Quiet escape in the heart of Virunga

Friday November 29 2013

By Daniel Sabiiti

If you happen to visit Rwanda this holiday season, or any other time, you may want to include the Centre Pastoral Notre Damme de Fatima in your itinerary.

Fatima Hotel as it is commonly referred to, is slightly over 90km from Kigali, and just 12km from the Volcanoes National Park — the venue for tracking Rwanda’s world famous mountain gorillas.

Volcanoes National Park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area that also includes the Virunga National Park. At least 480 mountain gorillas inhabit the Virunga complex that covers Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda.

Being in the heart of the Virunga Mountains in Musanze district, Northern Province, the environment surrounding Fatima Hotel is serene. Visitors can relax and enjoy the cool breeze while listening to birds chirping.

The hotel is run by the diocese of Ruhengeri, and Father Ferdinand Hagabimana, a soft spoken priest, is the man in charge.

With the support of the diocese, Father Ferdinand acquired a Rwf300 million ($0.4 million) loan that he used to expand and upgrade the hotel. Initially, it was a simple structure with eight rooms and a bed capacity of just 10 people, plus a conference hall that could accommodate only 50 people.

Father Ferdinand added two restaurants, increased the bed capacity to 100, and built a bar area. Construction work began in 2003, and was completed a year later.

Today, the hotel is popular among tourists who make a stopover before heading to the mountains to track the gorillas.

“Over the next five years, we intend to expand the facility to the status of an icon in Africa’s hospitality sector,” said Father Hagabimana.