The Gorillas are on pretty much everyoneâs âbucket listâ. An experience to be enjoyed âone dayâ and for us at the Lodge itâs part of our daily role and a huge pleasure, to help people realise this experience as well as we can.
Never more so than with the boisterous and multi- generational group we have in the lodge at present. Granddadâs knees have given up after a full and active life but not so his keen wit and boundless enthusiasm for everything. We put him in the âsedanâ chair to take the sting out of climbing the hill up to the lodge and once there he dominates the veranda with his huge personality and entertains his grandsons joining them with gales of laughter and tall stories from either side of the generation gap! A daughterly birthday occasion was celebrated with bottles of good champagne and a wickedly indulgent chocolate cake decorated with gorillas hiding in a thicket of bamboo! Sons, daughters and their various spouses come and go and meals are a lengthy and huge celebration which is just as it should be. The Gorillas seem to be enjoying it too and have helped them by being just the other side of the park wall also enjoying their completely unnatural love for fresh Eucalyptus.
Although the Gorilla permit prices took a steep hike mid-month, much to the consternation of those who had been putting off buying them, demand remains strong and we have even had a few guests profit from the availability, as we get to the end of the low season, by buying third visits.
Itâs worth remembering that the three national parks who make up the Volcanos National park all benefit from the fees regardless of which country they are bought in. For the Gorillas, the extra fees mean better conservation.
Grey misty mornings have given our guests a true taste of what it must have been like for Dianne Fossey and are getting a true â in the Mistâ experience but this means they come back beaming and muddy, so the laundry has been working overtime to make sure there are clean ironed clothes ready for the next morning.
We have been working at tidying up the parking area and entrance to the Lodge with a noisy laughing crew of stone masons and their helpers. Trying to fit this in with the steady traffic of departing and arriving guests has been a challenge but it begins to take shape and looks inviting.
In the middle of last month we were invited to attend the celebration of the years accomplishments of SACOLA. This was a well-attended event that had drawn dignitaries from both central government and the provincial leaders.
The festivities started with the official opening, by the Mayor of Musanze district and the Northern province delegate to represent the Governor, of 6 new classrooms for the Kabwende school. Beautiful and well-built classrooms, a far cry from the leaking rooms that they replaced. The school consists of over 2000 children from the surrounding area and with the help of SACOLAâs funding from the operation of the lodge is now an example of what can be achieved with careful planning and implementation of tourism driven revenue.
The celebrations continued with the presentation of 40 more cows in the One Cow- One family program whereby poorer families are given a lifting hand by the donation of an otherwise unaffordable asset in the form of a milking cow to supplement both income and valuable nutritional intake. This already successful initiative now includes a total of 460 cows that support a similar number of families. A beautiful and symbolic display of milking, dairy care and child feeding was typical of Rwandan arts. Then we all moved down the hill to the main event which was held to celebrate the opening of the new purpose built administration centre for SACOLA. A well-constructed and spacious structure, that will serve the expanding organisation for years to come.
The ceremonial ribbon was again cut by the Mayor and his associates after all of us had toured the market stalls that had been set up by many of the smaller groups and community initiatives that have been established over the last 12 months to foster self-help and empowerment of the families that make up the 60,000 inhabitants that support conservation by empowering themselves in this Park boundary area.
Small scale agricultural projects include the growing of seed potatoes to increase yield, mushroom production, fruit and vegetable gardens, handicrafts including traditional basket work and more modern mechanical knitting projects. A popular and well supported IT educational program will help foster Rwandaâs claim to being the leader in African computer literacy. Painting and the arts was also present not only in the talented display of art works but also and impressively with the SACOLA dance team who entertained the crowd with, again, symbolic dances portraying the successful agricultural and wealth producing projects.
Philip Mason, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Manager.