Bwindi Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
"Just outside Buhoma village, Bwindi Lodge was among the first to open for gorilla tracking in Uganda 20 years ago. It's evolved from a simple camp to a beautiful luxury lodge, offering exceptional service in a spectacular setting that even entices the gorillas to visit."
On the northern side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Bwindi Lodge is an hour's flight from Entebbe. It's ideally located just 10 minutes' walk from the village centre, the gorilla trailheads and Park HQ in Buhoma, and overlooks the magnificent rainforest: the River Trail in the lodge grounds will take you downhill to a stream at the forest edge where monkeys might watch you swim.
Style & character
Despite its luxury tag, Bwindi Lodge retains an unassuming, rustic charm. Part of Volcanoes Safaris' portfolio, the emphasis is on local character and crafts but with a stylish contemporary twist. The main building of timber, stone and a high, thatched roof houses the lounge dominated by a huge stone fire pit right in the middle surrounded by sofas, wicker chairs and views of the forest all around.
The dining room, just off the lounge, has a massive heavy wood table perfect for communal dining. Outside, sip a g&t on the vast terrace and simply take in the tranquillity and the views. Proud of its commitment to all things local, the lodge supports several community projects through its Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust.
Service & facilities
The lodge operates a personal butler service which has just the right balance of attentiveness without being too fussy. Your assigned team member will look after you throughout your stay, from bringing your wake-up coffee in the morning to packing you off with gaiters, sticks and lunch when you track the gorillas, to lighting the fire and burning essential oils in your room for a restful night.
After gorilla tracking, indulge in a complimentary massage, log into the Wi-Fi or amble around the grounds on marked walking trails. The staff are a great source of information on local culture and the lodge's community projects, including tea tours and the funky Bwindi Bar in the village, where young people are trained for careers in hospitality.
Named after Bwindi's gorillas, each of the eight boutique bandas or cottages is individually styled. Ugandan hand-carved four-poster beds have crisp white bed linen; cute daybeds and chairs are scattered with cushions and throws of elegant cream jacquard.
The spacious bedrooms and living areas have dark wood flooring and raffia ceilings while the en-suite has stone showers, his-and-her sinks and colourful cotton robes. Take some time to chill on the terrace too – each one has views across to Bwindi's fairytale forest. Note that some of the bandas are accessed by steep paths and steps.
Food & drink
Food at Bwindi Lodge is imaginative and delicious, particularly considering its location in the remote rainforest. Breakfasts are generous with plenty of choice, with tasty homemade soups and breads, and the coconut fish curry was beautifully spiced. The lodge also serves barbecues on its terrace, weather permitting. Soft drinks and alcohol are included.
Value for money
A five-day, tailor-made package costs from £2,195 per person sharing, including one night in Entebbe, three nights in Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, domestic flights, transfers, all meals, house drinks, driver-guide and park fees from Steppes Travel (steppestravel.co.uk; 01285 601 050).
Access for guests with disabilities?
The bandas aren't suitable for guests with disabilities.
The minimum age for gorilla tracking is 15 years. While children are welcome at the lodge, there are no special facilities.
By Sue Watt