Situated in western Uganda, on the edge of the Kyambura Gorge and Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of Africa’s finest national parks, the lodge has stunning views over the Gorge and the lush savannah of the park, with the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains in the distance.
Praveen Moman the co-founder of Volcanoes Safaris said at the opening, “The Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Lodge is a celebration of contemporary Africa. It provides guests with excellent hospitality in a unique setting. It connects them to the conservation of wildlife and chimpanzees and to the communities nearby. This allows guests to experience an integrated view of the challenges of ecotourism in Africa today.”
Kyambura Gorge Lodge is already considered to be one of the pre-eminent lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and is one of the most luxurious and innovative lodges in the region.
“The opening of the Lodge symbolizes the long journey Volcanoes has embarked on in this area, not only in building a fantastic contemporary eco-lodge, but through the creation of a series of major long-term practical ecotourism initiatives on the ground, linking the lodge with conservation and the communities,” says Moman.
Kyambura Gorge Lodge prides itself on being actively involved in a variety of community projects that educate local people.
Projects are themed around preserving wildlife to increase tourism income for communities; setting up football, netball and fitness classes for local schoolchildren; working with a women’s group to produce organic coffee; creating a vegetable garden; restoring a wetland that was used as an illegal brickworks; and creating a buffer zone along the gorge to give further protection and space to the twenty endangered chimpanzees in the gorge.
“These practical initiatives are what sets this lodge apart and makes sure it plays a central role in the life of the community today. This connection between tourism, communities and conservation is central to the great ape eco-tourism vision that Volcanoes Safaris has developed. In total we have created a 150-acre mini-wildlife reserve, which is helping to reduce human wildlife conflict, protect chimpanzees, and preserve a wetland and income for the community in this highly populated and threatened area,” says Moman.
The design and building of the lodge has been achieved through a partnership between the Volcanoes Safaris building team, with their long-term vision for the development of eco-lodges under Praveen Moman and James Ssemanda, the head of construction, and Regional Associates, a dynamic architectural studio led by Ross Langdon.
The lodge celebrates contemporary Africa in its whole approach to design and build. Materials used reflect contemporary interpretations of traditional design and construction techniques. The décor reflects the context of the original buildings and African creativity.
This approach is underscored by a collection of ‘Junk Art’ sculptures including birds made from petrol filters, butterflies with tattered wings of rusty iron, a toy airplane made from biscuit tins and a wall piece of spliced jerry cans stitched into a contemporary composition. Such works sit comfortably next to the ingenuity of commonplace African items, such as a timber ‘Congo bike’ complete with wooden wheels and suspension, kerosene lanterns from sardine tins and timber milk jugs with seams of stitched metal. The result is a collection of interesting and beautiful highlights, which ensure each space offers guests a rich and thought-provoking experience.
The main lodge building was originally a coffee store and processing plant, surrounded by coffee plantations. The original structure has been sensitively restored to create a generous living space, creating a series of distinct inspiring spaces for guests.
In keeping with other Volcanoes lodges, it seeks to create a quiet harmony between the buildings and the landscape, using the ancient Indian technique of Vasthu.
The airy and spacious living and dining area features a long covered veranda facing the savannah. A covered extension protrudes from the veranda and faces the beautiful Kyambura Gorge. This is the centerpiece of the complex with its dramatic sombrero shaped straw roof, contrasting with the recycled tin roofs of the main building. A creeper covered breakfast terrace takes in the morning sun.
Local Ugandan mud huts are often coated in pastel coloured paints or mud washes mixed with natural ochre, internally they are left bare, free from ornament, a utilitarian space for sleeping. The bandas at Kyambura Lodge invert this pattern. Four beautiful, spacious bandas have been built so far, carefully nestled into the hillside. Each banda is different and consists of a covered entrance deck, breezeway, bedroom, balcony and its own luxury bathroom.
The design is determined by local views, existing vegetation, prevailing weather and privacy. Drawing on local village design, different building and roofing materials are used to break up and minimize the visual bulk of the bandas, ensuring a sympathetic integration with the surrounding landscape.
Each banda is uniquely appointed, adopting a different color theme. They are elevated off the ground allowing for ventilation and better viewing as each room has a different aspect of the panoramic views across the gorge, savannah and mythical Rwenzoris.
A further four bandas will be available by early 2012.