Tucked away in the Volcanoes National Park, the Lodge and House offer a model of tourism rooted in conscientiousness and eco-preservation
The story of Singita, a company devoted to luxury tourism and wildlife protection lead by Luke Bailes, started in 1925, when his grandfather purchased a parcel sited in a corner of Lowveld, South Africa, turning what was a hunting concession into a shelter for the preservation of animal species. In 1993, the company decided to open a lodge in this part of land, thus posing the cornerstone of the present Singita business, which today counts fifteen different luxury resorts.
In 2019, conservation and ecotourism company Singita founded Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House, a luxury resort and 4-bedroom villa respectively, tucked away in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The Lodge and the House are located in the heart of southern Africa, on the borders of a natural reserve hosting almost one third of the world’s last mountain gorillas, offering to their customers a way to relax and reconnect with themselves and with nature, washing away the buzz of their daily lives.
In the words of Lisa Carey, Singita’s appointed spokesperson, the company centers all activities on the tryptic of Biodiversity, Community and Sustainability, each one integrated into the Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House experience.
Biodiversity is safeguarded through measures of preservation of the local fauna, implemented in collaboration with foundations devoted to wildlife protection. Involvement of the community is at the core of Singita’s support of local traditions: guests at Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House can participate in stick carving and basket weaving workshops lead by artisans, and even commission the services of native tailors. The guests are also encouraged to visit the village of Gasura, where they can learn how to prepare ingredients for local recipes, for example by having a try at stomping cassava roots or grinding sorghum into flour.
Sustainability is achieved by reducing the ecological footprint of all Singita’s activities. As Carey comments: «we focus on zero waste, sustainable materials, reducing use of fossil fuels –fifty percent of our lodges work on solar power– and implementing sustainable transport, as well as a farm-to-table supply chain».
In the Rwandan branch of the company, this concept is relevant even in the very structure of the buildings: as Sustainability Leader Dr. Andrea Ferry says, «every step of the construction was backed by research, from the choice of local bricks and volcanic rock used to build the walls, to the mechanical ventilation system which draws in fresh air to cool the rooms, eliminating the need for carbon-heavy air conditioning».
The food is always farm-to-table, grown in the fields or purchased in local markets. The recipes are also typical, allowing the guests to savor plates like brochettes (skewered morsels of meat, chicken or fish), pan-seared tilapia (Rwanda’s favorite freshwater fish), cassava-leaf velouté and grilled gourd, Musanze fruit, ikivuguto (African buttermilk) and ikitoke (a starchy banana).
The company’s dedication to preserving local traditions and ecosystems might be received with a certain skepticism by who identifies tourism with a new form of colonialism: foreign visitors arrive demanding a tailored experience, a showcasing of local ‘quirks’ devoid of authenticity and educational value that reduces native culture to mere entertainment. This is not the kind of tourism Singita wants to be involved with. «High-value, low-volume ecotourism is the model for conservation» Lisa explains. Most of their personnel lives in the surrounding region, and the creation of the Lodges and Houses helped create jobs in a land plagued by scarcity of opportunities: Singita runs two culinary schools, with a third one about to open, which offers locals the chance to learn a profession and achieve emancipation. Even if some find this approach similar to the rhetoric promoted by French and English colonists, who claimed to offer progress to ‘undeveloped societies’, it cannot be refuted that Singita’s work is offering an opportunity to Rwanda’s wilderness and inhabitants.IMAGE GALLERY