Ndali Lodge is an exclusive lodge, 27 kilometres outside of Fort Portal on a pretty good murram road. For April & May 2016, Ndali are offering, in conjunction with the Uganda Expats Guide, a super kids under 13 go free deal. Ndali offered Uganda Expats Guide a chance to check out the lodge and put it to the kid friendly test. This is what we found…
As I lay on the beautiful kikoi covered massage table enjoying the tranquil environment, it was hard to believe my kids were 30 metres away. They had been in the pool since about 35 seconds after our arrival at Ndali, and had only just about dried off enough for some lunch before diving straight back into the infinity pool. Lying on that massage table, I have never felt so rested and relaxed with my kids in such close proximity.
As a mother of two these moments are rare. As I looked out of our impressively decorated room over the Ruwenzori mountains, Jackie begins the massage and thoughts of my kids slowly disappear from mind.
A long Ugandan hour later as I stir from my massage slumber to witness the beginning of a beautiful Ugandan sunset, that familiar parental concern rushes through my mind. Peace & quiet: when you have kids? That is a lethal combination. I lethargically walk back up to the pool side to find them galloping back from their exploration along the crater lake, walking sticks in hand. “Mummmmmmyyyyyyyyy, we missed you!”. “I missed you too, kind of”.
From the moment we arrived at Ndali, the kids were on the go. Aubrey & Clare, the owners, and Olive, the hostess, had a never ending bag of tricks that entertained the kids all afternoon. The trampoline was rolled out to a perfect location next to the shaded pergola, only metres from the exceptionally well stocked bar (the fun is not just for the kids). After another swim, and a visit to the sauna (perfect for those chillier days) they venture round to the lake view garden for some swingball. It’s been a long time since us grown ups got our hands on swing ball and the kids had to do some hard negotiations to prize the rackets away from the grown ups.
Even the food was tailor made for the kids. Whilst the grown ups devoured a scrumptious Thai fish curry, the kids were served a beautifully presented fish fillet and chips. “We thought they might prefer this” said Olive as they served the kids: yes, you are absolutely right about that one. Ndali’s personal touch and attention to detail not only caters for kids’ different tastes but also other dietary requirements and allergies including gluten intolerance on request.
We spent the evening in the communal area, which is more like a beautiful thatched house with amazing views from both sides. There is the candlelit dining room leading through a library and into the elegant sitting room – which contains another magic trick for both the kids and the adults – two stool boxes full of board games & card games. I had carried our own cards and Jenga to entertain the kids but they never left the car as there were more than enough games to entertain us all hidden in the stools.
Although we were offered an earlier dinner for the kids with someone to watch the kids whilst we had a later dinner without them, we opted to all eat together. Food was consistently excellent, service was exceptionally well executed, and no one batted an eye lid when our kids behaved like kids in the grand dining room. After a bit of stargazing from the trampoline, we all rolled down the slope to our room, totally satisfied from our 4 course dinner. The kids were soon snuggled up in bed, slowly drifting off to sleep before we’d even finished a bed time story. Little did they know of the adventure Ndali had lined up for them the next day.
After a massive breakfast where between us we wolfed down: cinnamon pancakes, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, eggs cooked in every way possible, mushrooms, toast, fruits, fruits and more fruits, Steven, the Ndali guide, took us on our adventure. Ndali has extensive grounds and we were off to explore. As we headed down through the tranquil woods, we began spotting: birds, insects, leaves, berries, fruits… anything we didn’t spot, Steven showed us. His patience with the kids was phenomenal.
We weaved the palm leaves, and plaited banana fibres, we visited the local waragi brewers, and played locally adapted musical shakers. We waded in rivers, jumped in puddles and squelched in mud. We discovered cocoa & vanilla and learnt all about the processes involved in the production of both (both of which are farmed & processed on the estate), and sheltered under our leaf umbrellas as the rain trickled through the forest canopy. As we reached back up to the lodge, it was hard to believe the kids had walked for two and a half hours with very little complaining.
Our time at Ndali came to a close far too quickly and we were all sad to leave. There was still a lot more to discover: we never made it to the yoga platform overlooking the crater lake, and we never made it on the hike all the way round the lake, which would also make for a perfect running track. We also never had time to have a long soak in the bath with the best view in Uganda. Ndali Lodge is a beautiful haven, tucked into some of the best landscape Uganda has to offer, and even if we had stayed for a week (I’m fantasising now) it would still have left us with more to come back and discover. No wonder their visitors book reads like a dictionary of all the most positive superlatives in every language and a recurring theme: “we will be back”.