ACTIVITIES AT CHAMELEON HILL LODGE
We recently had the honour of spending a week in the beautiful South West of Uganda on the shores of Lake Mutanda. Not only did we photograph one of the quirkiest lodges we’ve had the privilege of visiting we also got to participate in some fun activities at Chameleon Hill Lodge.
If you missed our first post, you can catch up here. It was more of an introduction to the lodge and its people, whereas this one focuses on activities on the grounds and surrounding areas.
Most people use Chameleon Hill Lodge as a base for gorilla tracking. But we’d REALLY recommend you linger here a little longer. There is a whole host of activities that could definitely keep you busy for a few days.
A STROLL DOWN TO THE LAKE
Chameleon Hill Lodge is perched high up above the shores of Lake Mutanda. This freshwater lake is surrounded by farmlands and lush vegetation. There are several paths from the main lodge that take you down to the water’s edge. We were lucky enough to be escorted by Doris and the dogs. It was a warm, sunny day, so the cool refuge of the trees in the forested area was such a lovely respite from the sun. Since there has been a shift in mind set with regards to conservation, some fish species, birds and other wildlife have slowly started returning to the lake. Doris and her team are also starting to reintroduce indigenous trees and vegetation.
A WALK TO KASHARARA VILLAGE
Another one of the fun activities at Chameleon Hill lodge, is a visit to Kasharara village. It’s just a short walk from the lodge and will give you a good insight into rural village life. During the first part of the walk, you get a great view over the lodge, lake and agricultural lands. You’re likely to be accompanied by a few goatherds, and some inquisitive local children.
The road to Kasharara is also good for people watching. You’ll mostly encounter a few passing bicycles, “boda bodas” and women carrying the harvest for the day. If you are wondering what a “boda boda” is, it’s a motorcycle. They were originally used in the late 80’s as a cheap form of transport to ferry goods between borders – hence the name boda boda (border to border)
The little rural village of Kasharara seems to come alive in the late afternoon.
KAYAKING ON THE LAKE
A range of lake activities can be organized by Chameleon Hill Lodge. For a more up close and personal experience there are kayaks rides. The best time of day for these excursions is early morning. The lake is like a mirror then, and also the birds are more active. You may even be lucky enough to encounter an otter or two.
For those feeling slightly more energetic , a mountain bike ride can be organized with local cycling guide Godfrey. I must say this is a fabulous way to explore the surroundings. We loved how all the locals came out to see what we were up to. Some of them were even happy to be in a few photos!
How cool to hook up with a bunch of South African’s who were on a cycling holiday. They joined our little group, and came down to the deck for a pit stop before continuing their journey.
A BOAT RIDE ON LAKE MUTANDA
A boat excursion on Lake Mutanda with a visit to the Community Island is high up on our list of recommended activities. The trip can be done in around 3 hours, so even if you are pressed for time, it’s still doable.
Besides meeting the island community you also get to see some of the bird life on the lake as well as visit Skeleton Island with its grim past as a punishment island. Refreshments are provided, and your informative guide will make sure you have all the info on the lake and the surrounding areas.
Say’s Doris Meixner: “our major focus is going to be on identifying worthy causes and building projects we can drive forward that will enrich the lives of the community and area around us. Making a difference here and helping to create a sustainable environment is absolutely essential to everybody that comes into contact with this paradise – which we call Uganda!”
And this is exactly what you will have the opportunity of doing when visiting the Mutanda Community Island. You’ll be able to interact with the locals and get to see and buy some of their handicrafts. No doubt you’ll also be treated to some entertainment in the form of singing and dancing.
A FARMING EXPERIENCE
By far one of our favourite activities to have photographed was a farming experience. We got to visit and interact with members of the farming community in the village of Rubuguri.
Meet our driver, Stevie. He transported us safely along the twisty, bumpy road in this fabulous Hilux from the 80’s which is still going strong! We stopped to chat to a few locals along the way.
We met up with local community guides, Remegious & Justice who accompanied us on our farming experience. How wonderful to be walking in such a rural environment in the middle of Africa.
We turned down a little track off the main road. Our first stop was to meet some of the ex-poachers who now tend veggie patches. Previously they would have been ruthlessly snaring animals for bush meat. Today, they hold their heads high, happy to be making an honest living. They are so proud to share their knowledge about their crops and farming techniques.
From the vegetable garden we made our way to the humble home of Sam & Vasta. We sat in their lounge exchanging stories before Sam took us on a tour of his yard. He proudly showed us his crops and we got to meet Sarah the cow.
Then it was down to lunch preparation. We got to chop veggies, grind millet, stir the pots and sit around chit chatting. All the food was cooked on an open fire in traditional pots. After the hand washing ritual it was lunch time. We got to eat all of the yummy dishes we helped prepare. What a beautiful and humbling experience, and one that will stay with us for many years to come.
What better and relaxing way to end off our time at Chameleon Hill Lodge than with a massage.
Oh, and then as one does on the last day of any trip, you shop. I especially loved the dressing gowns and other goodies made out of the beautiful kitenge fabric. I got myself a few headbands. The beads from recycled newspaper as well as the place mats made from individually covered bottle tops are also really amazing and unique. And of course who could not resist a soapstone creature or two? And it would seem a little silly to leave without getting some Ugandan coffee.
And so our time at Chameleon Hill Lodge had come to an end. Not only did we create fabulous memories we made friends for life. It made saying good bye so much harder. I think this quote by C McCann pretty much sums it up.
“There’s a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we have left it.” – C McCann
Know before you go
If you’d like more information on Chameleon Hill Lodge visit their website here.
Getting There: Several airlines fly from SA to Kigali in Rwanda. If you are only visiting the south, it’s closer than if you were to make the trip from Kampala. From Kampala it’s a 12 hour drive to Chameleon Hill, whereas from Kigali it’s only around a 4 hour drive. It also gives you an excuse to visit Rwanda. The lodge does offer transfers, or you can be adventurous like we were and catch the public transport. Kisoro, the closest major town to Chameleon Hill is just over an hour away, and there is a landing strip there should you be arriving by smaller chartered plane.
Visas: South Africans require a visa to visit Uganda. If you are visiting Rwanda or Kenya as well, it’s a more beneficial getting the East African visa. You can apply for this online.
Chameleon Hill is situated in a malaria free zone, but do check the areas you will be visiting before or after as there is a good chance you will need anti- malaria medication
Yellow fever vaccination card: It’s advisable to have your yellow fever vaccination card with you. On return to your home country, immigration may check it. Rather safe than sorry.
The currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling. If you’re anything like we are you use the beer index for currency conversions. A Nile beer is 6500 Ugandan Shillings which makes it ZAR 24 which definitely makes it moreish for South Africans!