First-time safari-goer Howard Hahn turned to Extraordinary Journeys to plan a Rwandan adventure that would connect him to community and conservation in deep and authentic ways. His transformative stay at Bisate exceeded all his expectations. We asked him what made it so special–and why his conscious travel adventure might be just what you’re looking for, too.

Sunrise view from Bisate ©Dana Allen for Wilderness Safaris

Choosing Bisate Lodge: Conservation Meets Community

Was this your first safari?

Yes it was my first safari. And it definitely exceeded my expectations of what a safari could be. And the proximity to the animals was something I didn’t expect to be quite as great as it was. It was brilliant. Brilliantly done.

Did you know anything about Bisate or conservation efforts in the area prior to deciding to work with Extraordinary Journeys?

I didn’t know a lot. At first I just saw the photos on the website, and the description wowed me. I knew that they were big on conservation and that it was a real, sustainable eco property. But I didn’t know the extent to which it was integrated with the community.

©Extraordinary Journeys

Were you looking specifically for conscious, conservation-minded locations when planning your safari? What were your requirements?

I definitely wanted some sort of real experience with the country–and not just seeing the animals. I wanted to see how people live, to see the real community. It was one of the priorities for the trip. Extraordinary Journeys really exceeded those expectations.

Mothers and children in the community ©Howard Hahn

Getting connected with the community was a priority for you. Did you expect to be touched by the people there as much as you were?

There are a lot of people who do conservation that’s kind of lip service. Because it’s “the thing to do” right now. But the team at Bisate really put their money where their mouth is. They are so integrated with the community–and actually bring the community on as staff members. They help as guides in the community and schools that THEY know and work with. It was above and beyond what I thought it would be.

The staff, themselves, are incredible. Not only were they accommodating, but it actually felt as if they were part of the trip we were on. Telling their stories. Explaining how they were so integrated in the community. Not just staff members at a hotel.

©Extraordinary Journeys

Treks to Support Wildlife Conservation

Part of your stay at Bisate involved gorilla trekking. Gorilla permits are expensive at $1,500 per person. Would you still recommend it?

I would. I had the option to go to Uganda for gorilla trekking, but I chose not to go there because of their human rights abuses. Either way, I would have chosen Rwanda, and I would definitely invest in gorilla trekking.

A silverback from one of Howard’s gorilla treks ©Howard Hahn

Gorilla permits are only available to travelers age 16 and up. What would you recommend to those for whom gorilla trekking is not an option, like families with younger kids?

We did golden monkey trekking which has no minimum age requirement. That was really, really fun. I also talked with the Bisate property managers, and they told me that Rwanda is actually becoming a destination for safari in itself, which I didn’t know. You can even see the Big Five in other regions of the country. There’s plenty to do for everyone.

Howard and a silverback ©Howard Hahn

Eco-Conscious Beauty in the Friendliest Place I’ve Ever Been

What sort of travelers would you recommend stay at Bisate or a similarly conscious destination? Who would a trip like this be perfect for? Who wouldn’t love it so much?

Anybody who’s breathing would love that property. It’s incredible. I can’t think of anybody I wouldn’t recommend it to. People who are community-minded or want to know more about the country would especially love it.

We had a bunch of different types of people on the trip, including a woman in her mid-seventies. They were so accommodating as far as heights and things like that. She had a wonderful time—and even went gorilla trekking once! There’s something for everyone.

Howard and friends out for a trek ©Howard Hahn

What stands out as being particularly special about your stay at Bisate? What else surprised you or exceeded your expectations?

The rooms themselves show the highest attention to detail. And Bisate doesn’t have a large footprint. It’s so beautiful. Sure, you can see the pictures, but you really have to experience it for yourself. Besides that, it’s the friendliest property I’ve ever stayed at.

Bisate’s tree nursery ©Dana Allen for Wilderness Safaris

What most impressed you about Rwanda?

I was impressed by how beautiful it is. And by the modernity of Kigali! You have this modern city and also this beautiful countryside. The friendliness of the people is amazing. There are people smiling virtually everywhere, which is really, really nice. You sense a lot of hope and goodness there.

Take a hike to soak in the views–or simply enjoy them from your suite! ©Howard Hahn

Where would you like to safari next? Do you plan on seeking out someplace like Bisate?

I hear Botswana is a great location. I’d like to try that. I also wouldn’t mind going back to Rwanda to see the Big Five because I’ve been told it’s really great–and it’s not as well known yet. The owners of Bisate have started a property called Magashi in Akagera National Park. So if I could, I would stay there as well.

inside of one of the "nest" rooms at Bisate

Relax in eco-conscious luxury at the end of an exciting day out in the community ©Wilderness Safaris

How long did you stay at Bisate, and how many nights would you recommend?

I stayed four nights. And I’d recommend 365.

6 villas at Bisate in Rwanda

Thoughtful designs inspired by the landscape and incomparable views ©Wilderness Safaris

Conscious Travel: 5 Reasons Why Bisate Might be Perfect for You

  1. You want to experience Africa among people who feel more like friends than hotel staff.
  2. You want your travel investment to make a positive, sustainable impact on the local economy.
  3. You want to support wildlife conservation through up-close encounters with gorillas and golden monkeys.
  4. You want to stay in what feels like a luxury treehouse. (Admit it! So do we!)
  5. You want to be surprised by the warmth and friendliness of local people who delight in sharing their lives and their stories with you.

Getting to know the kids in the community ©Howard Hahn

See For Yourself

If Howard’s stay at Bisate has you inspired, this trip can easily be added to any Extraordinary Journeys safari itinerary. Check out this itinerary for an idea of what your safari with gorilla trekking might look like. Here’s a quick summary:

  • 1 Night – Legendary Lodge – Arusha, Tanzania
  • 3 Nights – Mwiba Lodge – Mwiba Wildlife Reserve
  • 3 Nights – Sabora Tented Camp – Grumeti Private Reserve
  • 1 Night – Marriott – Kigali, Rwanda
  • 3 Nights – Bisate Lodge – Volcanoes N.P.

Plan Your Visit

Ready to start planning your own conscious, conservation and community-minded adventure? We make the process stress-free and enjoyable. Call or email us today to explore your best options for a safari you’ll never forget!

Then, start packing that suitcase because we’ve got all the details covered.