acclaimed Irish artist, Christine Bowen who visited us for a week, painting huge canvases up in the nature garden on locally available cloth.
Our nature garden is the perfect hideaway for guests seeking some peace and quiet, especially those wishing to read a book, do some yoga or as Christine chooses to do; paint!
There is no WIFI signal up there so guests can totally disconnect from the world and take in the smells and sounds of the garden instead.
We grow a variety of ornamental and indigenous plants which attract plenty of little birds, and in one 10-minute period I saw Bronze Sunbirds, Orange-Bellied-Variable Sunbirds and the endemic Ruwenzori Double-Collared Sunbird all feeding from the assortment of flowers. Indeed one busy pair of sunbirds are even building their nest in one of the trees there.
It has been a good month for birding, and I have noticed a number of birds of prey overhead, including Hooded Vultures, Black Kites, Buzzards and the massive African Harrier Hawks.
On the 20th of April we had a couple staying who were celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary. We decided to surprise them with a bottle of bubby and an evening performance by the local âIntoreâ dance troupe.
A very enjoyable evening was had, with all the guests getting up to join in on the dance! The volcanoes were out in all their glory providing the dancers with a breathtaking backdrop.
On the 22nd of April we celebrated âEarth Dayâ by planting two trees just below the main lodge. Our gardeners Valentin, Bernard & John did a great job sourcing and planting and we hope these trees will stand as a reminder to them and the rest of our team of the importance of sustainable practices throughout the lodge and further afield.
On the 28th of the month our staff football team headed down past Musanze town to play the Karisoke Soccer team, on possibly the only piece of flat land in this region!
Photo courtesy of ALisa Bowen
It was a great afternoon for all involved, and I was very impressed by the skill of both teams. There was a great energy both on the pitch and off, with all of the lodge staff who were not on duty cheering the team on, with some entertaining dances and songs! Sadly, we lost 3-0, but Iâm sure this will only encourage the guys to start practicing harder for their next match.
Photo courtesy of Alisa Bowen
Night Fishing on Lake Kivu-
Since I wasnât able to visit the gorillas this month, by far the most memorable day was when we headed down to Lake Kivu in the late afternoon. I had heard that on some nights when thereâs no moon, groups of local fisherman head out onto the lake at sunset in their three-hulled canoes in search of small pelagic lake fish known locally as âsambazaâ (The Tanganyika Sardine, Limnothrissa miodon).
Photo courtesy of Alisa Bowen
The drive from the lodge took an hour and a half past the Virunga volcanoes and down towards the lake basin. Here we went to the lovely Paradise Malahide restaurant which is situated right on the lake shore. Itâs a simple restaurant that is decorated with Rwandan handicrafts, serving Rwandan dishes such as brochettes (meat skewers), Lake fish and pizza! The smiling staff in funky textile shirts and scenic setting combined create an almost tropical vibe.
The fruit trees surrounding the little thatch seating areas are literally dripping in avocados, figs and guavas; and provide a lovely distinct scent as you watch fishermen row past in their dugout canoes.
A Hammerkop was busily building his nest in one of the fig trees and continuously flew past us with twigs and nesting material. We even spotted a Palm Nut Vulture, and plenty of Cormorants, Turns and Kingfishers.
Since the waiter knew we planned to head out on the lake he suggested that we try the Sambaza which are a local delicacy, and a favorite for many visitors. Sure enough they were delicious, deep fried then eaten whole after being dipped in a little homemade spicy chili sauce!
Paradise Malahide have their own 12 seater boat available for hire for USD60 per hour, a steal if you can fill it with a few friends.
At 5:30 we hopped onboard to follow the fishermen out into the middle of the lake.
This really was a stunning time of day to be out on the water. The sun was setting behind the hills on the DR Congo side and the lake turned a beautiful deep golden hue as it reflected the sky. The fishermen work three to a hull, and each hull is connected to the other with huge long wooden poles.
I have never seen these types of fishing boats anywhere else in the world. The men all sing and chant in unison as they row the boats out. Once they reach their chosen point the men in the middle hull begin casting out their huge fishing nets.
While the nets are being cast other men start to light tens of little hurricane (kerosene) lanterns. These are then placed along the wooden poles and act as an attractant to lure the little lake fish towards the nets from the depths. The fish undergo a daily natural migration in the water column; during the day they hide in the depths but at night they rise to feed on zooplankton at the surface.
We only spent an hour or so watching them before it became too dark. But these men have a hard job, working all through the night, no matter the weather all to catch these little fish so that they can sell them at the morning market for around 1000RWF per kilo ($2.5). I would highly recommend this activity to our guests who are looking to do something special and uniquely Rwandan while in the country. Some of our guests spend a night in the lovely lakeside Serena Kivu hotel and one could enjoy kayaking out to the watch the fishermen in the evening with a very good company called Kingfisher Journeys who have a base near to the Serena hotel.
Alisa Bowen – Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, relief manager