Eco-Tourism and Endangered Gorillas
Volcanoes is the only company to have built its own exclusive eco-lodges near three gorilla parks and has also recently launched Kyambura Gorge Lodge next to a threatened community of chimpanzees. Our Safari Lodges are thought to be the best in the region.
Eco-Vision & Partnerships
We believe that ecotourism in these remote areas needs to respect the culture of local communities, their modest economic means and the fragility of the environment. Providing western standards of comfort needs to be balanced with the pressure local people face in obtaining food and clean water. In designing our eco-lodges, therefore, we ensure that water consumption is reduced and waste disposal controlled, and solar power is used instead of generators.
The eco-lodges, conceived and built by Praveen Moman, co-founder of Volcanoes and a team of African builders, led by John Ssemanda, reflect local architecture. With the help of Prabhat Poddar, an expert on Vasthu, they incorporate ancient Indian concepts of harmonizing the energy of buildings with the earth.
There are many definitions of eco-lodges and different approaches to creating eco-friendly lodges. There is also increasing debate on minimizing the environmental impact of rich travellers on poor countries; we believe for the debate to be meaningful, practical action must be taken on the ground to minimize the environmental impact and it is essential to review and experiment on how best to achieve this in practice while providing the comfort required by the luxury traveller who travels with us. The needs of the modern traveller are now high and therefore compromises have to be made and no systems can be regarded as totally environmentally friendly.
As is well known, clean water is becoming one of the most scarce resources in the world and we all need to make an effort on its consumption and the disposal of used water. So while upgrading the bathrooms at our lodges, in response to client feedback to provide flush toilets and conventional bathrooms, we have borne this fact in mind. A villager near our lodges, for example, probably has only easy access to about 20 litres within 1 kilometre per day. In the UK and US average daily consumption varies between 150 and 600 litres respectively.
At three Volcanoes lodges – Virunga, Kyambura and Gahinga – we collect and store rainwater in specially built large tanks from the roofs of our buildings so that utilizes the rain water well. Usually that is enough to supply the needs of guests for most months. During dry season we sometimes require extra water to be shipped in from a public source for 1 to 2 months of the year. At Bwindi lodge we use a protected spring which provides water for the whole community, with the cost shared by Volcanoes and other lodges. We also try to limit water consumption to about 80 litres per person per day and recycle the used “grey water “ at Virunga Lodge. This principle will be extended to other lodges in due course.
From mid-2011, the bathrooms in Virunga Lodge and Bwindi Lodge have been totally refurbished to provide luxury bathrooms with flush toilets and conventional hot and cold running showers. Kyambura Lodge which opened in 2011 already has luxury bathrooms from the beginning. At Virunga the grey water is recycled. The bathrooms at Mount Gahinga still have bush showers and “dry composting toilets” and are due for upgrading in mid-2012.
Power and Lighting
Lighting in rooms, public areas and the gardens and power for the kitchen is generated by banks of solar panels that we have installed at each lodge. The installing cost of solar power is high but means that fossil fuels are not required for generating power. All the public areas, individual bandas and bathrooms have lighting provided by solar panels and are usually enough to cover the needs of guests, providing they use lighting sensitively. Candles are also provided.
Waste is separated and disposed of separately. At Kyambura and Bwindi special disposal units have been built to ensure that animals cannot get into the waste units. These units will be added to the other lodges during 2012.