Past Fort Portal, under the shadow of the Virunga Mountains, we followed the signs for Semliki National park so we could find the lodge. In spite of the fact that we wandered around for about an hour the good people of the area were kind enough to keep setting us back on our path. At around 2:30 pm we drove into Semliki Safari Lodge. At first sight we noticed that all the buildings and chalets were covered with grass thatched roofing and open view architectural work. We found out later that it’s the local people in the area who helped to collect the materials for construction.
All the trails are lined with grey and white stones tearing defiantly through the neatly sheared savannah like green grass. We used the paths to lead us to the lounge and dining area where Ishmail one of the waiters was ready for us with refreshingly cold glasses of passion fruit juice. The sugary rims revitalized us and were good to relish a hearty meal of rice, chicken stew and avocado.
While we ate we enjoyed the company of the management duo of the lodge, Fraser Gear and Sandra Schonbachler who shared with us their passionate sentiments towards nature and wild life conservation. Working in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to conserve the forest habitat and savannah vegetation, they have come to truly appreciate a unique side of Uganda left undiscovered by many. Fraser explained to us that the open space inspired architecture of the lodge is molded to fit the distinctive nature of the environment. There is no escaping the outdoors in this lodge because every nook and cranny is heavily prenatal and breathing with wild life, plant and animal alike.
The lodge is pillowed within Semliki Wildlife Reserve and is primed on the boarder of Semliki national park. It enjoys the flow of river Semliki through it on its voyage to pour into Lake Albert.
Because of this prime location, the lodge enjoys the dual existence of a beautiful and tropical forest valley while also bearing the remarkable lush of savannah vegetation. This exclusive and exceptional blend of the two makes for quite the view from the lodge rooms which face the dry savannah and forest valley.
The Pearl Guide team got the savannah facing rooms; which you should know drink in the unbridled warmth of the sun every single morning since the widely spaced grassy woodland is accommodating enough. Before we could soak in the glow of our Savannah, we were beaten to the punch by a few kobs haughtily grazing in our front yard. Who could blame them!
During breakfast, we took turns looking through the stationery binoculars into the forest reserve, and to our delight we caught view of a barrel of vervet monkeys holding an in-depth seminar in the thick of the canopy. Clearly, this dually existing vegetation is populated with a very content wildlife.
Now the entire lodge is covered with primarily wooden accents, exposing a rustic yet sort of contemporary and unpretentious persona. Every chalet is hidden within a khaki colored tent made of canvas set atop a rubble of stones and shrouded in wooden furnishings. From the book shelves and furniture to the bathroom fixtures and fittings almost all of it is fleshed in either polished wood or raw timber. Whenever we were in need of rest we took a few moments to enjoy the decorative disparity of the thick off the buck brown mahogany lining the bar counters against the plush modern white cushions sprawled on black metallic chairs sitting on the partially open courtyard. So in the company of a good looking bar, a starry-eyed glow from golden hued lanterns and the nocturnal mutterings of night owls and choral recitals of crickets we naturally decided to knock back a few cocktails. Naturally.
Attractions at the lodge
We took a walk through the forest valley under the guidance of the sector head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In an almost cinematic turn, all or our senses were heightened. Every smell and sound was accentuated with the strong musk of nature and jungle fantasies. Even the green of the flora seemed deeper and picturesque. Of course a few monkeys here and there followed us but they seemed a bit acclimatized enough to human presence to tolerate our intrusion.
This lodge is the quintessential bird lover’s paradise; with over 400 bird species soaring it skies and residing in its thick canopy a bird enthusiast will be spoilt for choice. A particular specialty is the shoebill bird that thrives on the shores of Lake Albert a two hour ride away. Fraser teased us with the possibility of a sighting impressing us with the lodge’s 95% success rate in seeing the bird but we were stretched thin with time and took his word for it and that of the countless guests in the guest book who have been visiting the lodge since 1998.
Day and night game drives
The lodge is one of the very few in Uganda which offer not only day game drives but also Night time drives.
As is expected of the unpredictability of nature, we could not time the animal traffic and avoided casting bets on the probability of landing our sights on a leopard or an elephant even if the lodge is home to many of these game. Luckily though, we did spot a herd of about 200 kobs grazing by the edge of the savannah, a large python wriggling its way to the van, and a lone buffalo boldly taking its evening bath in the river. Not so bad for one day and night on the drive yes?
In the evening we lounged for a while by the swimming pool which placidly overlooked the forest with its turquoise themed aura and enjoyed the breathtaking views and tranquil sounds of nature.
Another amazing sight was one of the Sundowner spot overlooking the rivers and hills. To watch the sun descend in real time could not be mirrored by any possible slow motion filmic imitation. It was a breathtaking escape in that last half hour of the day that I would encourage everyone to indulge.
Need to Know Info.
To get your face time with this amazing Safari Lodge, all you have to do is visit their website on www.wildplacesafrica.com