Ishasha Wilderness Camp was the final stop and the climax of our itinerary during “The Best Job Ever” road trip of 14 wild days around Uganda. Stunning, private, intimate, both relaxed, super-efficient, and wild enough for my convenience! This safari retreat was built for people who truly enjoy the wild.
We slept to the laughter of hyenas and wild sounds all through the night, and in the morning, rose in the pitch-black, about an hour before dawn.
Coffee was served to warm our lungs and off we went under Mike and Paul’s advice to wait at the edge of a ridge where we had enjoyed one of the most beautiful sundowners the previous night. Here we were to stalk the sunrise.
The engine to our safari land cruiser was muted and my audio recorder mounted at the cliff’s edge. The scene began to unfold with an almost strange silence before an unrelenting cricket began stridulating followed by distant cheeping sounds by unidentifiable birds and the recognizable chattering of monkeys.
The sun began to appear as dawn chorus was amplified by the soft panting of chimpanzees from a distance whose hoots and grants panned from left to right as the forest woke up from a long night of rest. It all felt like nature’s musical version of an orchestra.
There we sat with our morning smiles watching egrets flying across the sun rays as they peeked from behind the forest canopy and perfectly lit up the clouds; gently providing the light of day. This was a window-seat-scene that exceeds your average morning view of the sunrise. The recommendation from Mike and Paul had exceeded expectations and we began the journey back to the lodge, crossing paths with topis, kobs, buffaloes, and two notorious-looking hyenas disappearing in the bush.
A chat with Paul Goldring
Back at our eco-luxury bush camp, a hearty breakfast was served before we got to chat about tourism recovery with Paul Goldring, the proprietor of Ishasha Wilderness Camp, a high-end property on the edge of the Ntungwe River that flows through the much less busy southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. A prime location, to say the least!
Benaiah: Thank you for having us, Paul. It’s been an incredible stay here
Paul Goldring: You are very very welcome. We are glad to have you here.
Benaiah: So we have been on a 14 wild days’ trip and we have seen so much awesomeness around the country. It’s just amazing that we get to crown everything with the Ishasha sector, and particularly Ishasha Wilderness Camp. But for our readers would you mind introducing yourself?
Paul Goldring: I am Paul Goldring, and we have been in Uganda since 1995 when we came with a group of tourists to see the mountain gorillas. And yea, we never left.
Then we developed this Ishasha Wilderness Camp in 2000 at a time when there was no tourist accommodation. We started off with a tented camp and then got a concession from the Uganda Wildlife Authority to put up these more permanent but eco-friendly structures.
And today, How many lodges do we now have?
Benaiah: Haha, indeed the number of investments has grown. You guys really set the ball running.
Paul Goldring: Set the ball running somehow… And this is increasing the amount of investment in the national park by more than a hundred percent in terms of the gate revenue and all that sort of stuff.
Benaiah: So with all the uncertainties that have come with the COVID-19 period; and it’s good to see that we are social distancing and also observing the recommended Standard Operating Procedures. I would be interested in knowing what the day has been like for you at Ishasha Wilderness Camp during this rather odd episode of 2020.
Paul Goldring: What it’s been like? Well, we have been absolutely dead! We have had no clients whatsoever. I think the first clients came in yesterday and they were from Entebbe. Of course, we do not have any foreign clients because the airport is closed, and we are all protecting ourselves; following the SOPs of our business, and staying safe.
We are looking forward to when the airport can open again and when your trip around Uganda gets spread across the world, everyone will get to see what a beautiful country we have, and they will come and visit Uganda again.
Benaiah: We are all looking forward to that Paul. As we wrap up, is there any final message you’d like to leave with us?
Paul Goldring: Well our message to the tour operators is that they need to hang in. This is not the end of the world. What we should do is follow the recommended guidelines and remain safe. Yea, I strongly believe when it is safer for people to take those long trips, the world will be running here because we have, as you know, a very beautiful country. And yes, we can’t wait for tourists to come back as you came. And for tour operators, we really have to just hang in. Yea it will come, it will definitely come. There was a small bleep in 2020 but let’s hope it ends sooner than later.
Benaiah: Thank you so much, Paul. I, unfortunately, cannot shake your hand (haha) but we can elbow-bump. Thank you so much for having us and we are confident everything will be well soon. (Smiles and elbow-bump)
Paul Goldring: Yea, I hope so too. And well-done guys, I think you are doing a great job. It’s great to see you chaps out exploring the country and showing so much enthusiasm for what we have; the animals, the various parts, and hearing those incredible stories has been absolutely wonderful. So thumbs up, thank you very much!
About Ishasha Wilderness Camp
You need more than one night at Ishasha Wilderness Camp to take in this wild beauty; one of the few lodges inside the park’s boundaries. Being somewhat off the beaten path, the sounds are only those of nature and perhaps those that you bring along with you.
This part of Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for its celebrity population of tree-climbing lions, one in few places in the world where lions are known to laze out in the fig trees.
As someone who loves less-busy locations, the Ishasha sector with its few game drive vehicles is private, intimate, and ignites my wander-bug!
Accommodation at Ishasha Wilderness Camp is in form of 10 spacious safari tents buried in natural trees, thatched in very lovely fashion, with elegant furnishing, and commanding unobstructed views of the river below where you might spot Henry the hippo out on a swim on one of the days or elephants drinking from the river. The rooms feature ensuite facilities built to blend with the lodge’s natural setting. Flushing toilets and hot bush showers are in all the tents.
I had heard about how good Ishasha Wilderness Camp’s food was, and the reviews didn’t lie. All the meals we had, every taste was sumptuous and the portions were enough to keep an active team of four bushmen energized. There was something about the bread in particular that kept me digging in; yea the bread is really yummy, you can’t be bashful around here, hahaha.
The tour guides offer brilliant wildlife guiding, the staff are excellent and welcoming and I personally think some of its greatest highlights are the bush breakfasts and sundowners; my special recommendation for anybody visiting.
Look out for a resident tribe of Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys or the buffaloes that love to share the grounds with guests.
It was my first time here, but the lodge impressed this ‘safari boy’ in such a short time. I can’t wait to be back there very soon…