Believe it or not, there’s more to Queen Elizabeth National Park than the abundant wildlife. In fact, there’s good reason to visit the lodges within as a destination in itself. In the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park, about 420Km from Kampala, in the southwestern part of Uganda lies an iconic landmark, still standing since the 1950’s, Mweya Safari Lodge, atop the hill on the Mweya peninsula. The lodge being one of the oldest has consistently provided her guests with nothing short of an inconceivable experience. I’d visited this place more than 100 times, and each time felt like the first. As you close up on the lodge from the road below, its completely unassuming what unfolds, the property perfectly blends in with its surrounding. No doubt the lodge is a destination in itself, right in the heart of the game. Once inside, the décor is well placed, opulence and mesmerizing views surround you. The ambiance of the place takes you back in time and makes you feel like an early explorer from a long-gone era.
To the east, lie the guardians of the birthplace of mankind, the Great Rift Valley hills, separated from the Mountains of the Moon by the meandering Kazinga Channel. Here the water flows endlessly into two giant lakes – Lake George and Lake Edward.
There’s something for everyone, child friendly, it’s a perfect spot for honeymoons, family get-away, office retreats and conferences for up to 100 people; there’s enough room in the many cottages and safari tents to take a chunk of holiday-hungry folks. The activities run include Game drives, sunrise and sunset boat cruises on the Kazinga Channel using one of their luxury boats; bird watching, bush meals, craterlake tours, hot air balloon rides and meditation. Nearby, chimpanzees can be found in the breathtaking Kyambura gorge – a formation of the natural rift in the earth. Here the ancient movement of tectonic plates has created a natural forest habitat for hippos, monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants and buffaloes. Sadly I haven’t managed to go view the chimps.
I put together a road trip itinerary covering 4 days to this remarkable lodge. I hope this can work as a basis for anyone wishing to plan a safari to Mweya Safari Lodge; the start point would be Kampala the capital or Entebbe. (photo credits; Mweya Safari Lodge and Spacey.)
On Day 1: Depart Kampala for Queen Elizabeth National Park – Mweya Safari Lodge App. 7 hours’ drive. Would be nice to set off early, as the drive covers a great chunk of the day, but you wouldn’t notice how fast time flies by as the journey passes through picturesque rural villages to towns of contrast, totally keeping you entertained. En-route, you can have a brief stop at the equator or the Mpigi Royal Drum Makers, a place where you can watch the ceremonial drums being crafted using methods passed down through generations. Lunch en-route, preferably in Mbarara town and proceed to the park with views of plains, hilly landscapes and the mystical Rwenzori Mountain range most of the journey. Once you enter the park, the real entertainment, keep an eye out for the game where you may be rewarded with views of water bucks, Elephants, Leopards, Buffaloes, Hyenas and a variety of Antelope species.
Usually after a long drive, it would only be fair to relax by the pool, and get acquainted. However, as for me, I hate to waste any opportunity I have to interact with wildlife, so if you have some energy left in you, in the late afternoon, embark on your first wildlife tracking ride with a wildlife and bird expert who will not let you miss a thing and answer any questions you might have. Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffaloes, and Antelopes in abundance as you ride across the savannah and rolling hills of Queen Elizabeth Park with the Rwenzori gracing the background. Return in the evening for Dinner and overnight at Mweya Safari Lodge.
Day 2: Experience the morning game drive safari and the launch cruise on the Kazinga channel (Game drive lasts about 4 hours and the boat cruise lasts 2hours) As the morning safaris start as early as 6am, the lodge makes sure to provide morning coffee to “wake you up”, it’s usually chilly in the mornings so throw in a blanket on the game drive truck. Then off you roll with your game expert for the sunrise safari catching some of the nocturnal animals as they call it a night. As you drive along you’ll be welcomed by herds of Elephants moving across the track ahead of you; a pair of lions in the distant savanna grass. Buffaloes grazing in the early morning hour; Birds flying overhead, maybe a rock python here or there. So far I have seen 2! The game drive lasts about 4 hours and its often usually worth it.
Usually about 10am, you should be on your way back to the lodge to catch up on the long-awaited breakfasts, and then maybe, enjoy some unscheduled time flipping through pictures, or by the pool or just breathing! Before you know it, it’s time for lunch, served by the verandah overlooking the Kazinga channel. I love food, so I always get to show up as soon as tables are set by 12.30pm. After which you are off on a boat ride along the Kazinga Channel where there are hippos, hippos and more hippos. Did I mention that this is another bird haven? Yes, that’s right, some crocodiles and of course elephants, buffaloes and more hippos. It’s simply a fabulous, slow boat ride that usually is one of the highlights of a safari in Uganda.
Day 3: The Crater Lakes and Salt Lake Tour. For me, this day spans out as the best, it feels like a drive to heaven. After a hefty breakfast. With some more snacks thrown in the trunk of the jeep, set off to check out one of the things that sets Queen Elizabeth NP apart from the rest- The Crater lakes and Salt Lakes. My oh my; this is no ordinary drive, over 6 or 7 crater lakes to explore, offering unique opportunities for photography and filming. This drive will take you to the salt lake where you can interact with the miners, hear interesting stories of how salt is mined and extracted. Then head on to the fishing village, a community of fishermen, the only ones allowed to fish from the Kazinga channel. Towards the late afternoon, set off for the Lodge, arriving for late lunch.
The afternoon is time to relax, I won’t decide what you can do, you decide! Dinner and overnight at the Lodge.Day 4: Sadly some things shouldn’t end, but it’s time to check out – or else, just walk to the reception and ask to extend your stay! Breakfast on the Mweya Peninsula with the birds, I enjoy it every time, the nearby channel gurgling by and morning birds chirping away, as you have your coffee, you’ll be able to see in the distance some animals moving away.
After breakfast, check out and drive back to Kampala.
Holla if you wish to try out this trip… Until Next!!!!