Engulfed by the mist at Bwindi’s Ihamba Residence
Many of you must have seen it in pictures online, others could have heard about it while some harbor the desire to visit it, but I have personally been able to visit the beautiful Ihamba residence, tucked away in the hills besides Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The peace, tranquility and the absolute scenic views that the residence presents have for a few years now made it one of my favorite places in the country that I could never get tired of visiting.
Ihamba residence is more than just what meets the eye. It speaks to your heart and conscious and literally places your subconscious self into a world of its own.
The residence is located atop a hill overlooking the mass Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and to get there, one has to hike for about 5 minutes on average but the end of this little hike presents wonderful views of nature.
Ms Tina Katushabe, the resident’s manager is one for the plants and flowers and this explains why the residence’s compound is filled with these and several other local herbs and vegetables most of which are served to guests during meals.
According to Ms Katushabe, the hike was deliberately left there as an experience for guests.
“The reason we let people walk from the road to the residence is so they can have that experience. We want to sell more than just a comfortable bed and a good meal. People should just always look at experiences more than just luxury,” she said.
While up here, the residence speaks to your senses too; from the smell of fresh air away from that of polluted Kampala, to sights of winding hills dotted with trees and thick fog together with some of the best sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen.
Chirping birds from the forest nearby normally pay a visit too together with gorillas for which the forest is famous for, which on some occasions walk close to the residence and this is summed up by the distance gushes of water running through the little streams in the forest.
The residence is a cabin set up with a total accommodation of about 10 people in double or single rooms depending one’s liking. It hosts individuals, groups and family and on friendly weather days, camping here can be ideal. Camping is unto 12 people.
Recently, the residence got a new additional cottage annex specifically for honeymooners and long-term stays.
To ensure that you have a comfortable stay, there is a house manager, a chef, house keepers and other support staff at your disposal.
Most of the food served here is local and organic, grown right from a little garden at the residence itself and some supplied by the local community.
Staying at the residence comes with a host of activities like birdwatching, sunbathing, reading, badminton and some board games to keep you occupied but the real challenging ones are both interesting and daring.
One of them that the management at the residence can organize is the nature walk that takes you on a hike through hills dotted with tea plantations and onto a trail that snakes through the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It shows you different species of trees in the forest and other vegetation types.
We did the hike with two Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers as our guides and security who first briefed us about what to expect and how to keep safe.
Armed with our walking sticks, we shot straight into the forest on a small trail in single file and along the way, several on the group fell a few times as we trekked downwards.
We came to a halt at a beautiful stream junction locally known as Imbuganiro or the meeting point where River Mbwa meets with River Ihihizo inside the forest.
I personally would have fancied to swim in it had the water not been freezing cold or had it been a little deeper
Another activity to do when you visit the residence is the gorilla trekking. It is however advised that you book this prior for better organization.
While the biggest part of our group didn’t do it, three of our colleagues did and they came back with wonderful tales, beautiful memories, certificates and gorilla selfies. They also carried their walking sticks for that day back to Kampala as souvenirs.
The other activity here is the community visits. Our group visited the marginalized Batwa community currently living by the edge of the forest at their cultural center which is being run by Change A life Bwindi project also operated by Ms Katushabe.
The Batwa are a community of forest people who formerly lived in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest but were pushed out after the government gazetted it as a national park.
Living outside the park now, they survive on little and their culture is under threat of disappearing as they are adopting that of the local Bakiga and are also intermarrying with them.
These treated us to a cultural experience ranging from traditional dances to lighting a fire using sticks, stories of how they lived in the forests among other things.
One thing for sure is that these people need all the help they can get and if you intend to visit, put that in mind. They need help from clothes to shoes, beddings to books for their children and even food. You can either come along with them or contact Ms Katushabe or Karibu Travel Magazine.
Nights at Ihamba Residence will always vary depending on your company but one thing remains constant, they are beautiful. Remember the sounds from the forest that I earlier talked about? Now, they are spiced up with beautify views of a starry sky. You could spend the night by a fireplace outside drinking the nice away and telling stories or you could chose to play games around the fireplace in the house.
How to get there
You can either use a tour company or call in to book for yourself.
For budget travelers using public means, taking a jaguar bus to Kabale is highly recommended from where Ihamba management can organize a special car hire that can pick you.