Perfectly located in the foothills of Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes on the edge of Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda, this is the place to stay on your gorilla trekking safari, and the only private villa in this region.
Kataza House sits on the same land as its ‘big sister’ Kwitonda Lodge – not that Kwitonda is really that big, there are only nine rooms there! Kataza House itself is perfect for a family or small group of friends travelling together and has four bedrooms including a master suite, a junior suite and two double bedrooms.
The space is simply gorgeous, fabulous for the family to spread out. If you are bringing your own staff, there’s even a separate two-bedroomed residence for your family’s nanny / PA / security etc.
The views from the private villa are spectacular, and you look out over the volcanoes, encased in the forest which houses some of the last mountain gorillas on Earth. There are actually seven volcanoes all in a row which form the border between Uganda and Rwanda.
Apart from the substantial luxuries, Kataza House offers a wealth of activities. Rwanda has so much more to offer in addition to gorilla trekking and I believe you should always take time to explore further and experience the many facets of this extraordinary country.
However, first and foremost, you are of course here to see the mountain gorillas! They are found only in this mountain range which is split between in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga National Forest in Uganda and the Virunga National Park again just over the border in the DRC.
They are also found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. As I write this there are currently around 1050 mountain gorillas in total in the world, (increased from less than 300 in the late 1970s), a phenomenal conservation success story!
In Volcanoes, there are several families of mountain gorillas living in the saddles between the mountains, and one family living on the sides of them. At times they may cross over onto the Uganda side, but most stay within Rwanda where they are protected by the dedicated rangers.
Trekking to see these beautiful and gentle apes sits firmly in my top three wildlife experiences in Africa. (The others are seeing chimpanzees and Ethiopian wolves, the latter of which is also highly endangered!).
Families are welcome at Kataza House. If you have small children, they can be looked after in the grounds by the staff whilst you go on your gorilla trek. The staff will set up a mini safari for them in the garden, or they can do baking or an insect hunt.
Apart from the gorilla trekking, a very special conservation activity is to visit the MGVP - Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (Gorilla Doctors) in Ruhengeri. Here you can meet the and have an informal and very insightful talk on their work taking care of the gorillas through their veterinary experiences, hearing all about the challenges they face, as well as learning more about gorilla behaviour.
Another worthwhile primate activity in Volcanoes is to trek to see the golden monkeys. These lovely monkeys are also endangered and only found in Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest.
You can also venture away from the volcanos and visit Musanze Caves, or, alternatively, go canoeing on the river and visit the twin crater lakes, which are stunningly beautiful!
If you are keen to do more hiking then I absolutely recommend hiking to Kisoke to see the graves of Dian Fossey and Digit, or hike further up Karisimbi. You can also take a guided walk in the forest looking for birds, butterflies and shy antelope. If you are very fortunate, you may encounter buffalo, elephant, forest hog and bushpig as well as several antelope species.
As Luke Bailes, the founder and Executive Chairman of Singita says: “There’s an authenticity of place at each of our lodges and camps that’s not only a rarity, but touches guests on every level – spiritual, emotional and physical.” This certainly applies to the very special Kataza House.
The house is somewhere that you want to totally unpack and stay for several days lapping in the style, comfort and location and the genuine warmth of the staff and local peoples and take time to simply sit and unwind taking in the view.
The rooms are sumptuous and comfortable, and service second to none and its atmosphere warm and inviting. It is a place to absorb the landscape a contemplative, and nurturing space.
Most often it is used by families of around four, taking the house privately. However it can actually accommodate up to eight people as there is a master suite, a junior suite and two further bedrooms - so lots of space!
Each room can be made into a twin or double bed, and they all have a lovely cosy sitting area with fireplace, a well-stocked pantry and minibar and spacious bathroom with bath, toilet, indoor shower, and glass enclosed outdoor shower.
There is a private dining space and a heated plunge pool, a media room and even a gym. The villa has its own private chef and host who attend your family and look after you throughout your stay, ensuring that everything is perfect.
Kataza House is in a privileged setting. The House sits upon private land spanning 178 acres which shares a 1.2km border with Volcanoes National Park, the only lodge within such proximity of the park.
Singita has a strong commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation which runs through all the properties they own and run. When you stay here, their commitment is very much in evidence.
You see them working with the local Rwandese in operating Kwitonda and Kataza House in a sustainable manner, with excellent guiding and environmentally-conscious hospitality. They are also giving back through their saplings project, that currently has over 200,000 saplings being grown and nurtured to replant old agricultural fields in an effort to regenerate the forest.
Guest can visit the Akarabo Nursery and also learn about the work of replanting as well as working with the local farmers.
I, personally, always drive from Kigali, the capital, to Volcanoes National Park through the rolling hills. However one can also be flown by helicopter which is fabulously scenic and also quicker!
Over the years I have visited Volcanoes in several different months, but the main ‘busy ‘season tends to be in the drier months of June through October and mid-December through early January. However, I love the mid and rainy season because the rain does not stop you doing the activities, the flowers are out and the colours so much brighter and more alive. The sunsets are pretty good then too!
If you would like more information about primate safaris to Africa or our range of luxury private vacation options in Africa, Asia and Latin America, please do feel free to contact me. Or, if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images by kind courtesy of Singita Kataza House