An adventure of Ugandan proportions

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The magic of an African sunset, more stars more than you can count, waking up to the sound of a lion roaring in the middle of the night, or taking hundreds of photos of chimpanzees playing in the treetops – this is just a glimpse of what this continent has to offer. Discovering the beauty of nature and the rich diverse cultures of the African people is a bucket list item you should tick off. And with international borders opening up, you can now start planning.

Africa offers many destinations of breath-taking beauty, but, this time, we decided to travel to the heart of the continent and the “Pearl of Africa” – Uganda. Uganda is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The country is truly magnificent with its vibrant colours, landscapes and wildlife. Uganda is also widely known for its agricultural production, and fields of cotton, as well as tobacco and tea plantations. Our choice of accommodation for our stay in this magnificent country was the luxurious Kyaninga Lodge.

A Sense of Adventure & an African Dream

Kyaninga Lodge is the brainchild of Steve Williams, who travelled to Africa from the United Kingdom, as a youngster. Enthralled by the stories of Sir David Attenborough, he was inspired to seek out adventure, and after visiting Uganda’s many parks, he phoned his parents and abruptly told them: “I’m staying”. Determined to build a new life in Uganda, Steve discovered land on Lake Kyaninga – a volcanic lake – one of the cleanest in the country – 220 m deep, and formed about 10,000 years ago. Being a visionary, Steve knew immediately that he wanted to create a luxury lodge with a truly Ugandan feel, overlooking the lake. And so, he did just that. How Steve secured the land and the money to pay for it, is a story that he will tell you on your first visit. The point is that he did it, and took it upon himself to train the local workforce for two years before building commenced. Four years after that, the lodge opened in 2010. Steve’s vision came to life in a beautiful way, and during the building process, great emphasis was placed on ensuring that all the building materials used in the construction were sourced locally. It took over 130 peoples’ hard work to ultimately complete the project. Kyaninga Lodge has nine luxury cottages overlooking the lake. Constructed on stilts, these cottages create the feeling that you are living in a deluxe tree house, and waking up every morning to glorious views of the lake is sustenance for your soul. Tree houses need trees, so Steve was instrumental in creating the forest that surrounds the lodge and lake, planting over 40,000 trees in the process. To this day he continues to invest in nature conservation.

To the Trees in Search of Chimpanzees

The list of things to do in Uganda is long and exciting. The highlight of our itinerary was meeting the chimpanzees who live in Kibale National Park, a densely forested area of about 795 km². This park has the highest concentration of chimpanzees in their natural environment, anywhere in the world. It’s also home to 60 species of mammals and 335 recorded species of birds. Reaching the chimpanzees was an exciting part of the experience. We trekked through the beautiful forest with our guide for an hour before we heard the grunting, hooting, and screeching of the chimpanzees. Our expert guide soon located them, and we spent a full hour admiring what turned out to be a group of over 30 animals. Although they stayed at a safe distance from us in the trees, they eventually began to carefully descend right in front of us. To say that I felt a rush of excitement and adrenaline to have the privilege to witness these beautiful creatures so close by, is somewhat of an understatement. It’s a memory I will treasure forever.

Getting to Know Land, Lake and Local Cuisine

Kyaninga Lodge, itself, also offers a variety of activities. Taking walks around the lake, or to the Rift Valley with a guide will help you acquire a better understanding of the land and its people. We met the locals and gained some rare insight into Ugandan village life. We tasted some rather robust banana gin at a small shop, and I sat with ladies as they cleaned beans for their evening meal. Life in Uganda certainly has its own pace and beauty. Other activities to keep you entertained include a visit to the spa, a round of tennis or badminton on the local courts or kayaking on Lake Kyaninga. The latter is an absolute must-do that offers an opportunity to paddle to the middle of the lake, where you can just lie on your back and do some cloud gazing. Also be sure to arrive hungry as the food is fantastic! Trained by international chefs, the chefs at Kyaninga will surprise and delight your taste buds on a daily basis. Expect three course meals with freshly baked bread, beautiful wines to accompany each meal, and local beers for lazy afternoons around the pool. You simply won’t get enough of life at Kyaninga Lodge.

Investing in Uganda

Kyaninga Lodge is renowned in Uganda for investing in the country giving back to local communities. Steve is the founder of the Kyaninga Child Development Centre. He started this non-profit organisation in 2014, with the aim of creating equal opportunities for children with disabilities. Disability affects more than 13% of children in Uganda, and access to rehabilitation services is limited and costly. The Kyaninga Child Development Centre works to overcome these barriers and create equal opportunities through a multi-pronged approach. There is also a daily outreach health programme to communities who are unable to travel due to limited mobility or financial constraints. People from all over the world support the centre, allowing it to grow and touch many lives. The Kyaninga Dairy also produces fine cheeses for the exclusive purpose of supporting the centre. As we sipped our last glass of wine overlooking the lake, I realised why people should travel from across the globe to visit Kyaninga Lodge: it is one of those experiences that will leave you completely satisfied and with a multitude of stories to tell and unique adventures to share with friends and family. This year more than ever, we’ve realised that life is short, and living it to the full is the only way to go – and visiting Uganda is a good way to start! For more information, visit www.kyaningalodge.com.

Kyaninga Lodge forms part of Tourism Corporation Africa’s extensive portfolio. Tourism Corporation Africa operates and markets camps, lodges and island retreats across the African continent, in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. For more information, visit www.tourismcorp.co.za.

WRITTEN BY: LIEZEL VAN DER MERWE