The warning signs were there: the last Trip Advisor review in February 2020, proclaimed ‘past its best’; there was no website; and the Facebook page hadn’t been updated since 2015. However, Lake Heights Hotel was recommended by our tour operator who told us it was in the heart of Entebbe, with some rooms having views over the Lake Victoria peninsula. We figured it would be fine for three nights at the beginning of a three-week tour.
Our large room had seen slightly better days. The huge bed had a rather firm mattress, but the room was well equipped – wardrobe with safe (which could be removed as it wasn’t screwed down), tea and coffee making facilities, empty fridge, plug in mosquito repellent gizmo, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, wall mounted TV and complimentary water. Lighting was not great with lots of switches to contend with, but the sockets took English style plugs.
The reasonably sized bathroom had plenty of towels and a hairdryer near the mirror. However, the basin was in a dark area which made shaving difficult, and our universal rubber plug couldn’t be used. The over the bath shower had no curtain, but this wasn’t necessary as the huge rainfall shower head didn’t work, with water only coming out of the smaller handheld spray. This also had to be used to fill the bath.
Breakfast had a simple, basic range of juices, fruit, cereals but no muesli or yoghurt, along with pastries and bread, but no jam. There were several chafing dishes with daily changing offerings like sausages, tomatoes, potatoes, and a meat dish. Here I tried my first Ugandan dishes: katogo, a starchy banana called matooke cooked in a tomato sauce and gonja, a fried plantain. The egg chef on day one cooked great omelettes, but her replacement on day two was unable to fry two eggs simultaneously. Tea and coffee was self-service and fortunately the coffee wasn’t as strong as it looked.
There was an eclectic range of guests and at times we felt like the only tourists in town. As well as Ugandans, there was a large contingent of what we were told were German men working at the nearby airport. Their German sounded Russian, and as they dominated the few dated wooden loungers around the swimming pool in the afternoons, I felt uncomfortable. A woman nursing a baby appeared to be sleeping in a communal area next to our room, and on one evening, two local guys were joined at dinner by what seemed to be a ‘lady of the night’.
We therefore used the pleasant roof top bar, which was always empty and here we tried our first Ugandan gin, Waragi, a bargain at 4,000 shillings (less than £1) for a 25ml ‘tot’. Service varied depending on who served you: one night the barman theatrically brought two stemmed glasses to the table with ice and a slice, bottles of gin and tonic and then measured two doubles before adding in a little extra. On another occasion, the barman was unfamiliar with the concept of a G&T and had no chilled tonic.
Restaurant service at dinner was similarly haphazard. Fortunately on the first night we arrived past midnight, too late to eat, but on our second night, a Greek salad and pizza took 40 minutes to arrive and having requested a soda water, I was presented with non-chilled still water with no offer of ice. Fearing a repeat performance on our final night, we opted to have a late lunch out. The German Russians appeared wise to kitchen delays, and we heard them ordering huge quantities in advance, mostly left uneaten, so perhaps meals were included in their contract.
Despite pleasant gardens which attracted a variety of birds, building work was ongoing in three separate areas, with resultant daytime banging and drilling.
It appears that the hotel has recently been taken over by the Imperial Group as it now goes under the name Imperial Heights. Whilst there is little to commend it at the moment, except its proximity to town, hopefully after a makeover things will have changed.
At the other end of our trip we stayed for a couple of nights at the Protea Entebbe, which, whilst the location wasn’t as good, was in a different league.
Following feedback to our tour operator, they confirmed they would stop using the hotel.