by Michelle Sutton
I was falling into a deep sleep when a noise woke me. I’d thought I had heard the whinny of a zebra, but much to my surprise, I was at home in Kampala and it wasn’t a zebra I had heard. Sigh, clearly my mind was still at Mihingo Lodge and rightfully so as it’s a spectacular place to be. Perched high atop a rocky outcropping on the fringes of Lake Mburo National Park, Mihingo Lodge offers commanding views over the park. Nestled into the bush, the lodge melts into the landscape and you feel you have become a part of the nature around you as Vervet monkeys chatter, cicadas buzz and Ross’s turacos engage in duets of comical cackling.
The lodge may be secluded but luxury is not spared here, Mihingo Lodge offers the finest that the bush has to offer.
The centrepiece of Mihingo is the main lodge, dining and bar area, a superb place to relax and take it all in. With no Wi-Fi and no reminders of the daily grind, you can truly escape, here and soak up the magic of Mihingo. Whether it is on a chaise lounge next to the infinity pool, on an oversized bean bag in the top of the tower that boasts 360 degree views or with a drink in the bar, the view never gets boring. It’s better than any DVD or television documentary I’ve ever seen. This is live view and it’s wonderful! At times it’s hard to even imagine that the hustle and bustle of Kampala is just four hours away, as it feels like light years.
In the bar, a large built in adobe style sofa curves around the granite rock protruding from the wall. Books and other informational materials are piled up on a ledge while paraffin lanterns glow in little alcoves on the wall. Head barman Michael will greet you with his big smile and serve you your drink of choice from the fully stocked bar. Every evening the bar serves pre dinner nibbles during which time, you will be invited to join in one of the lodges most unique experiences, the opportunity to observe thick-tailed Gallagos commonly known as Bush Babies, in their natural environment. Over the years, the Bush Babies have grown accustomed to guests and on most evenings visit the Bush Baby platform below the bar. These fascinating little primates look like a curious combination of species and are just too cute for words. As they move about, Mugisha who has been interacting with them for over 7 years will answer all your questions. As he gives his answers, it’s obvious he has a deep passion for these quirky little creatures. After eating a couple of banana pieces, the bush babies disappear back into the trees to forage for food during the night.
Meals are served in the dining area located in between the bar and the lounge. The dining room overlooks a watering hole and salt lick so is not only a place to enjoy good food, but the wildlife and view as well. Mihingo Lodge’s delectable cuisine has been developed mostly from family recipes. A fusion of flavours incorporating fresh produce and herbs makes the meals healthy and satisfying. An aquaponic garden on the property ensures that the food you eat if of the utmost freshness often times being picked only hours before and you can taste the difference. Breakfast is a selection of fresh fruit, juice, cereal, muesli and yogurt. Eggs are cooked to order and served with the sides of your choice (bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and beans) alongside homemade toast. Lunches and dinners are both three course meals. Grilled aubergines, smoked Nile Perch, chilled avocado soup, beef vindaloo, chicken with tarragon, pan fried beef fillet, mango cream, chocolate brownie and key lime pie are some of the fabulous dishes we had during our stay. Pair these with one of the wines from the wine list and you’re all set. I really can’t overemphasize how good the food is at Mihingo Lodge, it was a highlight of our stay! In the evenings a campfire is lit next to the dining area and is an exceptional place to sit out under the stars, let your dinner settle, have a night cap and listen to the hyenas whooping in the valley below.
Mihingo Lodge consists of 12 luxury tented rooms on raised wooden decks under thatch roofs. The large beige canvas bedroom has screened windows on all four sides for an open feeling and uninhibited views. The spacious rooms are luxurious but they don’t scream pretentiousness, but rather gently whisper relax. The rooms are tastefully decorated with leather furniture and local African crafts and fabrics. Outside is a large partially covered veranda which has a daybed and a couple of chairs. It’s inviting place to sit and gaze at the astonishing views. Each of the tented rooms at Mihingo is unique and offers their own special view and experience. There is plenty of space between the tented rooms so you can enjoy privacy and solitude. Our first couple of nights were spent in Klipspringer (room 11) which was all about the sweeping views over the valley below and Lake Kacheera. The room is situated next to large granite boulders that bulge out from the earth and sandwich a crevasse filled with water that attracts animals. The water filled crevice is completely covered by Nile cabbage and home to terrapins and a night time chorus of frogs. On our first afternoon at Mihingo, our veranda turned into our own private viewing platform for an entire troop of monkeys getting up to their usual tomfoolery. That night, the room lived up to its name “Klipspringer” when a family of 3 klipspringers ambled over the rocks, then tucked their legs underneath their bodies and lay down to spend the night there. Not far from where they lay were two large waterbuck munching on the grass. This is the kind of place that you really don’t want to go to sleep as you just might miss something.
Our last night was spent in Impala (room 10) which was more of a bush experience with its own private view of a salt lick. As we relaxed with a book on the deck, impala, baboons, warthogs and bushbuck wandered to and from the lick. The tented rooms at Mihingo are extremely spacious and pleasant. The king sized bed is a comfortable place to lay your head at night and fall asleep listening to the night noises of the park. Each room has a considerable sized ensuite bathroom with flushing toilet and alluring views that you can enjoy while you shower.
Mihingo Lodge has extended their accommodation options and is now offering self catering accommodation for groups and families in the Bush Camp. The camp consists of one room with a double bed and ensuite solar hot water shower, 1 tent with a double bed, outdoor solar hot water shower and a long drop toilet and 1 tent designed for children with 4 single beds and outside shower and toilet. Other facilities include a large sitting and dining room with veranda, fully equipped kitchen and a store room for food with solar powered chest fridge and chest freezer. The camp is intended for groups to self cater their meals and drinks and access to the facilities of the lodge are not allowed. However, activities offered by the lodge such as the horseback safaris, bike safaris and walking safaris can be booked by Bush Camp residents. For more information on the camp or booking information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Mihingo Lodge offers a variety of activities, more than can be taken in on a single visit, unless you want to extend your stay which I’m sure most every guest contemplates. The watering hole and salt lick below the main lodge is engaging. Animals wander in and out from the bushes into view to have a drink and a nibble on the salty soil. If you want to get a closer look, a quick 15 minute walk from the lodge along a trail, you’ll find “The Hide”. It’s a great spot to quietly sit for a while and observe the animals. If you want to get even closer and don’t mind being in a small enclosure, venture a little further down the trail to “The Den”, a great spot for photographers.
Massage was an activity we couldn’t resist. A short walk from the main lodge winds you through the giant boulders the lodge is built on, to a secluded room overlooking the park. After a couple of days at Mihingo you wouldn’t think there would be any tension left, but the masseuse did seem to find a few lingering spots and gently massaged them away. This is one massage room that doesn’t require a sound recording. The breeze blew gently, birds chirped, and we relaxed.
After dinner a night drive is a great activity. Either inside or outside of the park, it’s your best chance to see nocturnal animals such as owls, hyenas, leopards, white tail mongoose and nightjars. The lodge has safari vehicles for hire that include a driver and guide. The vehicle has open sides and spot lights to ensure your night drive is an unforgettable experience.
If you’re tired of being in a car, Mihingo Lodge offers a couple of unique safari experiences, horseback safaris and mountain biking safaris. Horseback safaris are unique to Lake Mburo NP and are a great way to experience wildlife. The animals are extremely relaxed around the horses which allow you to get close to them and often see some of the more timid ones up close such as eland. Without the noise of a vehicle, you can really experience the sounds of nature. We thoroughly enjoyed our horseback safari and as no previous experience on horses is required, anyone can participate. The biking safaris will take you exploring the sandy paths around the lodge and riding alongside zebra, impala, warthog and other antelope. This is great for people that are not comfortable on a horse, but still want to get out into nature. As the terrain is not extreme, it’s a good activity for the whole family.
Other activities offered by the lodge are walking safaris, cultural visits, game drives, kids bush courses and for running enthusiasts, a guided run through the community land.
Lake Mburo NP is reputed to be the best place in Uganda to see leopard with guests often spotting them on night game drives. The leopard population does well in Lake Mburo NP due to the lack of competition from other predators. Mihingo Lodge has recently started a leopard identification program to learn more about how many leopards are in the area and exactly where their territories are. A book containing all the information collected to date is kept at the bar and vistor input is encouraged. To date, 14 different leopards have been recorded and guests are welcome to share their photos along with information such as where the leopard was seen and the date. It’s a fascinating book to flip through and includes photos, identifying characteristics and other information about each leopard.
Mihingo Lodge is committed to conservation and protecting the animals in and around the park. Whenever humans and animals live in close proximity to each other, there is bound to be conflict. During the time the lodge was built, an entire clan of spotted hyenas were poisoned by community members adjacent to the park. This was the deciding factor that something should be done to reduce the conflict. In 2008, the Mihingo Conservation and Community Development Foundation (MCCDF), a nonprofit organization was set up. The primary goal of the MCCDF is to preserve wildlife outside of the park boundary and reduce the conflict between humans and animals. They are accomplishing their goal through various means. A compensation program for livestock killed by park predators has been very successful. MCCDF also extends support to two primary schools in the area and have involved secondary students in the leopard identification program. In the near future they are expanding their outreach to the community through various educational programs and the strengthening of animal enclosures where cattle are kept through the night so that animals are less vulnerable to predation. The MCCDF is very aware that the more the local community is empowered and educated about the role of wildlife, the more eager they will be to protect and conserve it. Iddy is the young woman in charge of the day to day operations and after chatting to her for only a couple of minutes her passion for everything wildlife and nature related is apparent. She’s extremely knowledgeable in her field and loves to share what she knows and answer questions. She bubbles about the successes of MCCDF to date, but recognizes that it is an ongoing challenge, one she’s definitely up for.
Mihingo Lodge is without doubt a phenomenal place to stay, everything thing about it is chilled out luxury. It is one of the few places in Uganda you actually be woken by the whinny of a zebra. Don’t make the mistake of many and stay for only one night, stay longer. Relax, stay awhile and immerse yourself in the magic of Mihingo.