by Michelle Sutton
Uganda is a diverse country with many scenic landscapes spread throughout. In my opinion, one of the most spectacular views of all is from the top of the escarpment of the Albertine Rift Valley overlooking the Queen Elizabeth National Park. It’s a breathtaking view and stereotypical of Africa. Katara Lodge is nestled on the hillside of the escarpment and has the pleasure of offering this incredible view to its guests.
Katara Lodge is situated two kilometres off the main Mbarara to Kasese road in Kichwamba accessed by a murram road. Upon arrival to Katara Lodge, an oasis of lush colorful tropical gardens await you. From the parking lot, you enter the main lodge, dining and bar area. With the entire main lodge open to the view, it’s easy to get mesmerised by the the savannah plains, Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel framed by the Rwenzori and Virunga mountains in the distance. The lodge is built on a hillside so no matter where you are on the property, you are treated to the view. The main lodge has a number of comfortable seating options, ensuring that you find the perfect spot to get comfortable and relax. WiFi is available in the bar area so that you can stay connected whether it’s for work or to share with friends and family about your stay Katara Lodge.
On our arrival to Katara Lodge we were met by the manager who led us to some comfortable chairs in the lounge where we sat, sipped on a cold drink and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and the expansive view. He gave us an introduction and orientation to the lodge and briefed us on everything we would need to know during our stay at Katara Lodge to ensure we were comfortable and making the most of the facilities. After chatting to him for awhile about the lodge and the park, we were shown to our cottage.
Katara’s accomodation is below the main lodge accessible by a series of stone footpaths and steps. Spread out along the hillside are 8 spacious thatched cottages, one of them being a two bedroomed family cottage. There are quite a number of steps from the main lodge to the cottages, however we found this to be an opportunity to stop, enjoy the view and admire the flowers along the pathways. Each cottage is constructed from a combination of wooden poles and canvas panels that zip open for access to the view. The cottages are an open plan design with a sitting area furnished with a sofa, two chairs and a coffee table. Adjacent to the sitting area is a king sized bed with mosquito net along with a three quarter bed fitted with large wheels. The three quarter bed is very unique for that fact that it can be wheeled out onto the large private wooden veranda for a night under the stars. The well manicured and colourful tropical gardens of Katara Lodge attract numerous species of birds and each morning a chorus of birds announce the arrival of a new day.
Every cottage has a large ensuite bathroom with the luxury of a double sink, a large open shower with a rain head shower head and plenty of hot water supplied by a solar system. The icing on the cake in the bathroom is the large stand alone roll top bathtub where you can lay back and admire the view. The accommodation at Katara Lodge provides guests with plenty of space and privacy so that between safari drives, you have a place away from others to call your own.
Katara’s dining experience was very good. Our mornings started with coffee delivered to our cottage followed by breakfast in the main lodge dining area. Fresh fruits, yogurt, cereals and juice along with more coffee and hot water for tea were all waiting for us. We also had the option of having eggs, bacon, sausages and toast, which were cooked to order. On our first day at Katara, we had decided to spend the better part of the day exploring Queen Elizabeth National Park so we opted for a packed lunch. Our sandwiches, juice, fruit, cheese and crackers were all neatly packed into a traditional Ugandan woven picnic basket, a very nice touch. The following day we had lunch at the lodge and were given a choice of sandwiches or meatballs and rice. Since we had tried the sandwiches the day before we opted for the meatballs which were served with an onion gravy alongside rice. Not only was it good, it was a nice sized portion that was just right for lunch.
In the evenings, the open air thatched restaurant is transformed with soft lighting and lanterns to create a wonderfully intimate atmosphere. A chalkboard lists the evening’s menu which consists of four courses. The meal begins with a starter followed by a bowl of hot soup. The main course is a choice of three different entrees, one of them a vegetarian option. Lastly but certainly not least the meal is finished with a decadent dessert. Avocado vinaigrette, mushrooms on toast, celery soup, minestrone soup, baked fish, pepper steak, pork chops, roast chicken, creme caramel and pineapple sponge cake were the dishes that we were served during our dinners at Katara Lodge. We thoroughly enjoyed all of our meals which were very well presented, well seasoned and well portioned. Katara Lodge stocks a variety of wines to enjoy with your meal. They also offer a house wine which can be purchased by the glass or in a carafe. After a long day on safari, it’s nice to enjoy a good evening meal which can be shared with good company in a nice environment and Katara Lodge definitely caters to their guests ensuring them of a great dining experience.
At Katara Lodge, guests have a prime spot to watch the sunset. From anywhere on the property you can watch as the sun slowly sinks lower in the sky over the savannah of Queen Elizabeth National Park eventually disappearing behind the impressive mountain ranges in the west. As the sky becomes a palette of blue mixed with dark ocre and bright orange tones, you can sip on a cold drink and recap the day. As if the view isn’t already one of the best, the setting sun painting the sky with vibrant colors makes it even better.
A short meander away from the main lodge is an infinity salt water pool that is built on the hillside. Around the pool deck are a number of chaise loungers and umbrellas as well as a large chill out area with plenty of sofas and chairs, toilet facilities and changing rooms under a large thatched roof. A member of staff is readily available to serve you cold drinks, offer you a towel and ensure you have everything you need for a lazy afternoon around the pool. Near the pool is a large suspended daybed, which is yet another spot at Katara Lodge to take a load off and enjoy the view.
There are many activities in and around Queen Elizabeth NP making Katara Lodge a great place to base yourself. The most popular activities for visitors are chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge, safari drives in the park and the boat launch trip on the Kazinga Channel. The lodge is close to Kyambura Gorge where the chimpanzee tracking start point is and is approximately a 20 minute drive to the gates of the park. Other activities near the lodge are chimpanzee tracking and forest walks within the Kalinzu Forest Reserve as well as nature walks in the Maramagambo Forest. An interpretive village walk around the community that surrounds Katara Lodge can be an interesting and interactive way to get to know and understand the culture and way of life of the Banyaruguru people. For those interested in exploring the scenery of the area, the nearby Kyigabiiro and Rukiizi hills are beautiful and have great views of the twin crater lakes (Kyema and Kamweru) that lay below. During your tour, you can learn about the origins of the lakes as well as local folklore and legends. Katara Lodge is centrally located for all of these activities around Queen Elizabeth NP and makes a nice retreat to come back to every evening.
Katara Lodge has a safari vehicle and can arrange for transfers from nearby airstrips such as Kasese, Mweya or Buhoma for clients that fly in. The vehicle can also be hired out for game drives or for transfers to the Mweya Peninsula for the boat launch trip on the Kazinga channel.
Queen Elizabeth Park is the most popular national park destination in Uganda. There is so much to explore and to be enjoyed that it is a highly recommended destination for visitors and residents alike. If you are looking for a lodge with a serene location, incredible views, comfortable accomodation, great food and friendly and attentive staff, then Katara Lodge is a great choice.
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