Set up in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation, and managed in part by the Ugandan Safari Company, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is a cross-community initiative of the highest order.
Located in Southern Uganda, in Bwindi National Park, in forests habituated by the Nkuringo people, it is one of the first lodges in the region with both the means and wherewithal to follow through recommendations made by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. As such, it has quickly garnered a reputation for providing a service that is caring, innovative and far-sighted.
A family run business, and keen to add something extra to an area that is known more for its flora and fauna than it is for the level of accommodation on offer, Clouds is a large stone construct situated on Nketo Ridge. Surrounded by miles upon miles of afro-montane forest, the views are incredible.
The main lodge consists of a reception, lounge (which has Wi-Fi access), dining area and balcony. Modern, but with a country house feel to it, the shared areas are both spacious and comfortable. The windows – multi-paned and large – allow for a great deal of natural light, and make the most of the views. French doors open out onto the balcony, the furniture – cream, sumptuous and low – is warm and comfortable, the walls are white and adorned with paintings commissioned from Ugandan artists. The overall feel, with only the giant rafters overhead, is one of great space.
FOOD AND SERVICE
The cuisine is international and excellent, and the floor is headed up by Sipi, a head waiter and personal assistant known throughout Uganda for providing the highest standards of service.
There are 8 en-suite cottages at Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge – 2 of which have 2 bedrooms and would suit families or small groups. As with the main lodge, the cottages are beautifully positioned, and, in some of the rooms, the large double beds literally look out over the forested slopes.
The bathrooms – double basins, European-style fittings and simple lines – are both functional and tasteful. The furniture is well-chosen, and the headboards are beautiful heavy pieces of what looks like reclaimed wood. While not luxurious, the rooms are lovely, and go some way towards setting a new benchmark standard in the area.
Activities at Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge include gorilla trekking, forest walks, bird watching and cultural visits. The local community is an important stakeholder in both the lodge and the forest, and has, through the Nkuringo Community Development Foundation, led the way in making the tracking the Nkuringa gorillas an enriching experience.
Wild Places is part of a group (originally called Green Wilderness Group) that has been operational in Uganda since 1992. Owned and operated by people with a true love for the country and a deep rooted commitment to the preservation of Uganda’s wild places, the business has grown slowly but steadily over the years. The group cut its teeth on Semliki Safari Lodge in the 1990′s and saved the Toro-Semliki Game Reserve from degazettement.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is, in itself, a Community Conservation project. It was established as a partnership between Wildplaces, the AWF (Africa Wildlife Foundation), the IGCP (International Gorilla Conservation Programme), and the local community of Nkuringo.
Clouds Lodge employs approximately 43 full-time local staff. The lodge works closely with the local Batwa group, bringing guests to visit to learn about the culture and support the group through purchasing hand-crafts. Additionally, it has provided a small loan to a local individual to start up a mushroom growing business.
The lodge has set up a model gardens scheme for local schools, in which many of the nearby schools receive seeds and basic training to start school gardens to provide staff food and teach the students about gardening and nutrition.
Through guests staying at Clouds a 10,000 USD donation has been made to the Bwindi Community Hospital. The current plan for the money is to conduct an outreach clinic for the Batwa of Nteko since they are located far from the hospital. The project will provide mosquito nets and medical exams among other services to an erstwhile marginalized population.