November has been an unusual month at Sabyinyo with many days different from the normal routine.
View of Mt Sabyinyo – photo credit Michael Hughes
Firstly, the gorilla trekking has been different this month, compared to the rest of the year. We are coming to the end of the November rainy season. The rains result in an abundance of bamboo shoots and because the bamboo grows on the lower slopes of the volcanoes, the gorillas moved down lower on the mountains. This means that the treks have generally been much shorter – but not necessarily easier though, because the trails have been very slippery and wet.
A big benefit for those who visited the gorillas in November is that the bamboo shoots give the gorillas a mild ‘high’ – which is a bit like the effects of caffeine for us humans! The high makes the gorillas more active, and the younger ones more curious and playful. We had the pleasure of hosting two renowned wildlife photographers at Sabyinyo this month; Andy Howe and Austin Thomas who have in fact stayed with us previously along with their photography groups. They did two fantastic treks visiting both the Sabyinyo and the Susa gorilla families during their stay, and they have already managed to share just a few of these incredibly beautiful and intimate captures. We look forward to the rest of their images which we shall be sharing on our instagram pages @governorscampcollection and @sabyinyo_silverback_lodge
Baby gorilla from the Kwitonda group – photo credit Andy Howe
Gorilla from the Susa family – photo credit Andy Howe
Mountain gorilla – photo credit Austin Thomas
In community news, we have had a very exciting month with a series of different events through our partnership with the local community trust SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association).
On 6th November, 10 marginalised families received cows donated by the wonderful Charlette Adams. This brings the total number of cows donated by Charlette this year, to sixteen! Rwanda folklore says that if you have a cow you are no longer poor; you have milk for the family, you can breed more cows and you have fertiliser for your crops! So a huge thank you to Charlette – you have made a big difference to 16 families here in the Virunga Volcanoes.
Thank you Charlette – photo credit Michael Hughes
Also on 6th November, SACOLA paid for medical insurance for 4000 of the most needy persons in both Kinigi and Nyange Sectors. In Rwanda, persons with medical insurance can get treatment in all Government clinics and medical prescriptions at all pharmacies, for only 10% of the actual cost of the treatment or drug prescription. This makes medical treatment affordable – especially for those that need it most. This was a good day for the welfare of Kinigi and Njange communities.
Funds donated for medical insurance for 4000 persons – photo credit Leonard Harerimana
On 22nd November, we were visited by a delegation of EU parliamentarians at Sabyinyo. The delegation was in Rwanda for a Parliamentary Assembly in Kigali, with aims to make ambitious strides in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals on planetary and societal issues. The delegation met with us here at the lodge specifically to see how a well-conceived, corporate-community program and sustained partnership can support economic development and improve the lives of local people while also producing tangible conservation results.
Sabyinyo and SACOLA’S presentations of the Lodge and community partnership
to EU parliamentarians – photo credit Michael Hughes
Some exciting news amongst staff: all visitors who have been on our community walk, will know of the guide Jean de Dieu Hakizimana (‘Jado’). On 9th November, Jado married his childhood sweetheart, Marcelene, in a joyful and festive ceremony. Congratulations Jado and Marceline and wishing you all the best for a bright future together!
Jado marries Marcelene – photo credit Michael Hughes
We have also enjoyed a series of birthdays: On Sunday 17th November, our neighbours, Virunga Lodge, celebrated 15 years of operation, while our partners in the business, Thousand Hills, also celebrated 15 years of operation on Saturday 23rd November. We were very pleased to join the Thousand Hills team for a wonderful celebration that took place in Kigali.
November has been a different month too in respect of our visitors. It is true that the Tour and Travel Agents view all the different properties in November and we have had the pleasure of welcoming over 30 different agents to view the lodge this month, many of whom stayed with us. One agent travelling with clients extended their stay by an additional day – that was a compliment for us indeed!
Also nice was that three of our own head office staff came to visit us for the first time. It was great to welcome Nelly, Yvonne and Kevin from our reservations office in Nairobi. Though I have to add that all three need to work on their dancing skills and fitness if they are to compete with the Ibjize be U’Rwanda dance troupe!
From all of us here at Sabyinyo – Nkwifurije kugubwa neza! (Best wishes!)
By Michael Hughes, manager at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge