By Gilbert Mwijuke
In the recent past, there has been a proliferation of new hotels and resorts on the Ssese Islands, Kalangala, thanks to the archipelago’s thriving tourism sector. But there is one resort that stands out from the pack – the eco-conscious Victoria Forest Resort, which opened for business about two years ago.
Unlike other popular resorts on the Ssese Islands, Victoria Forest Resort has managed to slip under the radar, attracting fewer guests – mostly progressive and well-heeled travellers – than its competitors in the area.
“We prefer high-end guests because we have positioned ourselves as a luxury resort that’s ideal for those seeking privacy, serene surroundings, and customized service,” says Sam Mbusa, the manager of this picturesque beachfront property.
And perhaps that’s what makes the Victoria Forest Resort so romantic. Describing itself as Uganda’s Island Paradise, Victoria Forest Resort has been welcoming sophisticated guests – especially honeymooners – since 2016 when the property was acquired by Chris and Molly Kamukama from the previous owners.
Previously known as Palm Beach, the couple refurbished and renamed it Victoria Forest Resort and also expanded it from 10 to 42 rooms, which include 11 cottages, 30 deluxe rooms, and one family suit.
Tucked away in an intimate setting on the edges of the lush Lutoboka Forest Reserve, Victoria Forest Resort is a good choice for honeymooners seeking immaculate accommodation, seclusion, a more tranquil environment, as well as customized service – with the price tag to match.
The resort features a vast garden dotted with swaying palm trees, a long stretch of sand, an open-air restaurant, a spa, a swimming pool, as well as free Wi-Fi in the rooms and communal areas.
The facility’s signature offering is the Honeymoon Package, which is priced at $500 for four days and three nights per couple.
Some of the perks that come with this package include a Honeymoon Suit that offers guests magnificent views of the blue waters of Lake Victoria, daily full continental breakfast, a gift fruit basket, a natural flower bouquet, a bottle of wine, exclusive room service, spontaneous candlelight dinners, a boat ride to the nearby Virgin Island, and even pick-up from Kampala (within five kilometres of the city centre).
On my recent refreshing and rejuvenating five-day stay at the Victoria Forest Resort, I had a chance to sit down with Ronald Reagan Edeu, the new head chef who, according to what I gathered, previously worked with the Serena Group of Hotels, eastern Africa’s biggest hotel chain.
From our short, yet staccato conversation, I learnt that Edeu joined Victoria Forest Resort in June 2018, bringing with him a great deal of experience in local and international cuisine.
His specialties include meat kebabs, chicken wings, fish fingers, muffins, soups, gravy and African stews, but Edeu and his team also serve up local indulgences like yams, matoke, Irish potatoes and fresh fish, especially Lake Victoria’s famous tilapia.
Soon, Edeu and his team will also be preparing pizzas. “We are building a stone oven for making pizzas, and once complete it will be the only one on the Ssese Islands,” the seasoned chef revealed.
The Victoria Forest Resort is a paradise infused with adventure. While you’re here, you can take part in outdoorsy activities such as a trek through the woods of Lutoboka Forest Reserve, a boat ride to the nearby crocodile-infested Virgin Island, bird watching, and camping by the lakeside.
The Lotoboka Forest Reserve offers visitors a chance to retrace John Speke’s footsteps, the famed European explorer who is credited with discovering the source of River Nile, the world’s longest river.
Speke once set camp near the Victoria Forest Resort, just a few hundred metres into the forest. You’ll get to see his unfinished house, which he constructed in 1863, even though it’s now dilapidated.
Bird watching is another leisure activity honeymooners can indulge in while at the Victoria Forest Resort. Within the resort’s vicinity are bird species such as the Yellowbill, Little Greenbul, Paradise Flycatcher, Black-headed Oriole, Grey-backed Camaroptera and the Slender-billed Weaver, among others.
The resort also offers boat trips to the nearby Virgin Island, a must-stop spot for those wishing to come face-to-face with marine life. The island is both haunting and breathtaking, playing host to more bird species and mammal species such as crocodiles, antelopes, Uganda kob, chameleons, etc.
In a nutshell, if you’re are interested in exploring Ssese Islands’ cultures and landscapes, you’ll not only thrive here, but you’ll also go back home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Getting there… Another fascinating experience
Located 51 kilometres southwest of Entebbe, the Ssese Islands archipelago is accessible by ferry or speedboat. The most popular, convenient and affordable means of transport remains the MV Kalangala, the only ferry servicing the Entebbe-Ssese Islands route and is operated by the Victoria Forest Resort.
Arriving on the Ssese Islands is another fascinating experience as you’ll get to gaze into the vivid blue waters of Lake Victoria – Africa’s Biggest lake – as they crash into the white sand on the shoreline.