Whilst visiting Kibale National Park, we stayed for two nights at Papaya Lake Lodge, located in the Ugandan Great Crater Lakes region, near Lakes Lyantonde and Kifuruka.
The lodge has nine luxurious cottages, offering complete privacy which unfortunately comes with a price – the trek to and from our cottage (number 4) involved 10 wooden steps, 50 uneven steep stone steps and then a long stone tree lined path (our room was one of the nearer ones). Needless to say, every time I arrived at the communal area I was puffing and panting, hoping I’d not forgotten anything. It also kept our alcohol intake down in the evening as whilst it was lit with oil lamps, I didn’t fancy taking a tumble, although staff were always on hand with torches to escort us.
The room was large with double and single beds encased in mosquito nets, desk and a bench at the end of each bed to open both suitcases. There was a separate open-plan dressing area with brightly patterned cotton robes, simple shelves and a safe. Each evening, beds were turned down, nets unfurled, curtains drawn, and hot water bottles provided. There was no charging of anything in the room, but there were plenty of sockets at the reception where the Wi-Fi was extremely intermittent during our stay. There were lots of artistic touches on the walls both in our room and the lodge generally.
The bathroom had an excellent large walk-in shower, basin (which had no hot water) and loo. All the toiletries were eco-friendly in large ceramic bottles and a complimentary carafe of water was provided.
Our wooden deck, which was partly thatched to provide shade, had two loungers with colourful coverings, but we had little time to sit out.
At the main area was another wooden deck with a variety of seating and loungers which was lovely during the day as it overlooked Lake Lyantonde. Inside was the bar and restaurant which were both extremely dark at breakfast and dinner.
As our first morning involved a 5.45am breakfast, we took a light option: a jug of orange juice, plate of mixed fruit (melon, banana, watermelon, mango and pineapple) and thick homemade bread, jam and marmalade. The following day was more leisurely, and we chose from the a la carte menu featuring eggs any way and a variety of accompaniments, pancakes or two types of oatmeal. Both the bacon omelette and scrambled eggs (cooked medium or firm) were excellent.
Lunch was served on the wooden deck, and on arrival, started with Irish potato soup: potatoes are always referred to as Irish potatoes to distinguish them from sweet potato. We then helped ourselves to a dish of beef lasagne which would have served at least four, accompanied by a delicious salad with lots of avocado. We finished with bananas in caramel and a coffee. Fortunately, we had a packed lunch on our second day.
We celebrated our wedding anniversary during our stay, but having checked out the wine list, we unromantically decided not to splash out 166,000 Shilling (£36) on a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc, the cheapest on the list. The bar had a trolley with an amazing array of gins, but we stuck to our usual Ugandan Waragi gin, although mistakenly one night we were served a 70% proof banana gin which was definitely an acquired taste. Despite being relatively new and purpose built, each time the staff wanted ice or tonic, it involved going down the 10-step wooden staircase to a large outhouse.
Dinners were excellent and we began with bread with herb/garlic butter followed by vegetable fritters on both evenings with an accompanying sauce. Soup followed: the first night the Thai tom yam soup was served at the table from a fancy tureen on a stand, whereas on the second night, the curried carrot and orange soup was simply brought to the table in the bowl. It was the same with the mains: we could help ourselves to tilapia fish fillets in a tomato sauce, salad and boiled potatoes (this was just as well as the dish had 11 potatoes) but on night two, chicken fillets with caramelised onions, rice, cauliflower, carrots and green beans were served on the plate. We skipped puddings both nights without knowing what they were and drank our coffee (served medium or strong) in the dark bar.
Staff were friendly but formal in both dress and manner, and they moved silently around the dark restaurant and spoke in hushed tones. With no music to create any ambience, and only oil lamps, it was a slightly bizarre experience despite the great food.
Payment of the bill was not a simple process and took place in a dark corner of the bar, where the guy needed to use his phone torch to see what he was doing. We were incorrectly charged 20,000 shillings for each tot of gin instead of 12,000, and the number of tots, sprites and beers were all incorrect as we were never asked to sign. The revised bill was added up incorrectly, however, as this was to our advantage, I refrained from pointing it out, as they charged 3% for using a credit card (the only place on our trip that did).
We never made it to the swimming pool on the other side of a bridge, due to a lack of time and inclination bearing in mind how many steps there were just to get from lodge to restaurant.