Review by: Robert & Katharine McClenathan
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While this score is a bit low, please understand that I am comparing it to our many other African experiences through Mahlatini. The low score, I believe, stems from Uganda's relatively unsophisticated or underdeveloped system of ecotourism. Paraa Lodge is woefully outdated and more "motel-like" than the lodges to which we are accustomed. However, I recognize it has an advantageous location on the "proper" side of the Nile to avoid ferry rides each day. Apoka Lodge was top tier either a couple comments necessary. Comment 1 is that Kidepo is not ready for prime time, in my opinion. Comment 2 is that "all-inclusive" wasn't. Spirits, even bottom shelf rum and relatively local Amarula were chargeable selections. I was not prepared to receive a bill for this. However, comment 3 addressed this issue. Comment 3 was that the wifi didn't work for 3 of our 4 days. I negotiated free bar bill for no wifi.
Please consider that the following report follows a visit at the end of a very dry season. Rains were expected "at any time" but had not yet arrived in Kidepo. Circumstances may be different at other times of the year. Murcheson Falls Park had plenty of wildlife. Seeing a giraffe whose leg was swollen and damaged from an existing snare reinforced the fact that Uganda needs to work on antipoaching efforts, though. I say this with full knowledge of Uganda's success with elephants, so I may be way off base here. Both Murcheson Falls and Kidepo should either increase the number of game viewing roads (to allow closer viewing) or permit off road travel for the "money shots". Even if it came to a surcharge for guests willing to pay for such off road options. Kidepo should be pretty good in 5-10 years. Sadly, I felt that there was poor density of game, the huge herds of buffalo and elephant notwithstanding. Eland have been reintroduced, but Uganda Kob, or White-Eared Kob, should be brought in, too. Interestingly, I found the Kidepo Valley (the second of 2 valleys that make up the park) was not worth the visit. It was desertified and void of game, save for a very skittish flock of 15 ostriches, and a single "hot spring" that amounted to about 25 gallons of seepage that greened up about an acre. It is the first valley, the Narus River Valley, in which Apoka Lodge can be found, that closely resembles the Masai Mara, in my opinion, that holds promise for the future. Mahlatini should be selective regarding which guests are directed to Kidepo. Kay and I were good choices as, first, we asked for Uganda destinations, and second, were tolerant of the underwhelming animal populations. Kidepo and the Masai Mara are each reported to be roughly 1500 square kilometers, but, the arid Kidepo River Valley should not be included in the calculation because it fails to provide significant game viewing opportunities. Regarding Uganda in general, the people were friendly and the staff at each lodge made an effort to be helpful.
Uninspiring decor, motel-like layout, dated furnishings, and lackluster service meant that the only thing going for this lodge was its location. And I don't want to understate that the location was excellent in that the lodge is on the side of the Nile that permits game drive departures and returns without the limitation of the ferry schedule. This was very important.
Apoka Safari Lodge 5
The lodge is beautifully situated and well designed. Service was excellent, save for my concerns noted above (wifi and unclear "all-inclusive"). A tiny complaint is that the pathways from the dining area and office to the individual 10 units were uneven "flat stones" with significant gaps between them. It was very uneven and made walking difficult, especially in the dark. For any guest with an unsteady gait or balance issue this could be a challenge.
Protea Hotel Entebbe Resort 5
Extremely convenient for the airport. Clean and modern.
Staff Review 5
As usual, Jamie provided excellent service under my difficult time constraints (giving him little notice of our travel plans around which he had to fit the safari). My review is my honest opinion, you have my permission to include it on your website, but, you may choose not to because of my fairly blunt analysis.
Mahlatini has been nominated for the Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holiday Company in the British Travel Awards.
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