Bird’s eye landscape

A recent visit to the Virunga Safari Lodge in the north of Rwanda made me think of Russell Page’s book, The Education of a Gardener, and his words on handling a hilltop site with a view.

About halfway up the nearest volcano, you can see the line between cultivated fields and the park, where the mountain gorillas live protected.

The Lodge –near the Parc National des Volcans and the famous mountain gorillas — has extraordinary views. Guests can see two lakes and several volcanoes.  But Page wrote that such a location is not ideal for the gardener.

“If I were to choose a site for a garden for myself,” he wrote, “I would prefer a hollow to a hilltop.  A panorama and a garden seen together distract from each other.  One’s interest is torn between the garden pattern with its shapes and colors in the foreground and the excitement of the distant view.  Everything is there at once and one has no desire to wander to make discoveries. . . .”

If, however, one does have to have a view, he advised: “Above all avoid any garden ‘design’ or any flower color which might detract from the main theme, which in such a case must be the view. . . . If there must be flowers they should be close against the house or below a terrace wall and so only visible when you turn your back to the view.  I would arrange the gardened part of the garden — flowers and shrubs — to the sides or far enough below, so that they and the view are not seen at the same time.”

Landscaping around the dining hall and lounge is simple.

The landscape designer for Virunga Lodge seems to have worked right from the book, with beautiful results.

There are a few garden flowers and shrubs, but usually the existing wild brush has simply been cut back to allow for a few flat grassy areas and paved paths.

The focus is on the gorgeous view of Lake Burera.

Local volcanic rock was used in the construction of buildings and walls.

A path to a banda or individual cabin.

A trail to nearby villages. The lake is in the middle distance, topped by more hills and clouds.

About three hours drive from Kigali, the Lodge has eight “bandas” or individual cabins, which operate on solar power and use rainwater recovered from the rooftops.  It is very expensive at $600 per person per night,* although this is inclusive of all food and drink (including alcohol).  (We just stopped by for a look.)

This simple grass “room” sits along one of the main paths.

The path crosses this room, which is outlined with a low wall.

A long room with regularly spaced columns near the entrance to the Lodge.

The bandas have stone terraces.

To get a better sense of the layout and location of the Lodge (and what it’s like to arrive by helicopter), you can watch this short YouTube video.

The same morning as our stop at the Lodge, we visited two local schools and a nearby village family. Our guide was an American businessman working with faith-based development endeavors in Rwanda.  He took us to the site of a house he is building for himself. At the moment, it’s just a stone and concrete foundation set on the edge of a hill.

But again, the views were absolutely amazing.  He wisely plans to leave the land surrounding the house (which is all sloping downward) very natural, hoping to attract as many birds as possible.

Lake Burera.

Living here, one might begin to feel like a bird.

*There are reductions for Rwanda residents.

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9 Comments

Filed under African gardens, architecture, design, garden design, garden writing, landscape, nature, Rwandan gardens, travel

9 responses to “Bird’s eye landscape

  1. This is starting to be a fascinating journey for your readers.

  2. Sarah

    A beautiful post! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Wonderful….nice to be able to just visit too!;) This is not at all what I thought Rwanda would look like…so glad you are educating me!

    I think mom and dad have done a fabulous job with their view and terraces just like your Mr. Page suggests.

    Can’t wait for the next adventure!

  4. What a beautiful place (and whoa on the price!). Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: On the road | enclos*ure

  6. nice place, and how about the place, thx to share with us.

  7. Pingback: Just another day in paradise | enclos*ure

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