Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ndali Lodge

The Fort Portal area was one of the last places in Uganda I wanted to visit before J and I move back to the States at the end of this month (aside from Queen Elizabeth National Park and the tree-climbing lions in Ishasha, which will have to wait for another lifetime). A friend told us we must stay at Ndali Lodge and so, without doing any further research, we booked a room and drove out for the weekend.

Ndali Lodge lies just south of Fort Portal amongst the Kasenda Crater Lakes. It sits on the rim of Lake Nyinambuga—the back of the main building looks down over the lake, while the other side of the lodge looks out over another lake in the distance and, further off, the Rwenzori Mountains, which were perpetually shrouded in the clouds, except early in the morning:

There’s plenty to do in this area—we took an hour and a half walk around Lake Nyinambuga, chimp tracking in Kibale Forest is close by, and there are other, longer hikes around the lakes that you can take—but perhaps the most pleasant thing about Ndali Lodge is the complete lack of expectations that you do anything all. Reading a book by the pool or overlooking the lake all day long, day after day, would seem the most normal thing in the world here. It’s quiet, there’s an extensive bar, and a host of dogs to sleep at your feet and keep you company. The dogs are also nice company on a walk; one accompanied us, coming bounding out of the underbrush when we were halfway around the lake and taking us completely by surprise.

For being in the middle of nowhere, Ndali Lodge is a very civilized sort of place. It is run by Aubrey, grandson of the original owner (there’s a nice history of the place on the web site), and his girlfriend, Claire. At night these two preside over a four-course dinner, served at one long communal table. The food is superb – the best lasagna I’ve had in Uganda, the only ceviche I’ve seen in Uganda, the best salad I’ve had in a year – and afterwards coffee and tea (grown on the lodge’s farm and also fantastic) and whiskey is served by the bar, where guests, having become friendly over dinner, sit together and chat amiably sometimes late into the night. Aubrey mentioned that he wanted guests to feel like they were staying in someone’s home and I think he achieves a nice balance of familiarity and service.

And did I mention how friggin awesome their dogs are?

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