Warning: This post contains pictures of little snakes. They are really little but in case you don't like them this post might not be for you!
Today I will tell you a little travel blogger secrets: most hotels I get to stay at during press trips are not very nice. Or at least, they tend to be very run of the mill. That is not a complaint just a fact. I understand that DMOs and tourism boards have to spread the love (or the requests for complimentary beds) and usually it is the big chain hotels that have the capacity and budgets to host media.
As you know, I love nice hotels. In fact, if I could live in hotels always and forever I would - well, I actually kind of do so nevermind. I love hotels with a certain something and while the little five stars next to the name definitely help that is not what makes a hotel special for me. It is about personal touches, character, a story, sustainability, and great staff and that is something you can get that for 50 or 500 bucks a night. I like to share my finds with you but I will admit I rarely find them during a press trip. That was until I came to Uganda, a country that bridges the gap between adventures and luxury lodges.
Luxury lodges everywhere seem to come in various stages of luxury and lodge-yness. Some seem to add the word lodge so you can feel adventurous while others call themselves luxury so you won't get too scared of roughing it. I always thought being surrounded by unspoiled nature is the biggest luxury one can have in our day and age and if that comes with your personal snake on your patio so be it. And Mihingo offers just that.
Located in the middle of Lake Mburo National Park, the smallest of Uganda's ten national parks you are truly surrounded by nature and there are no borders. The park prides itself not only for a huge variety of zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and Ankole cows but also for its 40-50 leopards and one sole lion. There are hidden cameras all over the park but as we learn most animals not only take selfies but
also like to 'play' with them which makes any recording incredibly difficult not to mention expensive as cameras regularly have to be replaced.
Most stays at Uganda resorts start with a cold towel, a fresh juice, and a mandatory briefing - after all, it is a jungle out there. Our briefing at Mihingo was special though because here you have warm water and electricity in your room but no power outlets or wifi (insert whispers of shock and horror here). If you want to disconnect completely, this is the Uganda lodge for you. Mind you, there is a common area with wifi, wine, and great homemade chips and guacamole come sundowner time and in fact, you are not staying in a room but in a luxury tent-Flintstone cave combo. There are no windows but a rather thick mosquito netting so that you have uninterrupted views over the park even from the loo.
I was delighted to find filtered water and big bottles of shampoo as well as natural soap without plastic in the bathroom, a first in all the hotels in Uganda we stayed in - Mihingo is a luxury lodge actually deserves the term 'eco' too.
The main rooms aka tents come with a big comfy four-poster bed, a patio and what I like to call an observation rock. This is the place to chill if you are a monkey, a snake or that one lion (or so we were told by the manager). The zipped door of the tent comes with a big warning: make sure to use the padlock and don't leave any food in your room. This is not because of the lion (I wish I would be so lucky!) but because of the monkeys which are incredibly clever and nifty as I was to learn the next day...
Never not cracking up when I take pictures of myself. And yes, to your right is a snake - I didn't go any closer for the picture in case anyone else is scared ...
As in any of the Uganda lodges, part of the appeal are the game drives. In Lake Mburo National Park you can not only do regular game drives but also do a safari on horseback or even by foot. But as most trips in Uganda are done with a safari vehicle our driver Beki from Great Lakes Safaris simply opened the roof when we arrived at the park and we saw a lot of animals on our way to the lodge already. And as it turns out, one leopard can be as elusive as 40 and we spotted none during our 'official' game drive.
Before dinner, we got to meet Jeff, the resident bushbaby who gets fed with bananas and is without a doubt the star of the lodge. Bushbabies are nocturnal as they don't have eyelids and have to sleep with their bushy tails covering their eyes during the day, something I think about whenever I try to sleep in a bright spot now. He was incredibly cute and even the guys in our group couldn't help but gush - furry little animals with big eyes will do that to you and if there is no kitten around a bushbaby will do.
Most lodges regardless of whether they are budget or luxury lodges usually include meals as well as a packed lunch in Uganda but few do food as well as Mihingo. The food here is locally sourced, simple and absolutely delicious especially since they liberally use the products of the adjacent cheesemaker which made this self-proclaimed cheese-freak very happy.
After dinner, we were guided to our tents so there was, unfortunately, no chance for a lion sighting. I only minded a little because before I knew it I was fast asleep in my very comfy bed to the very noisy yet soothing jungle sounds. In the morning a staff member will bring tea or coffee at a pre-arranged time to your room which you get to enjoy on your patio or in bed. Since I remembered the monkey-warning I took me basket including some leftover cookies back to the restaurant when I left for a swim. Still, some monkeys just like to cause havoc with or without a treat: when I returned my back was unpacked and my bathroom products were spilled on the floor. I later learned that I was a lucky one because the monkey visited several rooms and eventually had to relieve his bladder in my friend's suitcase.
While the monkey's visit couldn't spoil my mood, the little green snake on my deck could. Snakes freak me out a lot more than any monkey business ever could even though the snake was completely harmless as Merlin, the manager of Mihindo lodge, assured me later. She was a lot more concerned about the cheeky monkeys and the repair of the tents.
Snakes or not, we all agreed that we didn't want to leave when the time came. Maybe because of Jeff, the pool overlooking the national park or the fact, that I came realized that being without wifi and truly disconnecting in nature is really the biggest luxury of them all.
Disclaimer: There are quite a few luxury lodges in Uganda but remember that most lodges always come with a side of adventure and where there is a bushbaby there is also a cheeky monkey which may or may not chew on your tampons.
A night at Mihingo Lodge starts at $260 per person in a double room which includes all meals. I was staying there as part of a hosted press trip with Visit Uganda and Turkish Airlines - thank you for an unforgettable experience!