Bottles of sparkling wine were popped and happy cheers were shared as we celebrated the anniversary of the official opening of Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Among the guests to our intimate celebration were faces old and new – those who were there at the beginning and those who are play a role now in the ongoing partnership between the SACOLA community and Governors’ Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.
In 2006 a vision turned into reality when an agreement was signed between Governors’ Camp and representatives of the SACOLA community to build and manage Rwanda’s first community-owned high-end lodge. In 2008 the Lodge was officially opened by His Excellency Paul Kagame. The vision had been to create a lodge owned by SACOLA to hold a high-end tourism property in trust for the local community, receive revenues from it and act in the best interests of the local community, promoting the interests of the community and conservation of the Volcanoes National Park.
Partnering SACOLA would be Governors Camp Rwanda Ltd who would operate the lodge as a professional tourism company running the property with the highest levels of service and focusing strongly on promoting community development and conservation of the Park and its wildlife. The concept was strongly supported by the Rwanda Development Board who could see the benefit of this structure in supporting government objectives of economic development for the local community, promoting conservation of the Park, and developing a strong commercial company in the area. The project was supported also by USAID and by African Wildlife Foundation for the very same reasons.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge set a new benchmark in the field of community/conservation-based tourism and created a blueprint of best practice that has been copied many times elsewhere.
With the funds generated by Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, which now total over $3 Million, the SACOLA community has made astounding achievements in the general uplifting and improvement in the quality of life of the people around. It has built numerous classrooms, supplied 62 computers, paid school fees, built a health centre, paid health insurance, constructed roads and connected thousands of households to electric power. It has built houses for the impoverished, rehabilitated community and nature walks, put in water systems all over the area, donated cows, set up kitchen gardens and donated iron sheets. It has helped with the construction of the buffalo wall and assisted countless families with starting various micro-enterprises.
The SACOLA chairman and board members joined the celebrations; Prosper the senior warden of the Volcanoes National Park, Winnie and Veronica of the Dian Fossey International Gorilla Fund, Felix of Gorilla Doctors, Musanze Governor Gatabazi, and the members of the Kinigi and Musanze District Army and Security.
The lodge has changed the lives of countless people – both guests who have experienced the wonders Rwanda has to offer, and communities living in the surrounding areas. It has set a new benchmark in the field of community / conservation tourism and created a blueprint of best practice that has been copied many times elsewhere and contributed in a very significant way to the development of Rwanda.
It is something we are very proud of and we are looking forward to the next 10 years!
Chloe Flatt, Marketing Manager.
Happy birthday Sabyinyo!