Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell

With interiors and an architectural style that's deeply rooted in indigenous design traditions, the recently opened Bisate Lodge pays tribute to Rwandan culture while honoring its natural surroundings.

Set on the edge of the renowned Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda, Bisate Lodge is comprised of six spacious forest villas with spherical, thatched structures that echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside. 

The forest villas were designed by South African architect Nick Plewman.

Bisate Lodge

The lodge is the newest project from Wilderness Safaris, a sustainable ecotourism operator that specializes in providing wildlife experiences in remote areas of Africa. The 103-acre Bisate Lodge boasts stunning views of three volcanoes. The villas are even located in a natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, further capturing the essence of the terrain. The resort is part of the spectacular Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, thanks to a pioneering onsite indigenous reforestation project—making it close enough for guests to take a morning gorilla trek.

Each spacious 980-square-foot forest villa is made up of a bedroom, reception space, and bathroom. It's warmed by a central fireplace and features breathtaking views from the private deck looking toward Mount Bisoke.

Bisate Lodge

The architecture and design was created collaboratively and led by principal architect Nick Plewman, with additional input from the National Ethnographic Museum, among others. The design team took inspiration from the Royal Palace at Nyanza and injected modern sensiblities. 

Caline Williams-Wynn, her team from Artichoke, and Teta Isibo worked together on the interiors, which include colorful textiles and tons of texture.

Bisate Lodge

The interior design references a variety of aspects of Rwandan lifestyle, especially the colorful textiles and heavy use of texture. Teta Isibo, a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and founder of Inzuki Designs—who was also named by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs for 2017—was commissioned to collaborate with the project's interior design team. It was led by Caline Williams-Wynn and her team from Artichoke to source locally-produced items and bring a vibrant authentic Rwandan flair to the interiors. 

Bathroom interiors

Bisate Lodge

Recycled glass was used for chandeliers, volcanic stone was used in the fireplaces, black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages, and the traditional ibyansi milk jug motif is repeated throughout. Imigongo, a traditional art form unique to Rwanda where cow dung is mixed with different color soils and painted into geometric shapes, was also employed.  

"The emerald green color in the textiles and chandeliers is reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests, as well as the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country," says interior designer Williams-Wynn. 

Bisate Lodge

However, Bisate Lodge embraces its location in many more ways than just it's design. "When we made the decision to invest in Rwanda, the last thing we intended to do was just to build a boutique lodge and sell gorilla treks," Wilderness Safaris' COO Grant Woodrow explains. "We wanted to ensure that our brand of responsible ecotourism made a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation."  

Recycled glass was used for chandeliers and black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages.

Bisate Lodge


The dining area

Bisate Lodge


The volcanic mountainous terrain also resonates in the volcanic stone that's used in Bisate’s fireplaces and its surrounds, while natural ‘flamed’ granite is used for many surfaces.

Bisate Lodge


The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside.

Bisate Lodge


The incredible surrounding countryside

Bisate Lodge

All sales and bookings for Bisate Lodge will be handled by Wilderness Safaris. For more information and to book, visit this link or email enquiry@wilderness.co.za.

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Jennifer Baum Lagdameo is a freelance design writer who has lived in Washington DC, Brooklyn, Tokyo and Manila. She is…
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