Ishasha’s New Look
Written by Michelle Sutton
Since 2005 the Ishasha Wilderness Camp has held a reputation as an exclusive tented camp in a remote setting offering comfort, friendly service and first-rate food. Over the last six months the camp has transformed itself with an impressive new look that pampers the safari soul.
The camp is set on the banks of the Ntungwe River in the southern Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. We leave our safari vehicle in the parking lot and follow a foot path under the cool shade of large trees, cross a wooden bridge and enter a large open air lounge and dining area. The thatch roof structure is designed with three open sides, providing a full view out over the Ntungwe River and the surrounding area. Large inviting sofas surround rustic tree trunk coffee tables and hanging from the ceiling at various heights are gourds of all different shapes and sizes that illuminate the area during the evening. The dining area consists of one large slab table and a number of smaller tables catering for both large groups and intimate dining. There is a fully stocked bar offering spirits, cold beer, sodas, coffee and tea all available throughout the day. A central charging station for guests is provided with universal adapters for your electronics.
A few steps away and down from the main dining/lounge area there is a terrace beside the river’s edge where large umbrellas provide shade during the day. The terrace is a great place to sit to watch the elephants come down to the river for a drink and sometimes you’ll be lucky to see them cooling off and playing in the river. This section of river is also home to a resident hippo “Henry” who likes to make his appearances when you least expect them, popping up grunting and puffing, leaving you scanning the river waiting for his next performance.
Along the river’s edge are 10 large tented rooms. They have been constructed with rustic eucalyptus poles to provide a rigid structure and finished with canvas walls and netting allowing for plenty of light and fresh air. Outside the front of the tent there’s a covered area with two comfortable chairs and a table providing a private place to relax and enjoy the view. Unlike most conventional tents, there is no zipper to deal with as you enter through a full sized door. Inside the décor displays African simplicity at its best and does not detract from the views and the feeling of being in the wilderness. The king size bed is the center piece with a mosquito net suspended above. There are side tables with lamps either side of the bed and two carved chests at the foot. A writing table sits off to one side and has a beautiful view of the river. The tent ceiling is draped with white cotton providing a lavish colonial feel. There are full length curtains on all sides that can be drawn for complete privacy. The tents come equipped with flashlights and a safe.
The ensuite bathroom is as generous with space as the bedroom. There is a sink area, a shower with a large rain shower head and a toilet. There is plenty of counter space to spread out your personal belongings. Cold water is always available and hot bush showers are provided upon request and they only take about 10 minutes or less to arrive.
As the sun starts to slip away for the day we make our way to the riverside terrace to enjoy a sundowner while sitting around the fire. Listening to the fire crackle and snap, the gentle babble of the Ntungwe River and the occasional noise from Henry, we reminisce about our adventures. In the middle of conversation the sound of drums resonates through the camp, this is the call to dinner. We make our way to our table for two set outside on the grass. We sit down to dinner under a ceiling of stars. The waiter arrives at our table to introduce us to the night’s menu. Dinner is a four course meal starting with bajias, followed by cumin and pumpkin soup. The main course is a pork chop drizzled with hollandaise sauce served with potatoes and a medley of vegetables. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel of food, a date pudding was put before us. The food was delicious. After dinner we are drawn back to the fire for a nightcap before retiring to our tents for the night.
Self admitted I am not a morning person; however the arranged wakeup call was so nice. A voice in the darkness broke our sleep with a friendly “good morning” from one of the staff who left a tray of hot coffee and biscuits on the table outside. After sipping on the coffee and slowly waking up, we left the camp for a game drive.
Ishasha is renowned for its most famous residents the tree climbing lions, however there is much more to Ishasha than the lions. A short drive from camp is a Ugandan Kob breeding ground. We stop and scan the area and spotted a hyena skulking through the grass creating a stir amongst the Kob. What a treat! Ishasha is made up of riverine forests and grasslands scattered with Acacia and Fig trees and is home to the only Topi found in QENP as well as many other savannah animals. The Ishasha River to the west forms the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo and is where you will find hippos. There was no shortage of game on our morning drive and our hunger for breakfast was calling us back to the camp. We were welcomed back and served a fully cooked breakfast to order along with juice, tea, coffee, fruit and cereal. The homemade bread made for great toast with various spreads available.
After breakfast we sat under the shade of an umbrella next to river on the lower terrace and watched the river flow by on its way to Lake Edward. While relaxing we were alerted by one of the staff that the elephants had arrived. To our joy, across the river was a herd of elephants drinking. This made for quite an exciting spectacle. After several hours of enjoying the serenity, it was lunchtime. We were served a plate of cold meats accompanied by a potato, chickpea and olive salad with freshly baked bread rolls. Once again the food doesn’t disappoint and to top it off we even squeezed in a chocolate brownie for dessert.
We decide to go for a late afternoon drive to the Lake Edward Flats, an area renowned for numerous species of birds including the shoebill. It is not a long drive to reach this wide open space with wetlands on the far side and Lake Edward beyond. There are different species of birds everywhere along with the occasional warthog and a large herd of buffalo. Several buffalo were enjoying the wallows of mud that are spread out across the flats and surprisingly are not eager to move as we approach, giving us a great opportunities for viewing and photographing them. The beauty of this place really started to come through as the sun started to set in the sky casting beautiful light across the flats. The area was so magical it was with great reluctance that we had to leave arriving back to camp just before dark. Again we enjoyed a great evening of fire, conversation, good food and service on the Ntungwe River. If you do visit this wonderful camp take time to look for Henry the hippo and visit the beautiful Lake Edward Flats and you never know you may even bump in to a leopard!
Given the remoteness of the Isahasa Wilderness Camp they are fully equipped with solar power providing lighting throughout the camp, along the walkways and within the tents. The lodge also implements a number of other eco practices besides lighting such as new low water volume flushing toilets and ceramic refillable soap, shampoo and conditioner containers in the bathrooms. The camp is very conscious of their environment and does their best to make as little impact on it as possible.
Upon signing the guest book I came across a visitors comment that I felt summed up the Ishasha Wilderness Camp perfectly “This is one of the best real Africa camps in Uganda”.
Let it be known that on our way out of the Ishasha sector we drove the southern circuit in search of tree climbing lions and were delighted to find two lionesses with swollen bellies full of food lounging in a giant fig tree. What an end to a brilliant stay at Ishasha Wilderness Camp!
Exclusive Camps and Lodges (G&C Tours Ltd)
Ph: 0414 321 479
Mobile: 0772 721 155
Author: Kevin & Michelle Sutton
Twitter – @DiscoOnSafari