With the influx of international hotel chains into Rwanda’s hospitality scene, there had been an emphasis on the business traveller at the expense of the ultra-luxury-seeking tourist.
Then The Retreat, an eco-friendly boutique luxury resort opened its doors in January last year.
The 11-room upscale property is about three minutes’ drive from Kigali central business district, within the neighbourhood of the Presidential Palace in Kiyovu.
It is owned and run by an American couple, Josh and Alissa Ruxin who came to Rwanda in 2005 for their honeymoon and never left.
Stepping through the doors of The Retreat, one is welcomed by friendly attendants who address you by your name.
Formed around the concept of ecological design, understated elegance and impeccable service, The Retreat has snow white interiors with stacked stone walls mixed with teak wood from a sustainable farm in Tanzania.
The management is keen on empowering locals as evidenced by the art from local artists adorning the walls, furniture crafted by local artisans and photographs of local sights hanging on the bedroom walls.
The Retreat is close to the Heaven Campus (also owned by Josh and Alissa Ruxin) which has Heaven Restaurant, Heaven Boutique Hotel Residence and Heaven Villas on the same street.
Both the eight superior king suites and three deluxe king rooms feature private patios, peaked ceilings, bamboo wood flooring, flat screen TV, mini fridge and coffee/tea maker, purified water in reusable bottles, wardrobes with a mini safe and en-suite bathroom. The suites have an outdoor back private deck with a shower.
I checked into my superior king suite on the afternoon I arrived. It made a design statement with its solid hardwood pivot doors, multi-coloured wood vaulted ceilings, cosy Tanzanian teak wood king size bed fitted with an organic handmade mattress from England, plush white sheets and pillows and an African print bed spread, plus a mosquito net supported by bamboo bed posts made from trees from The Retreat’s backyard.
The black-tiled bathroom features double sinks with teak vanities, a walk-in shower with a contemporary rainfall shower head, African print bathrobes and organically produced toiletries from an East African co-operative.
After a refreshing solar heated outdoor shower, I opted to try the spa which had come highly recommended. The 60-minute anti-ageing facial looked like the perfect way for me to rejuvenate.
The Retreat offers in-room dining but I opted to have dinner at the Fusion bar by the pool. Fusion restaurant merges culinary traditions from around the world with Rwandan ingredients from their organic farm.
I enjoyed the starter of goat kofta kebab served with Moroccan spices, chapati, hummus and tabbouleh; a main of duck breast served with tamarind sauce, butternut squash puree, oyster mushroom, bok choy, baby potato fondant, and a desert of macadamia torta della nonna.
I equally enjoyed the cold breakfast buffet of fruit, cereal, juice, yoghurt and fresh bread and the a la carte hot option of Shakshuka as well as a café latte.
The breakfast was delectable as you would expect of a hotel of that standard. The resident mixologist also whipped up some exceptionally good Gimlets and Mount Kigali cocktails while I was there.
The Retreat also has an open air gym equipped with the latest equipment from Technogym, with indoor and outdoor showers, an on-site dry sauna, a fitness studio where meditation, Pilates, Zumba and yoga classes are held, and a solar heated saltwater pool with a hot tub.
The Retreat excels at giving one that family feel with its warm hospitality. I felt like I was checking into a vacation home where you get to reunite with your long lost family.