Blessing in Disguise: In the City and on Safari

  • Jack Smith

Banditry and Rebel insurgency continue to keep northern Uganda, along the border with Sudan, off limits to tourism. However, foreign visitors are most welcome at these two hotels in the capital city of Kampala and in this lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Kampala Serena Hotel
The organic appearance of the hotel’s facade and of the property’s waterfalls and water gardens is intended to evoke the natural scenery found outside Uganda’s capital. The rock sculptures, beaten copper fretwork, beaded wall hangings, and carvings of seabirds also serve as reminders that you are in Uganda. The recently reopened 152-room property is far removed from its original incarnation as the Nile Hotel, a government-run, 65-room hotel and conference facility that opened in 1975 during Idi Amin’s reign. The Kampala Serena’s restaurants include the Explorer, an Italian bistro with a design that is supposed to resemble a jungle-engulfed ruined city. In the Mist bar, named for the biopic about zoologist Dian Fossey, the decor suggests the mountain habitat of Uganda’s gorillas.
+256.41.309000, www.serenahotels.com ($240–$2,500)

Emin Pasha Hotel
A 20-room hotel named for the 19th-century explorer, the Emin Pasha is set on two acres of gardens in the heart of Kampala. All the rooms are individually decorated with vibrantly colored fabrics, deep armchairs, artwork in hardwood frames, and antique desks. Part of the hotel, which opened in 2005, occupies a restored colonial house built in the 1920s. The rest of the property features courtyards, open spaces, pergolas, terraces, and the Fez Brasserie, an intimate restaurant and bar with a wine cellar that is well-stocked with South African wines.
+256.41.236977, www.eminpasha.com ($250–$310)

Mweya Safari Lodge
Banded mongoose squeak and frolic beneath the tables on the terrace at the Mweya Safari Lodge, in Queen Elizabeth National Park, reminding guests that nature is always close at hand. Mweya’s thatch-roofed accommodations include 44 rooms, two suites, and the President’s Cottage, where the Queen Mother stayed in 1954. The rooms have air-conditioning, but it is seldom necessary, because the weather here is almost always perfect; daytime temperatures rarely climb above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or dip below 64.

The lodge offers chimpanzee trekking into the Kyambura Gorge, launch trips on the Kazinga Channel, game drives through the park, and some of the world’s best bird-watching. The lodge, which has its own airstrip, is only 45 minutes by air from Entebbe International Airport.
+256.31.2260260, www.mweyalodge.com ($180–$690)

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