Marafiki Safari Lodge : A Flourishing Sunspot in the Country
You’re seated cross-legged on the front porch of your Banda in a safari chair reading Jennifer Makumbi’s “Kintu”.In the distance, there’s a golden tint over Lake George’s waters, the sun is setting. Birds are chirping and crisscrossing in the air above. A double bed with colourful orange cover is behind you, in the bathroom, smooth river stones cover the walls. You’re in two places at a go, in the wild, and in contentment. You’re at Marafiki Safari Lodge.
Marafiki provides an effortless balance between wild and leisure. Nestled quietly in the hills of Kasese overlooking Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the lodge stands on an old elephant migration route from Congo to South Sudan. In fact, the logo of the lodge has three elephants on it.
The word “Marafiki” alludes to friendship. Matt and Tino, the owners, embody this with their camaraderie and easy smiles. In our two nights, they keep us laughing with an endless supply of funny stories about the lodge, the park and their fateful meeting. They’ve been married about three years, and Marafiki is their first born. They’ve together welcomed honeymooners, families, solo travellers, and even missionaries who wanted to have some of the famed food of resident chef Lahuka.
“You’re welcome to Marafiki Safari Lodge,” Charles the service manager says, offering us each a cold wet towel and a cold glass of passion juice. After our 6-hour journey, we needed that drink. Charles and Noah, both cheerful and welcoming make sure we are well taken care of on our stay.
When you enter the main lounge, past the little wooden pygmy crocodile, you’re in a bit of a crisis of choice.
On one hand, you want to sit. The cream African print cushions on the wooden sofas invite you to relax. The burnt orange and pink-red walls make you smile without need, they are overpoweringly warm. I look for a girl to hug, it’s just my two manly colleagues, I don’t want to create the wrong impression so I scan the walls. Art pieces cover different sections of the wall while a few animal skulls lie on the floor and platforms in the lounge. One of the skulls is fitted with Prada sunglasses and a safari hat, a bit odd but funny at the same time.
On the other hand, you want to walk ahead to explore this fine painting of nature: The azure hues of the sky above Lake George, the brown and green shades of the Savannah, the Rwenzoris and Virunga.
There’s a little compound with a garden speckled with river stones, cactus, and some brown grass. Ahead, a lawn with a path in the middle leads to the Bandas and tents. It has a circular concrete depression that at night turns into a dining area cum fire pit encircled by lanterns.
Marafiki runs on the national grid, so you can charge your devices either in the Bandas ,or the Lounge area. Fast Wi-Fi is available in the lounge area for those who need to check in.
Breakfast at Marafiki is a sumptuous affair. The filling English breakfast energises us well for the activities we would have later. The fruits and juice are all freshly prepared from their vegetable garden.
Guests have access to a mini bar with different liquors and popular Ugandan beers. There are also sodas available.
We have immense three-course meals with some of the best tomato soup we had ever tasted.
“This is the best tomato soup I’ve had in a while!” We remark in unison!
“Chef Lahuka is in touch with his inner cooking zen all the time, and the vegetable garden makes it all fresh and healthy!” Matt responds with a confident grin.
Lahuka isn’t just a master at soups because the steaks are all well done, juicy and flavourful; and he on always follows it up with delicious dessert, like my trip favourite, the sweet Banana Fritter.
Marafiki is built by hand. You will notice mostly canvas and wood, and some bricks for the Bandas and the main lounge.
The Bandas are constructed with eucalyptus poles and canvas, meaning you can roll up the canvas all the way up to enjoy the panorama of the park and the lake. It’s picturesque especially when you get up early in the morning to catch the sunrise. The sunrise, one helluva sunrise. The rays of the sun enveloping you slowly by slowly.
They beautiful alfresco bathrooms inlaid with smooth river stones are the kind of bathrooms you don’t want to leave. You could just stand under the warm water as you watch the sunrise.
There are four luxury safari tents that are fully furnished, and another one currently under construction. The white canvas and brown poles engender a golden feel. The large beds with colourful red and orange covers and white mosquito nets accentuate the presence of calm.
The timber cabins house four dormitory rooms that are big enough to have four people each.
Maramagambo Forest Walk.
After an opulent breakfast, we are off for our forest walk in Maramagambo Forest. Daniel, our UWA guide, begins by explaining what to expect in the forest. It’s a tropical rain forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park which is a huge contrast to the plains of Kasenyi and Ishasha.
He tells us that legend attributes the name Maramagambo to an old hunter who after getting lost in the dense forest for months, came out and could only say
“The forest has left me with no words” Maramagambo.
We embark on a trail through the forest, shaking off red ants, spying on shy red-tailed vervet monkeys, meeting colonial figs that had swallowed up entire trees all this while enjoying the information Daniel our Google of the day is telling us. We go past streams with tiny crabs, via the Blue Lake and the Bat Cave.
I am thrilled about the Bat Cave because I am a fan on the “Dark Knight”. Even though it’s raining when we get there, the tall trees keep us from being completely drenched.
From where we are standing, the air is hot and humid, and very breathtaking (read pungent). We learn that it smells like that because of the Guano.
Guano mining is a billion dollar industry.
Guano is bat excrement. It makes very good fertilizer and gunpowder because of the nitrogen content. The cave is home to two snakes which feed on the bats.
After our invigorating forest walk, we proceed to Kasenyi for a game drive to see if we have any luck seeing some lions. We see a number of elephants, Impala and Waterbuck but no lions.
Marafiki Safari Lodge is a flourishing sunspot in the country. From the service’s cheerful smiles to the warm colours in the lounge and bandas, the filling meals, adventure-filled nature activities, it’s necessary you add it to your Uganda bucket list!
A six-hour drive from Kampala, you can get there either via Fort Portal or Mbarara. Alternatively, you can board a plane from Entebbe. It’s a one and a half hour flight. Aerolink usually does two weekly flights.
For more information please call 256 (0) 784 056831 / +256 (0) 775 941189 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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