If ever there were a time for a restorative safari journey, it’s now. The pandemic has taken lives and slaughtered our spirits. There’s a gloomy cloud hovering over our collective sadness, uncertainty, and anxiety across the world. As enlightened sages have urged throughout the centuries, the best path to wellness is nature—immersing oneself in it, connecting with it, respecting it and all its creatures.
Back in the 1980s, the Forest Agency of Japan advised people to take strolls in the woods for better health and called the practice forest bathing or shinrin-yoku. They believed nature had healing powers that could lower stress—but it hadn’t been proved. Since then, there’s a large body of evidence to show that spending time in nature is responsible for measurable beneficial changes in the body.
Recent studies have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety, and attention disorders. “The quiet atmosphere, beautiful scenery, good smells, and fresh, clean air in forests all contribute to the effects,” says Dr. Qing Li in a recent Times health piece.
Nkuringo Safaris built Nkuringo Bwindi Lodge deep in the heart of Africa’s wilderness with a single mindset of healing our guests with nature’s own gifts. Restoration is part of our ethos and for our guests as well.
While this Sustaibale Restorative Safari Vacation in Southwestern Uganda offers the chance to revive, renew, reconnect to the wild, to each other, and oneself, we’ve selected three of our highly restorative lodges for your ultimate journey to wilderness wellbeing.
While the Restorative Safari Vacation in southwestern Uganda offers a myriad of serene experiences, the wonders already begin before you touch the ground. Flying over the rugged highlands in southwest Uganda, you are overcome by a sense of calm as remote hamlets dot the hilly emerald countryside, and fertile volcanic slopes are neatly planted with dense garden rows as far as the eye can see.
An hour later, you arrive in the small town of Kisoro with its dramatic mountain chain backdrop. Nkuringo Safaris driver picks you up from the small airport and transfers you to the starting point of your first adventure walk through the native communities.
Sometimes the greatest beauty can only be appreciated at a slow pace—on two feet, immersed in the stories and the world around you. The Virunga Mountains’ jagged peaks pierce through the clouds on the walking trail backdrop as your expert local walking guide leads you through native village footpaths, furnishing your curiosity with enchanting African tales.
Stark misty clouds lend a seductive quality to the surroundings, contrasted by bursts of wildflowers and green plants as you head out the villages onto cultivated slopes footpaths. Along your hike through remote African villages, you meet fascinating people and learn powerful knowledge of local people’s daily lives. Many children and local people will greet us as they tend their fields and livestock and collect water from local springs.
A steep walk leads you to the fantastic vistas of Lake Mutanda, where you’ll spend a few minutes eating your snack, taking photos, and preparing for a traditional dugout canoe experience on the calm waters of Lake Mutanda.
We continue in a northerly direction, in dug-out canoes, piloted by local tribesmen who’ll furnish you with ancient tales of Mutanda’s wonders. The 2.5-hour canoe journey passes quickly as the lake’s spectacular beauty and its surroundings unravel. We may see fishers checking their nets, canoeing to marketplaces, and busy natives on the slopes of valleys.
You’ll disembark on the lakes’ northern shore at gorgeously located Mutanda Lake Resort, where you’ll spend the next two nights. In a superb location, plonked directly on the lake, this relaxed Dutch-owned resort has luxury tents raised on wooden platforms with lovely porches and polished wooden floorboards.
Sitting in the shadow of the Virunga Mountains, Mutanda Lake Resort brags of dreamy views of the massif, excellent tropical weather, and mind rebuilding resort activities. Sunset evenings at the lakeside, enjoying the tranquility and unspoiled beauty as far as your eyes can see, are something to look out for. Yes! You can jump into the calm waters of Lake Mutanda from the private pier: the lake waters are clean enough!
The Resort offers accommodation in thirteen beautifully handcrafted cottages with ensuite bathrooms. The rooms sit on wooden platforms above the ground, spread across the peninsula’s shoreline and outside areas facing Lake Mutanda in the shadow of the Virunga Mountains. Local art, fabric, and decor adorn the rooms to give guests a sense of belonging during their solitary gazing moments.
The main area’s most charming feature is the deck overlooking the lake. All meals are served here, with the sunrise over the mountains and sunset over the tranquil lake. The swiss-like main area with an African finish and brick-worm fireplace is a magnet to visitors. The chef serves fresh vegetables for the property’s home garden to compliment his wonderfully selected menu. Your meals can even be served in the privacy of your stone cottage.
The next day’s activities are planned out to launch your restorative safari holiday moments at Mutanda. Take a short walk around the lake, listen to some captivating local tales, and busk in the resorts’ ambiance for the rest of the afternoon.
Take a one-hour therapeutic meditation and yoga class with your special guest for the evening just before your heartful dinner, and extend the conversation over the fireplace with a glass of wine to relax your muscles.
As the Restorative Safari Vacation in southwestern Uganda gets into high gear for a deeper wilderness experience into Bwindi, take in the Resort’s last morning hours and meditate on your next anticipated experience. Your private driver will pick you from the resort and lazily drive you through the rugged artistic landscapes to Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge elevated on the southern edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This part of southwestern Uganda experiences plenty of tropical rain throughout the year, showing off eye arresting greenery and unrealistic landscape views. You’ll see the most astounding sights while cruising twenty kilometers in the back of a four-by-four safari cruiser.
When you step off the vehicle and look up at the maze of brick-tiled walkways shrouded by myriad species of trees and flowers, the warm smiles and greetings from the Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge staff are the cherry on top as they welcome you to this leafy haven.
There is something mysterious about how Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge has been created, with the main area’s high ceilings and natural materials that drape to blend in with the wilderness.
Once inside the main lounge area, a refreshing drink is served alongside 180-degree views of the rugged terraced landscape, the Virunga mountains chain, and steamy Bwindi Impenetrable forest canopy. The lodge sits at one of the highest points in southwestern Uganda with sweeping views across the whole region into DRC, Rwanda, and only blanketed by the Virunga chain.
You’re assured that there is no urgency to the day as meals are served to suit guests’ schedules, and activities are boundless in such decadent surroundings. With the rest of the day open to adventure, you can opt to settle into your rooms, the chatter of birds following along the walkways.
The two villas, six cottages, and two suites are designed with the wilderness in mind. No matter where you stand, birdsong or quiet thunder of misty cloud blows through the ridge, and greenery swaying along to the rhythm. In this space alone, there is so much room to meditate on the sightings witnessed on your healing journey, from coffee in your reading nook to a surprise tea breakfast served as your wake-up call.
Out on the cottage deck, comfortable lounging seats connect you to the views of the jungle with birds and impala your only visitors, and inside, a warm bath is available for those cooler evenings.
Every part of the retreat is designed to be your own private space in cottages hidden in ridgeside overlooking the Bwindi swathe. Spend however long you like at your porch, absorbing the last rays of the day or floating amongst the lilies before dinner.
An early morning start of the day with a wake-up call from the forest birds and your butler with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Have your breakfast and a short briefing about the day in the central area. You’ll stroll five minutes to the Uganda Wildlife Authority briefing point with your packed lunch in your backpack and a specially made walking stick from the lodge.
Gorilla trekking is a life-long dream for many travelers on this restorative safari vacation. Seeing and spending tranquil yet thrilling (and well-chaperoned) time with mountain gorillas is a rare, and restorative experience.
These majestic endangered primates still survive in only three countries—Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC; none live in captivity. About half of the world’s total mountain gorilla population inhabit the Virunga Mountains ecosystem shared by Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the DRC’s Virunga National Park. The other half of the few remaining gorillas live in a separate rugged region in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where you’ll be spending your holidays.
Uganda offers incredible gorilla trekking experiences with multiple gorilla family groups, accessible hiking, two excellent park, local guiding teams, and superb safari lodge accommodations.
After the briefing at the trailhead, led by your local guide and his crew, you’ll begin making our way through a forest of trailing vines, trilling bird calls, giant lobelia, and mossy Hagenia trees—an Eden, emerald world—walking toward an encounter with one of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s human-habituated (meaning we won’t seem like intruders when we meet) families of mountain gorillas; no more than eight people are allowed to visit any given gorilla family for more than sixty minutes each day. Seeing a 500-pound male silverback only a few yards away is something you’ll want to tell your great-grandchildren about.
Then, of course, there is the Mist Spa at the lodge, where the immersive therapy takes place after the hike into the jungle. Secluded under a woodland near the reception area, the spa incorporates nature into every experience.
Sunlight streams in from every direction, giving the room a glow. Your spa therapist is an expert at creating a warm atmosphere that is sure to inject you with new energy, just in time for another restorative evening at Nkuringo.
After you’ve inspected the various adventure activities at the lodge, including a visit to the local native villages and cultural encounters, you’ll have the space to curl up with a book and a glass of wine or engage in deep conversations with other travelers, just as travelers have done for decades.
There is something intrinsically peaceful about Nkuringo Lodge, with the rugged artistic ability to restore a sense of oneself with nature. Balancing the remoteness of the rainforest with the comforts of a carefully composed safari lodge, this is one of Uganda’s best places to reflect on the majesty of the wilderness.
After five restorative safari nights, it will be really sad to watch southwestern Uganda’s quintessential landscapes fly back as you float across the country to the northeast tip in Kidepo Valley National Park — Uganda’s remotest untamed wilderness. You land at Kidepo Airstrip, 10 minutes from Apoka Safari Lodge, where you’ll spend the next three nights on a restorative safari vacation quest.
Apoka Safari Lodge is a sanctuary in earthy African tones that effortlessly blend into natural surrounds. Hugged by a rocky outcrop, ten superbly furnished rooms offer endless views across the grassy savannah, walls adorned with a great selection of African art, and perpetually serenaded by the wilderness resonances.
Ways to renew or revive include yoga on the outcrop; or just chilling in your luxurious tent, at the fire pit, in the pleasant bar, or over a healthy, palate-pleasing supper under the stars. You never know who might join you: Apoka Safari Lodge has had friendly resident giraffes and buffalo, and regular calls from elephants and other animals such as zebra, giraffe, bushbuck, monkeys, and warthogs.
Quiet moments at the pool hewn the sparkling swimming pool hewn out of the outcrop, after a warm afternoon dip to spoil yourself with creature comforts, thrill at the sight of local wildlife while watching the red sun drop into its slow-flowing currents.
Venturing out of camp, game drives into the Narus Valley are richly rewarding and often soothing as you slip into this unadulterated landscape. Walk with Zebras for a memorable guided encounter. At sunset or any time, drive off the beaten track in the company of towering giraffes, sneaky cheetahs, lions, leopards, buffalo, and various antelope species. As the vervet monkeys scamper around you, welcoming you to the wilderness, and the powerful wilderness force anoints you, it’s humbling.
If you feel too relaxed, camp staff can take you out on a walk in the Karamojong villages to get your blood pumping. You can also venture out on guided walks in the deep sand of dry riverbeds, where you may encounter some fascinating creatures like the elephants.
Be present with the elephants, for they’ll profoundly impact your therapeutic journey. The grandeur, the awe, of these ancient beings never disappoints. Their care for each other, for their young, old, dead, walking pathways they have walked for eons is inspiring.