I recently enjoyed a sublime holiday in the amazingly beautiful country of Rwanda. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda
- Review: Kigali Serena Hotel
- Review: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris, Volcanoes National Park
- Review: Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park (my best travel experience ever!)
- Review: One&Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe National Park (today)
- Review: Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Akagera National Park)
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Rwanda to Amsterdam (via Uganda)
Today (March 7, 2019): Review of One&Only Nyungwe House (Rwanda)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: One&Only Nyungwe House
- Recommended tour operator in Rwanda: Uber Luxe Safaris
Alongside ancient rainforest, within the lush green expanse of a working tea plantation, One&Only Nyungwe House offers an exciting window to Africa’s fascinating wildlife and culture. The resort is the first of two new One&Only resorts to have opened in Rwanda; the other one is One&Only Gorilla’s Nest near Volcanoes National Park. Exploratory treks and hikes through the forest give guests access to the park’s nearly 250,000 acres, where they can discover black-and-white colobus monkeys, gray-cheeked mangabeys, and more than 275 bird species. After full days out in the park, guests can retire to the resort’s modern suites and villas, each featuring decor accented with traditional African touches and vast private decks equipped with fireplaces.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Rwanda with my Rwanda travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
One&Only Nyungwe House enjoys a remote location in one of the world’s most exceptional natural settings. The property is set within the lush green expanse of Gisakura, the most famous and beautiful tea plantation in Rwanda. During the week, dozens of farmers can be seen picking tea leaves and collecting them in their basket, which makes for an awe-inspiring sight. The plantation’s hundreds of parallel tea ridges draw a clear-cut contrast with the wild scenery of Nyungwe National Park just behind the resort. One of the largest and best preserved mountainous rainforests on the planet, Nyungwe is home to home to thirteen species of primate, over two hundred species of tree, as well as a multitude of rare flowers. One&Only Nyungwe House can be reached from Rwanda’s capital Kigali by road (5 hours), by domestic flight (35 min, followed by a 45 min car transfer), or helicopter (1 hour).
- The property features an impressive yet intimate layout. The resort’s driveway crisscrosses miles of tea fields and rolling hills before ending at the lodge’s main pavilion, where Rwandan drummers welcome guests upon arrival. Sitting on the resort’s highest points, the main pavilion features dark stone floors, soaring ceilings and bamboo walls adorned with African art work. It houses the property’s public facilities, including the reception area, a stylish boutique shop, several ultra-chic seating areas, a dining room, a meeting room, and a large outdoor terrace overlooking the surrounding tea fields. Spreading in a semi-circle around the main lodge and literally sitting on the forest’s edge are several low-rise wooden pavilions, that house the rooms, suites, spa, gym, and pool area (more on that below).
- Taking inspiration from the vast vegetation and wildlife of the surrounds, the resort’s magnificent design pays homage to Rwanda’ traditions and natural beauty, while the architecture maximizes the spectacular scenery and mountain vistas at every opportunity. The verdant natural surroundings are showcased by large, floor-to-ceiling windows in the main lodge as they frame the tea plantation and the forest beyond, whilst illuminating fireplaces welcome guests after a day’s adventure. The traditional Rwandan colors of black, white and red can be seen throughout the main lodge as well as in the guest rooms and suites, celebrating the hues typically used in the age-old Rwandan art form of Imigongo. Used throughout the resort, Imigongo images are geometric in design, often with zig-zag or spiral patterns, done in the traditional method of using wooden boards left to dry in the sun.
The resort’s 22 guest rooms and suites are spread over six low-rise pavilions, which are designed to blend harmoniously within the spectacular natural surroundings. During my visit I was upgraded to a phenomenal forest suite, which featured two sumptuous bedrooms, one with a four-poster king-sized bed and the second one with two queen beds. Both bedrooms offered their own private decks with jungle views, en suite bathrooms, and wood burning stoves. The suite’s highlight was a spacious living room, with dining table and sitting area centered around a log burner. The suite featured a contemporary decor fused with traditional design elements, such as Rwandan paintings and art works, perfectly showcasing Umutara with warmer tones of light browns, ambers, creams as well as Imigongo, especially in the living room and dining area.
- Offering a blissful sanctuary inspired by nature, the resort’s intimate wellness center comprises an elegant spa house (with two treatment rooms), a well-equipped gym, an expansive yoga deck, and an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the vast wilderness of Nyungwe National Park (with the occasional sighting of monkeys). Built on the slopes of the forest, the spa house ensures guests will feel totally immersed in nature. The reception area is warmed by a fireplace and opens to a large terrace overlooking the forest, the perfect place to relax before or after a treatment. Signature treatments include Intoga Amasatchi, a 75 minute, deep-tissue, full-body treatment using hands and wooden sticks, which traditionally represent the wisdom and direction of the healer to stretch tight muscles and relieve toxic overload.
- From sunrise to sunset, farm-to-table cuisine is served in the resort’s atmospheric dining room with its plantation-view terrace. The cuisine at One&Only Nyungwe House honors the incredible natural flavors of Rwanda, prepared with rustic tradition and served with contemporary flair. The lodge’s signature dish is Nyungwe Green Goddess Pasta, dressed in an innovative tea pesto and topped with parmesan foam, a unique recipe developed by Chef Treasure and served with fresh locally sourced green beans, peas, spinach, and handmade pasta flavored with tea leaves. Bespoke private dining experiences are also available with a choice of spectacular locations and hidden vistas.
- In such a precious environment, conservation and support for local communities are very important at One&Only Nyungwe House. For example, experiences at the resort include the opportunity for guests to participate in Umuganda, a nationwide program where citizens devote the last Saturday morning of every month to working in the local community. From developing infrastructure to environmental protection, you can elect to take part in this positive initiative, giving back to the communities of Nyungwe and getting to know the local people in a uniquely hands-on way. Another example is the resort’s boutique shop, which sells a selection of artifacts made by more than 50 local designer: 60% are women-owned businesses and 30% use recycled or sustainable materials.
- The lodge is a 30-minute drive from the Uwinka reception center (the main access point for Nyungwe National Park) and thus the perfect place to base yourself for rainforest excursions. Thé main activity in the Nyungwe area (and probably the main reason why travelers flock to this part of the world) is chimpanzee trekking. Dashing at high speed through the flora, hooting and clanging – it truly is an exhilarating experience to encounter chimpanzees playing, wild and free. Besides primate trekking, the area also offers superb hiking trails, such as the canopy walk, which goes over a man-made construction hanging 60 m (200 ft) above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, hereby revealing a stunning view of the flora and fauna, both below and above. Nyungwe National Park is also a birder’s paradise, home to over 300 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the local Albertine Rift.
- The lodge is managed by One&Only, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, which has garnered an almost cult-like following. One&Only was created in 2002 exclusively for the luxury resort market by Solomon Kerzner – a South African business magnate – and now features some of the highest-rated resorts in the most idyllic spots in the world, such as the Maldives and Cape Town. Each resort in the One&Only collection offers a unique design and ambiance which embraces the local surroundings, complemented by impeccable service, exclusive wellness sanctuaries, lively entertainment, a host of activities, and exquisite culinary adventures from some of the world’s most accomplished chefs. One&Only Nyungwe House is the first of two new lodges the brand has built in the country (the second, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, is set to open later this year)
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
One&Only Nyungwe House is one of the best hotels I ever stayed at. The setting inside a tea plantage, the backdrop of the rainforest, and the sublime design are stunning. There is very little to say against the hotel, but you may want to know the following nonetheless:
- During lunch and dinner, there is no menu; instead Chef Treasure Makwanise and his team curate every menu daily, based on the best of the season’s ingredients.
- The property features resort-like facilities like a swimming pool and fitness center that, for some, may lessen an authentic African safari ambience.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like One&Only Nyungwe House (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
In the heart of Africa, fractionally south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Although it’s regarded as a year-round activity, the best time to visit Rwanda is during the short dry season from December to February or over the long dry season months of June to September. These periods offer by far the easiest hiking conditions (for gorilla or chimp trekking) and the lowest malaria risk. The dry season does not necessarily means sunny season as there is often a light cloud cover, helping to moderate the temperatures. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. October to November is the short rainy season, with occasional light showers in the afternoon.
HOW TO GET THERE
Rwanda has possibly the best roads in East Africa, and all major centers are connected by local and luxury transfer services (I highly recommend Uber Luxe Safaris). The 5-hour journey to Nyungwe from Kigali Airport (the last 1.5 hours is through the National Park) will take you through Rwanda’s scenic countryside.
It’s also possible to reach the resort by air. RwandAir operate daily domestic flights of approximately 35 mins from Kigali Airport. A short car transfer of 45 mins can then be arranged from Kamembe Airport to the resort. For an awe-inspiring and expedited arrival, a 30-minute helicopter charter will bring you directly from Kigali to the resort’s helipad.