One & Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
Luxurious haven surrounded by chimpanzees
Words by Ute Junker
Originally published in Traveller
A strange thing happens to me when I arrive at One & Only Nyungwe House. Up until this moment, I have been channelling the spirit of David Attenborough, ready for an adventure in the African bush. I have packed my best outdoors gear and am excited about tackling a range of exciting wildlife experiences.
As soon as I step through the entrance, however, my inner Attenborough is elbowed out of the way by my inner Martha Stewart. I can’t stop marvelling at the interiors of this luxury lodge. I love the structure of the airy main building, with its soaring ceilings, its shaded deck and its panoramic views across the surrounding tea plantation through to the misty hills beyond. I love how the series of rooms flow into each other, from the tea salon to the bar to the restaurant, and the way that each room has sofas and armchairs grouped together in cosy nooks.
I love the huge stone fireplaces and the intriguing locally-made furnishings, from lamp bases made from the dried stems of tea bushes to the quirky chandeliers: one is made with spoons; tea strainers hang from another like glittering medallions. I love the wall panels and carpets throughout the resort that use striking geometric patterns known as imigongo. General manager Jacques Le Roux explains to me that these traditional Rwandan designs almost disappeared.
“It was mainly the older generation that practised the art, and many of them died in the genocide,” he says. However, investment has ensured that a new generation is learning the art, along with other traditional crafts. “It is nice to see a lot of the old traditions coming back.”
Nyungwe House is in many ways a celebration of Rwanda’s rebirth. The country has made extraordinary strides forward since the bloody genocide and civil war of the 1990s, not least its surprising reinvention as a luxury tourist destination. Until now, the main drawcard has been the population of wild mountain gorillas living in the north of the country. The opening of Nyungwe House, in south-western Rwanda, is bringing high-end tourism to a new part of the country, where visitors will find a lot to explore.