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Bad stay at the Gorilla's Nest

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Jun 9th, 2008, 08:59 PM
  #1
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Bad stay at the Gorilla's Nest

My husband and I just returned from a three week trip to Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda. I will post a full trip report soon, but wanted to let people know about our terrible experience at the Gorilla's Nest in PNV. After reading many posts on this forum I new the resort would not be luxury but would be okay, and that it had a great location. I have to say we were extremely disappointed. Our hotels in Ethiopia (very basic) were actually better than this hotel. The facility and service left a lot to be desired. We were given a room in the farthest building from reception, and the room was not particularly clean. Lots of dead bugs on the floor by the window. We also did not have towels in the room and had to walk back to reception to request some. Dinner was an okay buffet, and when we got back to the room we realized we did not have an extra blanket in the room. Another long walk back to reception. The staff were indifferent to our requests, and it seemed like we were hassling them. We initially thought - who cares, its only two nights, and tomorrow we see the Gorillas! The next morning was our trek, and upon our return we found our room had no hot water. Back to reception to ask them about the problem. They said they would have someone check on it. An hour and a half later, and a few trips back and forth to reception, we still had no hot water. We were finally moved to a very small and dark room with hot water. At this time I jumped in the shower, but my husband sat on the bed and promptly ended up on the floor as the bed broke (and no he isn't very large). At that point we decided to change hotels. Throughout the hot water issue we had repeatedly asked to speak to the manager but were told he was not able to speak to us. Our guide also tried and was told the manager wasn't interested in dealing with the problem.

After we checked out our guide told us the hotel had been bought out by a group from Kenya. Apparently all the staff were going to be let go that weekend so they were not happy. We moved to the Sabinyo Silverback Lodge for 1 night, and it was beautiful. It was much much more expensive, but worth it in my opinion. We didn't get a chance to check out the Volcanoes Lodge, but after passing the turn off on the highway I didn't think the drive would have been too long if the lodge lived up to its reviews. The bottomline in my opinion is that there are lots of back backer accomodations near PNV at a much less price than Gorilla's Nest. If the standard of accomodation doesn't matter much to you than choose one of them. If you are looking for a nice standard of accomodation spend the extra for a night or two and stay and Sabinyo or Volcanoes.
lisahasthetravelbug is offline  
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Jun 10th, 2008, 04:19 AM
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Thanks for posting this - I'm just working on an itinerary that includes the Gorilla's Nest for 2 nights - I'll ask about this - how was the Gorilla viewing?
Elizabeth_S is online now  
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Jun 10th, 2008, 05:24 AM
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How disappointing for you and how devastating for the staff. Thank you for alerting us to this recent development of the staff changing hands.

I too am in the process of planning a Rwanda trip and had planned to return to Gorilla's Nest. I'll be thinking twice now.
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Jun 10th, 2008, 06:46 AM
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I was very disappointed with our stay at Virunga. I think the problem is that that area does not have enough competition with regard to hotels. The new Silverback Lodge should hopefully change that!
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Jun 10th, 2008, 07:54 AM
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Thanks for posting.

I was just about to send my final payment to R&N Xplorer for our gorilla trek and while confirming the wire info, I got this e-mail from R&N:

"The gorilla nest has doubled their rate. Now they are charging USD 250.00 for a double from USD 120.00."

After reading your review, it's clear that the new ownership has decided to raise the rate.
And I'm certainly not happy paying $250 a night for the place you just reviewed.

Not sure what to do now, as we are pretty much at the top of our budget and was literally sending the wire today.
I'd like to try to switch accommodations, but am not sure if I can with the deadline for payment fast approaching...or even where else we could stay.

Anyone have any names or reviews for some of the more modest accommodations close to the park??

Thanks


www.luv2globetrot.com

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Jun 10th, 2008, 08:19 AM
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Sorry to hear GN was disappointing - I hope it didn't impact too negatively on your gorilla experience. Whether you spend a fortune or a few dollars, it's irrelevant how much a bed costs if the service is indifferent. For other travellers planning their trip and their accommodation around seeing the gorillas, obviously it depends what you want to spend your cash on - a couple of gorilla trekking permits or a night at a top lodge ... one night at Sabyinyo or Volcanoes at about US$1000 pppn was a little steep for us and we went for the very much cheaper option, Kinigi Guest House (at US$50 pppn) is on the doorstep of the ORTPN Office you have to go to at 7am to go on the gorilla trek. Adequately comfortable would be appropriate words to describe the facilities, the food was good, and the hostess, Rosie is a character!
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Jun 10th, 2008, 10:21 AM
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what a pitty that you didn't appreciate the hotel.
hope the trekking was excellent.....

who did suggest to book gorilla's nest? and whoever suggested did he/she evaluate the place before marketing?

would really like to know how that could happen...
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Jun 10th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Our party of 3 used the Kinigi Guest House too, with no problems. Didn't even send money to hold the reservation. Didn't use a tour, but booked the gorillas ourselves (two treks)and took a bus one way and a taxi back. It is a lot cheaper than the tours that are offered.
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Jun 10th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Novak - could you elaborate on how you did it yourself?

Websites/email addresses would be appreciated.
Elizabeth_S is online now  
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Jun 10th, 2008, 12:18 PM
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Elizabeth,
Here's a past thread that touches on DIY gorilla treks http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34683068
Look for the post by sunny_days.

Lucia78's trip report with self booked gorilla trek http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34854667
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Jun 12th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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At $500 a day for Gorilla permits, I would be more concerned about the gorilla trek than the accommodation.

You don't even mention that, which is really sad indeed.
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Jun 12th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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I agree it would be sad to just complain about poor hospitality when you have just had an experience lifetime that most people only dream of.

If that's the case, I am in total agreement with Mkhonzo.

But OP's comment about letting the whole staff go as the reason for the problems made me see this in a different light. It can be alerting us to poor management practices so we can decide if that's the kind of place we wish to stay.

Long walk to reception, bugs on the floor will bring no tears to my eyes. But if I have a choice I'll stay where the entire hotel staff is not dismissed wholesale.
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Jun 12th, 2008, 08:47 AM
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mkhonzo, you need to take a course in reading comprehension since you apparently did not understand the OP's second sentence, which is really sad indeed.
thit_cho is offline  
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Jun 12th, 2008, 05:06 PM
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We are booked into Gorillas Nest in August, so I mentioned this posting to my tour operator, a well-regarded US-based operation. She said they were aware of the sale to the new owners...but they have not had complaints from any of their clients who visited recently.

My TO did not believe the new owners had fired the entire staff (remember this was second hand info from the OP's guide)...although she did say that some of the staff may have been unhappy about the sale and were departing as a result. The transtion to new owners may be rocky, so I'll be interested to hear what other visitors in the days ahead have to say....but maybe the new owners will spruce up the facilities and even improve the hot water supply??? ...but maybe not before I get there?!

Re: Silverback Lodge prices. We were quoted a supplemental charge of $425 per PERSON per NIGHT...hope there were better prices for a last minute switch!
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Jun 12th, 2008, 06:19 PM
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Thit-cho.
You are correct. I have always struggled with my English, but over the years it has improved: I continue to do my best to master the language.

I have however mastered Africa and when I read of travelers who reach the remotest parts of the world (in itself a privilege to a few) where service and luxury aren't second nature and they fail to comprehend why they are there I am saddened.

Surely after being exposed to these endangered beasts, hiking hard in the hills the euphoria would overwhelm you? Surely the last thing you'd be doing is comparing the lodge with another in another country? I am simply astounded by the value system of the original poster.

Nowhere have I ever read that the GN is anywhere near luxury, frankly all googled comments indicate that is far from that... I am just disappointed that the very core of the experience is lost in the fluff of extra thread count linen or extra chilled wine....ugh...soft bellies!
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Jun 12th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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Thank you for the post Lisa. This is a good thread.

Like others, I am surprised that the service was so bad at Gorillas' Nest. I hope that the new owners do something about it, and that they arenít the cause of it. I'm scheduled to stay there in February. I know the accommodations are very basic, and that I am totally ok with. However, I do have a problem if staff is indifferent, if there are no towels in my room, and if I don't have any hot water for a shower after a Gorilla trek.

My TA highly recommended Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, but we had to give it up to stay within budget when we expanded other parts of our trip.

Hopefully somebody will have something positive to report after the new owners get things under control. Does anybody know when the sale occurred?
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Jun 12th, 2008, 06:51 PM
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I tried to check rates about 10 days ago and was told a sale was in the process and they would have to get back with me after it settled.

There seems to be a large void between Gorilla Nest level pricing and then the huge jump to Sabyinyo and Virunga Lodges with no middle ground. Based on trends I would guess that the new owners will upgrade Gorilla Nest but then raise the price substantially but that is nothing but a guess on my part.

This got me interested in Clouds, a new lodge opening in Uganda that is priced about in the middle ($450 pppn) between Gorilla Nest and Sabyinyo that is opening August 1st. It's owned by the folks who own/operate Apoka and Semliki which are both supposed to be outstanding, probably the best lodges in Uganda so I think it will be a very good lodge. There is also a tented camp being built in Rwanda, Ikoro Tented Camp that I imagine might fill the gap for those who desire nicer accommodation than the current Gorilla Nest but at a price much more affordable than Sabyinyo/Virunga -- likely priced somewhere between the two options? Their site though does not say when it will open. Good news for those of us who like tents anyway.

Personally, for the gorillas I'd be happy to climb into a warm sleeping bag for the night wherever I could find a spot.
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Jun 12th, 2008, 07:05 PM
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My 02. cents...

I've heard good and bad reports from
all the lodges/camps in Rwanda and I've stayed at two of the three mentioned, Gorilla's Nest and Virunga Lodge.

For as much as it costs I've heard bad reports on Sabinyo Silverback Lodge from very experienced travelers who stayed there this past January and said the rooms were very cold and they had no hot water and they also complained about the manager.

Another fodorite, Dr. Andrea, complained about Virunga Lodge while I and other fodorites enjoyed our stay there. I also didn't mind my stay at Gorilla's Nest. We had a little trouble while there and had to switch rooms, but such is life, and such is the safari experience.

I've also stayed at proper "homes" in Ruhengeri (and in Kigali) when the power has gone out and can stay out anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours. That's when a headlamp and candles come in handy. And a bottle of beer or glass of wine.

I guess my point is that the lodges/camps, at some point or another, will not please everyone all the time. Things happen while in third world countries but you just have to make the best of it and focus on the good parts of the trip.

None of these problems would deter me from staying at any of the camps again. With or without hot water, with or without power. You just never know what's going to happen during your stay.
Managers and staff come and go, and sh*t happens everywhere. I've just learned to suck it up and make the best of a bad situation.

My thinking..."Heck, I'm in Africa. I just went to see the gorillas! Aren't they fricken' wonderful!"

I wouldn't sweat the small stuff!


P.S. PB, if I hear any news about when Ikoro plans to open, I'll let you know.


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Jun 12th, 2008, 07:19 PM
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Mkhonzo,
Your comment about English is the first inkling I've ever had that it is not your first language. I'd say you've mastered it!

How about Kinigi Guesthouse? Hoping for a warm shower after trekking, a towel to dry off or let me know to BYOT, and a nearby place for decent food. The pics of Kinigi Guesthouse look charming. That place is high on my list. I wonder if it has crowned cranes roaming around like Gorilla's Nest as an added bonus.

I hope the firing of the staff is not true, for the staff's sake.

I recall I had a screaming showerhead (or some water pressure device) at Gorilla's Nest. It screamed off and on from 11 pm to 4 am, coinciding with hours of no electricity. I was sound asleep when it woke me. At first I thought it was some kind of animal howling nearby. I covered my ears but was enthused about the mystery creature. When I realized it was my shower I lost my enthusiasm.

The next day I asked to be moved to a room without a screaming shower device and my wishes were accommodated. Room #2 was fine and quiet all night.

I was told by my guide that the staff knows which rooms have screaming shower devices and which do not. I thought it was odd that I'd be put in the screaming room, when non-screaming rooms were readily available.

If I end up at Gorilla's Nest again, which I found to be fine except for the screaming shower, I'll be sure to have earplugs. So that's my suggestion. Have earplugs handy when spending the night at Gorilla's Nest.
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Jun 12th, 2008, 07:52 PM
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mkhonzo, I stayed at Gorillas Nest in 2003 and had a very good experience, but I am aware that standards and service can rise, or decline, over time, and while I certainly appreciate the difficulty in maintaining a high standard in a remote location, a lodge that charges more than its competitors (even if they are guesthouses) should be expected to provide more value for the increased rate. Frankly, I am not particularly fussed on where I stay, and I don't expect Ritz Carlton quality b/c (unless work is paying) I generally avoid cookie-cutter five-star international chains.

But, the OPs point is fair, and if we are to welcome praise for a lodge, we likewise should welcome fair criticism. And, if Gorillas Nest no longer provides service commensurate with its price, visitors to the region may be well served by spending less and staying in one of the excellent guesthouses.
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