- Fascinating. When I embarked on a trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park, I hoped to forget about the traffic jam and the fast-paced life of the city just for a while. The last thing I expected was such an incredible personal experience, writes CAROLYNE B. ATANGAZA.
As we left the congestion and clamour of the city behind, we were engulfed by dust which clung to us, our belongings and made me start to rethink the whole journey. “Sorry for the dust, there is some roadwork going on here but in a few months we shall have a better road,” Simon, our driver from Uganda Lodges, tells us optimistically.
We were four people on this trip, the fourth being my nine-year-old daughter. The child lured out of the city with the promise of seeing the mountains of the moon, begins asking for them as soon as we leave Mubende behind. With every rock she sees, she asks if that is the mountain. “When you see it, you will not need to ask,” we assure her.
And the look on her face when she cites the first range of Mt Rwenzori is everything.
Home away from home
We reach our destination early in the evening and we are welcomed by the friendly staff at Elephant Plains Lodge. After the long, dusty seven-hour journey, this quiet, clean and well-equipped lodge was the perfect stop. The first thing that catches your eye is the swimming pool and the two water bodies at a distance – breathtaking!
We are shown to a balcony and as soon as we sit down, we are handed glasses of refreshingly fresh juice.
The lodge has various accommodation to suit every guest’s need as Eric, the manager, explains to us. Size is the only important choice you have to make here because the lodge was built in a way that no matter which cottage you choose, you wake up to a great view of the enchanting twin lakes surrounded by lush green vegetation and if you are one of those strange people that happen to have binoculars on them, you might spot an elephant or a lonely waterbuck.
A slice of Hollywood
As a matter of fact, being an early riser, I spotted some wildlife a short distance away from my balcony. I caught myself smiling as the image created by Hollywood of Africans sharing meals with wild animals finally made sense to me. The theme at the lodge is eco-responsibility so most of the décor is made up of recycled materials. At the time of my visit, the compound had fully-grown wild plants and weeds, which made it feel more exotic especially when contrasted with the modern amenities at the lodge; the cottages are spotless, luxurious and roomy. You have the option of a shower or a bath with hot or cold water (my daughter chose to have both at the same time). “This is the best resort ever,” she said with a child’s innocence.
The meals - three-course glorious meals courtesy of Rita. I still think about her soups! The lodge also has a campfire, bar and a spacious lounge with board games, puzzles and a powerful Wifi connection for those who want some stimulating action.
One of Elephant Plains’ signature things must be the customer care; helpful and willing to advise on the best times for which activities. Apart from the chef, my favourite staff while at the lodge was Phillip, whose catch phrase is ‘Absolutely!’
“May I please have some moon dust, Phillip?” and his answer: “Absolutely!”
You will need Phillip’s optimism when you experience your first whirlwind. Because of the nature of the land and the location of the lodge, once in a while there is a whirlwind strong enough to turn tables; quite an interesting phenomenon to witness from a safe place.
We chose to go for the game drive at 7am. We found plenty of animals and the mesmerising, graceful Jesus birds that walk on water – as my daughter described. It is one thing looking at pictures or seeing lions in movies but up-close, aptly named the kings of the jungle.
On our return journey from the game drive, we met a herd of elephants about to cross the road. We requested Simon to give us a few minutes to take pictures, which seemed to aggravate the family.
The parents encircled the calf while another ran off to call for back-up. A few minutes later, there came the mother elephant charging at the vehicle before gently herding the rest of the family away from us. Another interesting experience was witnessing relief rainfall, complete with a rainbow.
Elephant Plains is a luxury lodge located in Queen Elizabeth National Park at 941 metres above sea level, high upon the western escarpment of the Albertine rift in the north east of the park.