New pool at The Observatory is taking shape


(Posted 31st May 2018)


(Picture courtesy of Mr. Zahid Alam)

In my TripAdvisor bio I describe myself as an intrepid traveler, loving red carpets, flying in aircraft’s front cabins and enjoying 5 star luxury – but it also says I can rough it when needed.

The Observatory, perched on top of the Kichwamba escarpment, overlooks Queen Elizabeth National Park with clear views of lakes Nyamusingire, Edward and George, the Kazinga Channel and, weather permitting, the Mountains of the Moon. It is one place which has merged those two positions and bridged the gap of what some may think is an irreconcilable difference – 5 star and roughing it at the same time in the same location.

Owned and operated by GeoLodges Africa is this little gem only mentioned in passing on the company’s website – ‘GeoLodges own and operate two lodges and an individual cabin, all set in pristine locations across Uganda‘.

That ‘individual cabin‘ shown below is in fact The Observatory, hardly mentioned in travel literature, not local nor international and not even found in TripAdvisor’s columns, yet, something I intend to change however with this review!

A good track leads to The Observatory from the main road turn off (there is a signpost) through little farms where the kids treat visitors to an almost hero’s welcome, their ‘muzungu muzungu‘ shouts echoing from homestead to homestead.

Three bedrooms – a fourth one can be made available on request – sleep 6 (or 8) in some comfort with the ground floor offering one bedroom each with a double bed, one with twin beds and a shared bathroom while upstairs is a room with a bunkbed, perfect for kids traveling with their parents. A second bathroom is across the corridor of the bunkbed room as is the optional fourth bedroom.

On arrival does the wide terrace impress and invite to sit down and just stare. Equally inviting is the new infinity pool, a great place to be in during a hot dry season afternoon.

The view can best be described as that ‘Million Dollar View‘ which American visitors would promptly call ‘Awesome, just awesome‘ and which brought a big fat ‘WOW WOW WOW‘ across my own lips.

GeoLodges offers guests the option of a cook to prepare their meals – in fact a small separate kitchen for that purpose is just a short distance from the cabin – but visitors can also cook on their own as The Observatory is primarily a self catering facility.

A fully equipped kitchen, gas cooker, fridge, pots and pans plus kettle, cutlery, crockery and glassware included, makes cooking easy and the two housekeepers, Grace and Prisca, do the washing up after every meal. It is a nice gesture to cook a few extra portions for the housekeepers and the day and night watchmen – their friendship and loyalty will improve even more, if this is at all possible – but this is just a personal tip how to make one’s stay even better.

The dining table sits six in comfort but even eight do fit and on the terrace are enough easy chairs and a sofa for everyone to find a corner to read a book or just admire the view.

Hot water – the lodge is on piped supply from Uganda National Water Corporation – comes from a solar water heater, enough to have all guests enjoy a hot shower and still leave some.

Electricity is generated from the solar panels on top of the roof and distributed across the cabin through an inverter, which, if lights are used sparingly after dark even allows the fridge to run all night, before a new charge kicks in after sunrise. I turned off the fridge twice a day for a few hours each, enough to retain the cold inside before switching it on again.

Basics like tea bags, sugar, salt, dry herbs and cooking oil are available in the kitchen store but guests should bring their own supplies nevertheless, like butter, margarine, bread, sausages and cheese cuts, meats and of course drinks of their choice. Drinking water from the tap, once cooked and cooled, is perfectly safe to consume so no cartons of plastic bottles need to be brought along, saving space in the car and reducing the waste.

Vegetables and eggs, even chicken are available locally and on request will the housekeepers send a boda boda to buy what is needed to prepare a balanced meal, from sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, matooke, carrots, green peppers, onions, cabbage, beans and tomatoes to of course fruits from nearby farms.

On the upper floor of the cabin is the common room found, with a desk where one can spread out a laptop and phone chargers – all well ‘fueled‘ by the inverter batteries. Wide sofa sets invite to ‘lounge’, feet up of course and the view from the terrace – if at all possible – beats the view from the ground floor across the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Notably is a massage bed placed on the upper balcony and massages are available at a reasonable fee for either half an hour or a full hour, bliss after a day out hiking along the various trails up and down the towering hills.

This was my third visit in the space of just a year and a half and I intend to return again and again for some R&R, making sure I have the entire cabin for myself.

The Observatory is a very viable alternative to some lodges inside and outside the park as the lodge has neither dress codes nor set meal times, great for an intrepid adventurous traveler, a family traveling on a budget or a group of friends wanting to play some loud music.

Connectivity is assured with strong signals from MTN Uganda, which not only facilitates voice calls but, important for a growing number of people, also gives access to a strong high speed data signal, allowing to stay in touch with all and sundry just like from the city of one’s office.

Now, with a pool shaping up and ready for use in just a couple of weeks, has The Observatory turned into something even more attractive, a lodge at affordable rates with all the trimmings one expects to find at more fancied places and yet giving privacy especially to small groups or a family treasuring to disappear for a few days from the hustle and bustle of the city – and some of the larger safari lodges in the national parks.

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