Rainforest Mabira Lodge: A Safari Getaway Morphed Out Of the Wood
If you can recall the weather in August, you’ll freeze over in an instant flashback of the unrelenting rain that visited itself upon us every day that month.
It was the first day of September when Joshua and I stole a trip away into the Mabira Rainforest Lodge. Typical to the weather I have described by the time we reached Luzira all the cars were skating on the slippery roads and dashing through the residual August rains. Before we reached the forest we could see by the menacing grey above it that the promises in its nomenclature wouldn’t disappoint us. We followed a large beige sign post for the lodge and drove along a 2km bumpy murram road that was carefully encased within the forest’s hover. The tree’s arms extended over the path as if to shelter us from the rain and the sense that we were not in Kampala anymore rang loud and true. Literally, it rang loud with the screeches of monkeys and the calls of birds. The air was thoroughly refined.
With its crisp refreshing bouquet marinated with a pleasant chill, we stepped into the little tucked away world of Mabira.
Before we settled in the first thing I noticed was the exuberant manipulation of wood. Almost every ornament and piece of furniture was dressed in wood from timber to twigs to bamboo. I was especially amused by the pathway lamps that were sheathed carefully behind expertly bended strips of wood. I was told later on that everything from the massively built stone and wood pillars holding up every edifice and building, to the little seamlessly woven strips of wood around the chairs were dreamed up by the owner Alam Zahid.
His most impressive brain child to me was the artistically molded metal chandelier, crafted to allow slivers of light to escape its moon and star shaped cut-outs.
To be honest that ingenious play of light from these chandeliers with their golden flow, kept us spellbound for close to 5 minutes until Joshua snapped out of it and grabbed his camera. I allowed the hypnosis to steal my focus for a lot longer than that though.
Lucky for us, the VIP room was up for grabs; the ‘Dellevoet Suite’ gave us the seclusion of our own rooms yes, but also a mutually shared wooden deck with a dining and lounge area overlooking the thick of the forest itself.
My mind instantaneously raced to the sensation of a tree house. I realized that the entire lodge was given such a beautifully natural architecture and atmosphere that its marriage with nature gave the illusion of continuity, as though this manmade creation were an accepted intrusion into the wild.
Our rooms, natural to woodland cottages were dressed in wood, from the walls, to the toilet seat. In my enamored state, I had to remind myself to make sure the doors were closed not just because of my phobia of rodents but also because of the pun humor that can be found on all cottage entrances, “keep monkey business out!” An understandable request because from the corner of my eye I could see a vervet monkey curiously watching the room. I kept that door shut for sure.
All 12 cottages wear the same theme with large well laid beds and warm duvets. Wooden reading tables, wooden seats with inviting cushions atop. They all face the forest and have as many netted windows as possible to allow light in considering how dark and dense the thick of the wood can be. Of course the lovely chandeliers I spoke of earlier sit in every room casting deep halos and shadow spikes whenever they are lit. The bathrooms run with warm water heated by both solar and hydro power.
Activities at the lodge
In proper appreciation of the fine forest weather (the rain had stopped and a little sunshine made an appearance) I took a walk on the stone paved walkways through the forest.
I often caught a glance of a rabbit or a swinging monkey and I found myself hoping to God I wouldn’t spot the tree hyrax. It is a small animal that resembles a large rat but surprisingly belongs to the elephant family. At night the animal’s call rings loud throughout the forest. Its form of communication resembles that of a scream. So on our night there I had to remind myself that it’s perfectly natural sound was not that of a woman or a very high pitched man in trouble. After a while, its sound became almost as melodious as it was amusing. Unfortunately for my review and fortunately for my sound mind I didn’t encounter this fascinating creature but the nature walk in essence is a lovely way to become acquainted with life in the forest in its true element.
Swimming pool, sauna and massages
If you are an ardent swimmer, you would really enjoy the pool side in this lodge. A short walk down the path past the cottages opens up into the pool area. A modestly sized pool with a beautiful reflection from the blue sky sits facing the forest. Again giving the appearance of a water source swallowed up by an all-embracing forest. There is an unimposing bar area and lounge which drape alongside the pool. Another accompaniment of the full board stay at the lodge is the sauna. The massages however come at an extra cost of 25USd.
Bar and Restaurant
I found my way to the restaurant for a cup of tea and struck up a conversation with Hannington, the head of the food and beverage department; a likable guy who was happy to share with me the low down of the lodge. He said that the lodge which has been around since 2007 is sister to other Geo Lodges formed under the Alam Group of companies. The lodges which include; Equator Snow Rwenzori and Jacana Queen Elizabeth, all share the same ethos and mode of operation. So, chances are high that this exact experience could be mirrored in any other lodge which you might choose to visit.
The lodge isn’t just an overnight getaway, its restaurant and bar attract many people from the area who just want to hang out and have a good meal. After tasting what Melisa Kalasia the chef had prepared for us, I couldn’t blame the walk-ins. I was especially impressed by the rich variety presented with the dinner menu. Both Meat lovers and vegetarians would be spoilt for choice. Ideally, this menu changes every day depending on the guests’ preferences and the ingredients available. Our dinner included ‘samosas’ as an appetizer with ‘mixed pea soup and a dash of fresh cream’. For the main course we enjoyed ‘surf and turf grilled chicken and breast with a ragout of mushroom sauce’, ‘braised leg of lamb with rosemary and whole garlic cloves’ and an accompaniment of ‘roasted herbal potatoes with tropical rice’. We had fresh fruit for dessert.
For walk-ins, this entire meal would cost only 40,000/=
I would describe the experience of eating this meal in detail but my word count would be exceeded and we wouldn’t want that would we? To put it simply, the meal was entirely delicious and it was no surprise for me to hear from Melissa that her favorite meal to cook was anything that allowed her to use herbs and wines. A doubtless sophistication of our pallets occurred on this trip.
As if on cue at about 7pm, the crickets exploded in operatic fashion. All sounds seemed to cascade from every direction of the forest and soon the song of cricket chirps was joined with night owls and the infamous tree hyrax I told you about. We spent our night tucked face deep in the warm duvet because the cold had penetrated every inch of the rooms. (Don’t forget to carry a sweater).
So in the midst of this nocturnal concert, I drifted off in slumber convinced that I had intercepted an important hyrax call and save for a few strange utterances I could gather what the conversation was about.
After a hearty and ridiculously delicious lunch which included ‘classical tomato and almond soup’, ‘sesame chicken toast’, ‘chicken flakes with soy and cashew’, ‘Croquette potatoes’ and ‘Chocolate ganache gateaux with passion seeds’, we waddled away like happy satisfied toddlers to the car to embark on the rest of our Kampala lives. So, till we return to this woodland paradise a mere two hours, we will remain happy with our ephemeral experience.
Need to Know Info
To enjoy the clean crisp air and all that the lodge has to offer, visit their website at www.geolodges.com and make your booking. You can also visit their head office on Parliamentary Avenue at Impala House 4th floor, Annex 1. Or call their head office on 0312260758. The rates for a night here range from 160USd to 300USd.