Images Courtesy of Tom Nsereko
Images Courtesy of Tom Nsereko
Easy weekend escapes from the city
Do you want to get out of the city, but sometimes also want options which save you drive time?
These locations mean you can set off after work on Friday, arrive in time for dinner, spend a leisurely Saturday and Sunday morning, then leave after lunch, and be back home with plenty of time for your Sunday evening preps for the week ahead. Each is 1.5 hours OR LESS from Kampala. Life’s too short—and Uganda is much too diverse—not to take frequent weekend escapes.
For a unique farm experience, check out Bushbaby Lodge, just 14 kms south of Mukono. Literally only an hour’s drive from Kampala, this family estate is perfect for your family, too. Horseback-riding, milking the cows, and educational lessons in stable-management are all options—in addition to a very impressive play-structure, small pool, and vast, well-tended gardens of tropical plants, flowers and trees. A friendly group of dogs eager to say hello, and a roaming brood of chickens complete the experience. Some of the duplex cottages have adjoining rooms, and, while basic, all have the wonderful, added comforts of modern bathrooms with hot water, quality linens and pillows, and a soft bedside carpet. Eight-minutes’ walk away is two family cottages (each with two en-suite bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen). There is a variety of bed-choices—from king-size to deckers—to accommodate you as you like. Filtered water is provided in plenty, and the yummy meals include super fresh ingredients from the garden (even kale!), and homemade bread baked by people who know how—served with real butter.
Other activities include day- and night-forest-walks with a guide who will convince you of the forest’s capacities for healing and feeling, and inspire you to rejoice at the sighting of a rare bird. For biking enthusiasts, the lodge’s 10km “mudathalon” is particularly compelling (bike rentals available on-site). Or from southern Kampala, you can put your own bike on the ferry to cross at Ggaba, and then pedal the 25km to the lodge. Also on offer: dinner by the fire—under the village’s magical stars, eco-eclectic massage, yoga (advance booking required), and camping (bring your own tent).
For a restorative retreat, check into Karibu Guesthouse on State House Hill in Entebbe, less than 45 minutes from Kampala. All the rooms are tastefully-appointed, and feature a garden-porch, or a balcony, or a view, or something simple-yet-unique which makes you certain that you lucked out with that particular space. The charming pool is especially inviting, and the cuisine is more than your average fare—with Mediterranean-inspired offerings by Leslie, the French chef-owner. The menu changes according to what is freshest-and-best from their garden and from the local market. (On the menu for me were choices like “Crispy Date & Blue Cheese Rolled in Bacon,” and “Pineapple Carpaccio served with Vanilla Ice Cream & Fresh Mint Sauce.”) Spend your weekend lounging poolside, or taking in what this lakeside town has to offer—all without any Kampala traffic. Pure bliss!
Garden rooms are my favorite! (Accessible rooms available. All rooms have laptop friendly workspaces with outlets. Dietary restrictions easily accommodated with advance notice. A variety of spa services available—even more options when booked prior to arrival.)
For a rainforest experience, book The Dellevoet Suite at Rainforest Lodge—just two kilometers off Jinja Road—in the heart of the rich and historic Mabira Forest (about 1.5 hours from Kampala). The suite is comprised of two separate, en-suite cabins, each with a king-size bed, a bonus “corner bed” (which doubles as a loungy-sofa, and gets its name from its fun shape and location—a perfect extra bed for a couple of kids, or one adult), and a laptop-friendly desk. Linking the two cabins is your own 60 sqm deck with a dining table, armchairs, and a high-top-bar. From any of these perches, you will be entertained by monkeys playing in the trees all around you. You can have your meals served here—or in the two-storied, no-frills, stone-and-wood dining structure. The menus are handwritten daily by the kitchen, basic but tasty fare of stir-fries, curries, meats, fish, veggies and fruits. You can also enjoy the pool (at time of print, deck furniture is awaiting reno), massage, the sauna (allow time for the fire to be built), or a rigorous and educational, guided, two-hour forest walk.
The suite is perfect for families, couples sharing, or anyone looking for privacy and comfort in the forest. (Other cabins—while available—are in line for renovation. Make sure to book the whole suite, and not just one of the suite’s cabins. Also, this IS a rainforest, so make space for things like sometimes-slippery walkways, many steps, and Mother Nature’s wear-and-tear. By design, the cabins have no glass windows, only screens—making them delightfully airy—but earplugs are a good idea for light sleepers.)
How about catching butterflies, or paddling through the wetlands, or roasting marshmallows fireside? Nkima Forest Lodge offers all of this, and much more, just 1.5 hours away. They have four en-suite rooms, two family cottages (each with two bedrooms and a bathroom), and a basic campsite with flush loos and hot showers (bring your own tent). The lodge offers freshly cooked food with a changing menu covering a range of cuisines, and catering for all dietary requirements. They also have a sweet swimming pool. The lodge is eco-sensitive and is off-grid, but thanks to solar, there are lights, charging stations, hot water, etc.
Nkima is a favorite of many in the region—with impressively consistent standards and offerings.
[E] The Great Outdoors, perfect for groups, and business retreats. (1 hr)
(f) greatoutdoorsuganda (t) +256 701 519853
[F] Malakai Eco-Lodge. Funky and fun. Known for good service. (30 min)
(f) malakaiecolodge (t) +256 777 524677
[G] AidChild at the Equator. Small 2 bed, 2 bath house in a private garden just steps from the equator line and craft village. Full board available. airbnb.com/h/equator. (1.5 hrs)
(t) +256 780 282697.