By Richard Kintu
Life is a journey so they say! While many may take this adage for its literal meaning, I was lucky to fully appreciate its meaning last weekend when I and a group of friends with whom I belong to the Camp George Sacco took a trip to the Kikorongo Safari Lodge, one of the emerging jewels in the Rwenzori region in terms of exquisite tourist accommodation. Although still a works in progress, the lodge has already gained a compelling presence ahead of its December 1, 2019 launch thanks to its iconic view and unprecedented architectural ideas condensed in the 15 cottages will host guests once the facility opens for business.
Siira Mutseke, the Kikorongo Safari Lodge Hotel Project Consultant says that their adventurous architectural input into the safari lodge was informed by the need to offer the best in an industry that is so universal yet relies entirely upon first and lasting impressions. As a result, Siira has widely traversed the world, reaching every nook and crevice of the world’s best tourism destinations just to get firsthand inspiration of ideas that he then amalgamates and condenses at Kikorongo safari Lodge albeit with a unique Kikorongo touch to bring out the much desired comparative advantage. “Tourism these days is a universal business and it is the only venture where you find for example China, America and Europe struggling for the same clients with what you may term as the poorest country in Africa. It is unlike other businesses with distinctive producing countries and their corresponding consuming countries. Here we sell stories with the hope that they will appeal to the clients although with realization that the potential is unlimited yet all players stand equal chance,” says Siira in a bid to explain the extensive research they put in the Kikorongo project. This quest for the best experience to the Kikorongo clients has seen him visit Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malawi, South Africa, and Kenya among a host of other countries.
Siira adds that once he conceptualizes an idea, he relays its abstract to Jimmy Kaweesa, the project’s engineer who brings it to life in the physical form.
The guiding principle however is that materials used must be local not only to give the lodge the much needed comparative advantage but also to conserve the environment while giving an opportunity to the local community to contribute to the project and ultimately own it.
As a result of this philosophy, Kikorongo Safari Lodge already boasts “exclusive rights” to simple but intriguing firsts that enhance any adventurous tourist’s wow experience. From the bush showers to the crazy campfire, Kikorongo has lined up a wide range of innovative ideas to cater for every single client’s needs.
To the more serious tourist, one thing that strikes you about Kikorongo Safari Lodge is its location that gives a resident the chance to immerse him/herself in the true beauty of Kasese and the entire queen Elizabeth conservation area.
Sitting directly at the Equator and atop one of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges, Kikorongo offers perfect views of Lake George, Lake Edward and the mystic Lake Kikorongo Crater Lake which was until two years a dead lake but coincidentally came back to life around the time construction of the safari lodge began. It was therefore only fair that the lodge got its name from this amazing lake.
On another side, the eyes of a resident at Kikorongo Safari Lodge wander into the mighty Rwenzori Mountains, Rwenzori National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and the famous Kazinga Channel. This makes the place the ultimate choice for any traveler that is looking for value for his money. The enviable but undeniable fact is that staying at Kikorongo is akin to immersing yourself in eternal paradise on earth thanks to the myriad of attractions within sight.
The plus for tourists is that the lodge is very accessible while the mere journey to Kikorongo gives you a rare tourism experience of its own.
And better still; the journeys are not that hectic as it takes one moving from Kampala via Fort Portal (the route we used) about only 6 hours (370km). For those who wish to use the Mbarara route, you will trek 422km that will take you just 7 hours.
All catered for
According to Eng. Jimmy Kaweesa, Kikorongo Safari Lodge will have 15 uniquely designed and crafted cottages spread out on over 15 hectares of an incredibly steep landscape. The cottages have been designed to provide top notch comfort, privacy and above all, safety to residents.
To maintain the local touch and make the cottages as environmentally friendly as possible, each unit constitutes 80% trees while the built up area is just 20% maximum. The project investor, George William Nyombi Thembo says up to 60% of the trees are harvested from his eucalyptus tree forest in Kassanda while the grass thatch is procured Pakwach in northern Uganda and Mbarara in western Uganda.
The cottages are spread out on 6 hills and this is both for thematic and environmental considerations. “The hills represent the 6 peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains and because we are on the Rwenzori we want our guests to experience the ultimate mountain experience,” Nyombi says. “We also decided to construct the cottages atop the hills because we don’t want to dig up any landscape because that can tamper with its nature yet our core mission want to keep the environment as intact as possible.” As such, each cottage is supported by strong eucalyptus and mahogany poles onto which sit a strong platform that Eng. Kaweesa says is made of interlocked mahogany to ensure a durable but beautiful base/floor of the cottage. To ensure safety of residents, each unit has an ample wind pathway towards the ceiling to avert collapse in case of any strong winds. Thembo reveals that the place is designed with both low earning and high-end clients at heart. As such, the cottages are designed to suit the entire divide.
“We have three categories of cottages: the camping tents, the luxurious brick and mortar cottages and the super luxurious type. One of the cottages is fitted with a ramp to allow access by clients with disabilities,” he says. In terms of cost, the camping tents will go for a paltry 25 dollars a night while a heavenly experience in the luxury tents will cost you between 300 and 600 dollars. The luxury tents come in two-in-one and three-in-one models, making them ideal for couple as well as families to stay together while also saving money. Each cottage will have a private bathroom and Jacuzzi that are strategically positioned to give you breathtaking views of the lakes and refreshing queen Elizabeth national park sceneries as you cool off the day’s stress. They rooms that also boast huge balconies will be fitted with exquisite furniture woven from local materials but with rare architectural designs to enhance this serene environment. To complete the privacy, each cottage is surrounded with a mini bamboo forest to help residents get lost in their own world.
Project Manager Mutseke revealed that as the project advances, a 70m zip line as well as skywalk that is about 90 feet will be built across the Kikorongo Valley under which is a range of fruit trees that have since been planted to enhance the place’s beauty. “We are planning to build a very quiet and tranquil meditation center where one who has anything to write about or think about can be alone and summon the last grains of his imagination abilities. We even intend that place to have no network such that not even phone call disturbances can be a hindrance,” Mutseke says.
The beauty of travelling to Kikorongo Safari Lodge is that it casts you at the heart of the queen Elizabeth Conservation Area. This means that henceforth you will be spoilt for choice because a few hours away will be the Kibaale game park, Rwenzori national park up in the Rwenzori Mountains. Three hours away will be the Virunga National Park as well as the Lake Mburo National Park in Mbarara while the Semiliki Game Park is 2 hours away. This is of course on top of the beautiful lakes like George, Katwe, Kasenyi and the Kyambura Gorge which boasts the world’s only underground forest.
The Kikorongo Safari Lodge campfire is another experience not worth missing for any visitor.