Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lunch in a Tropical Oasis on The Nile

Some restaurants are unrivaled in terms of location.  Sitting at our table in the restaurant of Wildwaters Lodge, we conclude that this is without doubt, one of those places.  The location is extremely unique, exotic and romantic, however we aren't gazing at each other because we can't take our eyes off the view.

Wildwaters Lodge is situated on a private island in The Nile River accessible only by boat.  We park the Discovery in the secure parking lot and wait on the dock for the boat to pick us up.  As we wait, we take in our surroundings and get a glimpse of one of the ten guest rooms and are eager to see what else awaits us on the island.  Butterflies flutter around us, water birds fly above us and when we look closely at the crystal water below us,
we see fish swimming and in the background we hear the sound of the mighty Nile River crashing over the rocks.  A wooden canoe comes gliding across the water towards us and as it nestles in next to the dock we are greeted with big smiles and welcomed to Wildwaters.  We are given life jackets and gently climb in the canoe and take our seats.  The sun is shining in a perfectly powder blue sky speckled with fluffy white clouds as we are paddled over to the island.  We admire our surroundings and enjoy the scenery from the water level.

When we arrive on the island we are led over elevated wooden walkways to the restaurant.  We enter through beautiful hand carved timber doors and are taken to a table for two. The restaurant is under a high thatch roof and overlooks the natural rock swimming pool.  Just a few metres beyond the pool is a thundering rapid in the Nile River.  As we stare into the idyllic natural surroundings we sink our teeth into a fish burger, fish and chips and wash it down with ice cold beer.  After a satisfying meal, we aren't ready to tear ourselves away just yet so we indulge in a chocolate dessert and cappuccinos.  Eventually, we stroll back over the walkways to the canoe which takes us back to the mainland.  Our time at Wildwaters was too short since we only visited for lunch.  This incredibly beautiful serene lodge is definitely worth spending more time at, the location is like nothing we have experienced before. 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Snakes, Snakes and More Snakes

My heart was pounding as we entered the premises of the Uganda Reptile Village, it had taken us months to pluck up the courage to visit and I wasn't sold that we were making the right decision.  As we crossed the small garden towards the snake enclosures we were welcomed by Godfrey an experienced snake handler who would guide us around the facility.  The first enclosure we approached housed four forest cobras and the moment I laid eyes on them, enthralment took over my nervousness.  To my amazement an employee of the reptile village was plastering inside the enclosure resulting in two of the four cobras being raised up, their hoods flattened and watching his every move as he occasionally glanced over his shoulder.  After several minutes he exited the enclosure at which time the cobras focussed their attention on us, albeit through the safety of the glass window.  Watching them stare directly at us was certainly a spectacle to behold.

As we moved around the reptile village with Godfrey, he answered our numerous queries while we admired and learned about the uniqueness of each of the snake.  We came face to face (behind the glass window of course) with many species including:

~ Forest Cobra
~ Olive Sand Snake
~ Large Eyed Snake
~ Green Mamba
~ African Rock
~ Twig/Bird Snake
~ Boomslang
~ Boiga
~ Green Tree Snake
~ Puff Adder
~ Rhinoceros Horned
~ Great Lakes Viper
~ Gaboon Viper

Godfrey also proved to be a great entertainer.  As we were viewing three adult African Rock Pythons and a baby slithering around, he was explaining that the Rock Python lays eggs which the female lays on for the 2 - 3 month incubation period.  Godfrey left our side and we were unsure where he went until we saw the back door of the enclosure open and watched as he picked up a python that had been resting against the door.  It squirmed in his grip and we could see the immense power and strength that it had.  He released it out of his harms way but it was annoyed that it's rest had been interrupted and subsequently struck at us standing at the window.  Godfrey then secured the head of the female with eggs, reached underneath her and got one of the eggs to show us.  The egg was nothing like I thought.  It was an ivory color, unevenly shaped and felt like hard tofu when touched as well as having a strong odour.  After learning all about the pythons reproduction, Godfrey carefully returned the egg to its mother.

The primary vision for the facility is to educate people helping to overcome any fear or misunderstandings of snakes and other reptiles in hopes to contribute to their conservation.  Besides the numerous species of snakes The Uganda Reptile Village is also home to Terrapins, Leopard tortoises, Bell's hingeback tortoise, Nile monitor lizard, Nile crocodile,  Elliot's chameleon and the three horned Jackson's chameleon.

The Uganda Reptile Village is rough and ready however not for a moment did I feel unsafe.  Godfrey was a brilliant guide and was both informative and entertaining.  His confidence and knowledge of the snakes was impressive.  As we left the premises, I was elated that we had decided to visit.  The information we were given during our visit has definitely eased my fear of snakes.  As we drove away, we both agreed that we would return to the Uganda Reptile Village to spend more time with these beautiful animals.

The Uganda Reptile Village is 3km off the Entebbe road just outside of Entebbe town.

Reptiles - Photo Gallery

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Night Away in Kampala

Kevin and I are weekend warriors and are constantly thinking of where we can get away for the weekend.  Recently a special occasion had us scratching our heads for a place to escape to.  Unfortunately time was not on our side and limited our options.  We realized that after 10 years of living in Kampala we had never spent a night in the city, so the idea arose to be a tourist in our own town for a night.  The idea seemed strange since we are usually trying to escape the madness for something more peaceful and relaxing; to find a place that will transport us far far away from city life.  However we decided to give the idea a try and chose to spend our night away at the Protea Hotel on Elgon Terrace in Kololo.  We had no idea how far away this one night would take us.

We checked in at midday and from the moment we arrived, we indulged in the luxury, pampering service and hospitality that the hotel offers.  After being shown our upgraded room we rode the glass elevator down to the ground level and entered the central courtyard around which the hotel is built.  Within the courtyard is the bar and the restaurant called Chapter One.

We walk through the courtyard to the restaurant and are seated at an outdoor table.  We order drinks which come icy cold and begin to peruse the menu.  It’s not long before we melt into our surroundings.  No indication of the hustle and bustle going on outside beyond the walls can be felt now.  We completely relax in this oasis next to tropical plants and fish ponds, we listen to the water splashing out of the fountains and watch the resident guinea fowl weave through the garden delighting us with the conversations they are having amongst themselves.  Soft music plays in the background while we savour every morsel of the food that we have ordered.

After lunch we find seclusion in our room and stumble across a movie starting on the large flat screen TV.  We get comfortable on the bed, adjust the air conditioning for our comfort and relax.  Ah, this really is the life, we could get used to this!

After sunset we return to the restaurant for dinner and find the atmosphere has transformed for the evening.  The guinea fowl are nowhere to be seen, presumably sleeping somewhere between the fauna.  The frogs have taken over the evening shift setting the mood with their chorus that sounds like hundreds of little chimes.  The area is softly lit with lanterns lining the pathways through the garden and once again, the food does not disappoint.  Kevin ordered a brandy steak which he tells me melted in his mouth.  I ordered a curry with some hesitation thinking that dishes like curries should be reserved for our next visit to an Indian restaurant but my presumption was completely wrong.  The prawn and mango curry was better than I could have imagined and I will definitely return to order that dish again.  We end our meal with Pavlova and fresh fruit.  Years before we had once come to Chapter One for the lunch buffet, which was excellent but had never really thought of it as a dinner option, but we will now.

The large bed absorbs us with its comfort and crisp white linens.  It is with great reluctance that we get out of it in the morning.  The room was so quiet, not a barking dog, a siren or a nightclub could be heard the whole night and it was bliss.  Before checking out we pay our last visit to the restaurant for the buffet breakfast which is included with our stay.  The choices on the buffet are plentiful and we enjoy a delicious breakfast with a few cups of good coffee, the makings for a great start to any day. We marvel at how relaxed we both feel after one night in the heart of Kampala.  We leave the hotel feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.  I will never underestimate the power of a night away in Kampala to ease my tensions, especially amidst such luxury and attention to detail that the Protea Hotel provides.  It's no surprise that the hotel has won the accolade as the winner of the World Luxury Hotel Award for 2010 and 2011.

Bookings and Reservations
Protea Hotel Kampala
+256 (312) 550 000