Having decided to have a full Eastern Uganda retreat, I set about deciding where I wanted to stay. Mbale Resort hotel in the slopes of Mt. Elgon was calling, well on the outskirts of Bugisu region it seemed like an obvious choice for a number of reasons. Find out below what we thought.
Of course the holidays for children are getting closer to the end and am one of the most optimistic parents to see them go back. Am a traveler and then think about noise around you, breaking glasses at home, writing on cars. You know better than me. Am talking to seniors in parenting. Am a single parent so where you stop is where I start from.
So what comes to my mind is my next holiday and really needed a place where I will hike more, eat more, sleep more and kick out the stress I have been through the whole month. You know what I mean. On my mind is the Eastern Uganda circuit and what comes to me is Mbale Resort Hotel. I always mind much on the price but whatever the case Comfort also comes handy. So when I read their slogan “The Natural Comfort” all my nightmares were solved.
Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | Your Natural Comfort in Eastern Uganda
Established in 2002, Mbale Resort Hotel is berthed in the tranquil town of Mbale on the slopes of Mt. Elgon National Park. It’s a private run business which was the realization of a dream that started long time ago combining touristic and urban life facility in the whole of Eastern Uganda circuit. The unique elegant facility is the first of its kind and the only five star rated Hotel in the whole of Eastern Uganda.
While looking at Mbale Resort trip advisor review page i could tell this is metaphorically what I have been yearning for. What a coincidence? I go hike Elgon and come back to the hotel with ease, go to Sipi Falls Uganda in 20 minutes or less am back at the hotel. That sounds good already. I came up with my 6 days itinerary of adrenaline rush adventure without my usual habits of meeting locals and we dance.
Ohhh yes do you remember Mbale is home to Bamasababa who have the strongest initiation cultural event in the whole of Uganda? Its in high gear and now I can’t miss. I hope they don’t do that to me unwillingly. Am from the West of Uganda where everyone does it willingly but here it’s by force. Lol
The Road To Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | Your Natural Comfort
It’s just a short 10 minute drive from Mbale Town the centre of Bugisu and close to five hours of average speed from Kampala to Mbale town. To be honest there are so many obstructions from Kampala to Mbale. It’s a route that’s has many street food stop overs like Namawojolo inside Mabira Forest, the source of the Nile and much more that are always yearning for you to stop.
It’s also a major route to Kenya so expect many trucks and buses on the road. Without forgetting stressing endless “STOP POLICE CHECK” points. These one agrrrrrrrr I don’t recount how many they are. Everyone knows the performance of a Toyota Harrier 3000 CC. So to be brief I was skipping some towns like a drone. But stopped a million times too. Don’t try that.
Accommodation at Mbale Resort Hotel
Time check 15:30 GMT and am received by fresh enchanting environment in the slopes of Wanale Mountain and in the middle of nature at its best. Mbale resort has for the last 16 years developed from a small sized hotel resort of 19 rooms in the old wing to a whooping 93 rooms after adding 74 rooms in.
But I wondered from the reviews how they have made a leap from the few rooms they had. The baby of all is the biggest or call it the newest complex that houses 2 restaurants, two conference rooms, bars, a mega reception and a tune of 70 plus luxury rooms that include 3 luxury suites. My suite had an almost 360 degrees round bed, wide sitting room, balcony and balcony to enable me have a clear view of the Elgon ranges in the south.
And now forget about that other story and I begin the Mbale story now. It was my first time to have a bed that has music in it. Okay! It was my first time to have a shower singing for me. Okay ! It was my first time to have a shower that does massage for you, has various taps, one for the ear, another one for legs, another one for the stomach and another one and another one. Basically each part of the body has its own tap in Mbale resort shower for the Suite. Call me a village man or whatever I don’t care but I have never been in a shower bathtub that massages and soothes me . Okay. Period! It’s a story I will live to tell my grand and grand for good. If you disagree the pack your bags now and go then ask for an executive Business suite. You will come back with a different version of the story like politicians of these days. Of course they have other suites like the Genius suite under executive B and Presidential Suite. I slept in one these hahaha but I lived all my life in Mbale and now living a bonus. Put jokes aside.
The Facilities at Mbale Resort Hotel
Mbale Resort Hotel has a modern state of the art gym and sauna for in-house guests. To my surprise they even allow Mbale residents to enjoy the facility at the most affordable price. For residents its part of the package but for outsiders you have to part with a small budget to enter.
The things i loved were the playground, the swimming pool, and the large safe grounds to run around for some of you who have kids.
Within minutes of us arriving at Mbale Resort Hotel I could feel the awe of freshness in Mt. Elgon ranges on this lower side of Wanale Mountain.
Food at Mbale Resort Hotel
Am a fan of food. From street food to posh and luxury restaurants. But I was blown off by one item I found on Mbale resort menu. Its called smoked bamboo shoots. Did you know bamboo shoots are eaten? At first I thought they are just teasing me or some comedy somewhere. Until I hit the kitchen and saw them bring real bamboo. OMG!!! Never in life and never in a five star luxury hotel resort like Mbale Resort Hotel. What a hell!! I said it and I mean it. To go on the menu expecting chicken and pizza and then find these wild plants my granny has been cutting in our backyard for manure and goats to feed on. And now you tell me it’s a high end meal in a five star hotel?
It’s still hard for me to believe and feel like going back to eat those bamboo shoots. Seems they come from another type not the ones we have at our backyard. Buffets and breakfasts are not only good but a must do for everyone. Don’t remember to have a taste of Bamboo shoots. Sounds funny ,yes but it’s true!!
Adventure while at Mbale Resort Hotel
Being at the centre of Bugisu region is so far the most reason that made me book there. I LOVED it. Sleeping and waking up to such incredible fable mountains of Wanale was such a lovely experience and set off my 6 days trip to Mbale in an incredible way. I will share with you some of the places you should never miss especially if you are visiting Mbale for the first time you may want to explore other places of historical interest around the Bugisu, sub region
Gangama hill is to the West of Mbale Town. It is where the late Semei Kakungulu, the veteran Buganda imperialist chief of the 1890’s established his residence in 1917. Astonishing, his residencestill stands.
The British were intent on reducing his powers after he fell out with them. Kakungulu apparently wanted the British to allow him rule and become King of Bukedi and Busoga.
The British took exception, instead using civil servants to govern the above areas.
Bugisu then was part of Bukedi region.
After his death in 1928, Kakungulu was laid to rest in a mausoleum. To all appearances, the Mausoleum looks far much better than his old residence, which currently is occupied by his great great grand children.
Kakungulu’s huge grave inside the mausoleum is a marvel in itself. The grave has the Star of David engraved on it, perhaps a testament to his inclination towards Judaism.
“Kakungulu’s inclination towards Judaism was so strong that in the years following 1917, he started the separatist Kibiina bya Abayudaya or Jewish community in this very place. In the subsequent years, he also wrote and published his 90 page Bayudaya book of rules and prayers,” Explains site caretaker Kakungulu Nambali.
On his grave too is a small basket placed conveniently for visitors who wish to leave a token.
There are 3 spears firmly placed in the ground just in front of the grave, perhaps pointing to his militaristic past.
Just outside the mausoleum, there are a myriad of graves, all belonging to Kakungulu’s kinfolk.
“Contrary to what historians or what other people may say, Kakungulu was given this grant of land on Gangama hill in recognition of his services to the protectorate government. Kakungulu and his 5,500 followers built their first houses not only on Gangama hill but around the surrounding villages. It is from this hill that Kakungulu led his operations against revolting Gisu clans like the Bawalasi and Bafumbo to the north of Bugisu. It was also a tactical center for conquest operations in areas south of Bugisu like Busoba, Bubulo, Bubuda and Magale,” Nambali says.
Gangama hill top is accessible whether you are driving or riding on a boda boda. A car or a boda boda can ably reach the hill top whether you are coming from Mbale town or whether you are passing through Nabweya village.
From town, it will take you roughly 20 minutes to reach the hill apex.
MPUMUDE FORT, NABUMALI
Mpumude is a place closely associated with Kakungulu as well. Kakungulu apparently decided to build a fort at Mpumude, Nabumali to act as his resting place, hence the Luganda name, Mpumude, which in English translates to, I have rested.
“It is from Mpumude that Kakungulu conducted forays into the mountainous far flung areas of south Bugisu like Busoba, Bubulo, Magale and Bududa. He created Bubulo County in 1901 whilst he was here. He however encountered resistance in Bududa. The British however helped him quell the rebellion. Kakungulu later on planted all the Eucalyptus trees from Nabumali corner to Nyondo to Khatwelatwela as you head up to Busano. He also planted many of them in present day senior quarters in Mbale town,” Nambali says.
Though vestiges of the fort have slowly dwindled through the years, therein still lies a small mold of soil from one side of the fort’s wall that in a way preserves the place’s legacy.
What remains of Semei Kakungulu’s fort at Mpumude Nabumali behind are the molds of soil left from the fort’s walls.
Possibly as a measure to further conserve the place’s legacy, a memory stone was erected just in front of what remains of the fort in 2001 by the then arch Bishop of the Church of Uganda, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo.
As it seems however, Mpumude is at a risk. Somebody needs to rein in on the locals who are still using the site for subsistence farming. In my reckoning, what remains of the fort will soon be destroyed if nothing is done.
Mpumude is also where an entourage from the church missionary society rested after their Gospel preaching expeditions in South Bugisu.
They built a Protestant church here, on top of a heap of rocks. The church still stands.
LUKONGO LWA WANALE OR MOUNT WANALE
Kakungulu had called this Mount Nkonkojeru. Bamasaba elders then however took exception and renamed it after one of Masaba’s sons.
Masaba is the eponymous ancestor from which the Bagisu claim descent. “Masaba had 3 three sons, Mwambu, Mubuya and Wanale. The elders resolved to rename the mountain after Wanale, the ancestor of all Bamasaba living in central Bugisu,” explains local historian Peter Wangota.
Mountain Wanale is the most westward extension of Mount Elgon or mount Masaba. Standing at a height of 6,864 ft, its precipitous cliffs dominate the landscape of Central Bugisu. Wanale’s cascading waterfalls are a sight to behold.
Namatsyo water falls for example, fall two miles down from the mountain top and submerges into rocky tunnels deep. The waterfall disappears down in the rocks under. The water reemerges and hits the surface from its underground pathway in villages like Bumboi and Mooni, just near Mbale town.
On the mountain top, one can have a commanding view over the western plains, reaching as far as Lake Kyoga, 50 meters away.
On the mountain top, you will also have a nice panoramic view of the metropolis of Mbale and the homesteads below stretching down the hillsides, out into the valleys and across the irregular countryside of the lower foothills and plains.
To get to Wanale with a special hire car or a personal car, brace yourself for a 30-40 minute road ride.
Take a left turn road after the Mbale high court and follow the road that goes down to Busamaga.
On reaching Busamaga Primary School, take a right turn and follow Bumboi road.
Follow Bumboi road, until you reach the mountain top.
MOUNT MASABA/ MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Just a few miles drive north of Mbale town, and straddling the Uganda Kenya border, lies the fascinating and magnificent scenery of Mount Masaba (Elgon) national park.
Elevated to a park in 1993, this place has many attractions. As you make the rounds on your expedition, you will bear witness to some unique flora and fauna (plants and animals) and some hot springs bubbling up to 480 degrees centigrade.
As you read your way further, you can view the highest point on the mountain’s ranges (Wagagai). It apparently goes as high as 8000ft. Wagagai is the second highest peak in Uganda.
For you the first time traveler, I advise you seek help first from the Park’s information office, just before Fairway Primary school in Mbale’s senior quarters, before you embark on your expedition. They will advise on what designated routes are suitable for you.
The Sasa trail which begins from Budadiri town and leads up to a large crater on the mountain top, is easily the most easily accessible and direct route for those seeking a worthwhile sightseeing trip.
The trail crosses the park’s largest area of the bamboo forest and passes the fabulous Jackson’s pool, on the way to wagagai peak.
Along the way, you will stand a treat of the beautiful lush montane forest, tacazze sunbird, the mountain’s awesome gorges, small crater lakes, fascinating heath and moorland hyrachs. The moorland hyrachs contain some of the most endemic plant species, unique to Africa like the giant phillipea excelsia.
If you choose to use the Piswa trail, you will be a witness to a variety of the park’s rare wildlife species. To wit-monkeys, buffalos, antelopes, duiker, elephants, defassa’s water bucks, leopards and spotted hyenas.
Reports from the park’s information office, however show that most of the above species, as is the case with creatures, in other forest environments, are far to seek.
If you come during the drier seasons, chances of catching a glimpse of some of the above animals are minimal. Milder seasons like June and August are the best time to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of some of the park’s animals.
While at Mbale resort hotel I spent most of my afternoons chasing community activities and seeing the way people live in society. Bamasaba have the strongest culture in the whole of Bugisu sub region in Uganda. Remember this is the place that has the most cruel male circumcision method of initiating their young males into adulthood. The same region is known for female genital mutilation although am not sure if the latter still exists. Kadodi is a word used to describe the cultural dance within Bamasaba.Its a dance that is used in a cultural ceremony of imbalu (Male circumcision) while initiating them as adults in society. Its more like chest and legs shaking for men and then waist and bums shaking for women. Trust me the fun you get out of the dance will leave you with unequalled memories of a lifetime about Mbale.
MINGLING WITH LOCALS ON A MARWA POT
Its 17:50 GMT and am told there is a warm feeling somewhere. My guide decided to lead me to a place near Soroti Sironko junction. From the look of things my guide didn’t have a good idea of which bar was lit at the moment. As we popped in the mean looking bars, life seemed to be boring here. My guide opted we change to a new location that was even much better. This time we were luckier and found a good spot. A pot of Malwa costs around 10,000 Ugandan shillings and before you push in your almost half a mile straw you must buy one pot or assure them that when theirs gets finished you are adding more or not taking off. Just like a local East African rhythm song from Bebecool and Sauti soul Embozi Zamalwa says, I have never heard the best stories more than the ones I heard that very evening. Ugandans are known to be the most friendly people in the whole world but this very day I endorsed the saying. Anybody who came close to us could tell we have been friends with these people for more than decades at minimal.
SERVICE AT MBALE RESORT HOTEL
Joseph Ndunda the man in the picture is an exceptional man of all times. I have never seen a general manager who keeps leaving the comfort of his office and keeps checking on his guests. The first time I met him on the reception lobby I saw a young man with a charming smile and inside me my soul was singing Haleluyah you are in the right place. At first I thought he was either supervisor who has no particular shift because he was there all the time. Being a Vlogger who wanted to know the magic of the man or woman behind the incomparable service, I was led to a general manager’s office by one Dickson and to my surprise I found the same man I have been meeting in all corners and corridors talking to sweepers, chefs and security guards.
The man of Kenyan origin says he has a vast experience for more than 23 years in the tourism industry as a senior manager of big Hotel Brands across the region and on International scene.
Catch up with my interview with Mr. Joseph Ndunda the G.M of Mbale Resort hotel here: Travel with Darius TV meets GM Mbale Resort Hotel.
Mbale resort has the best room service I have got on my motherland. Wait don’t worry about your car. Just go, roll the car and get it much dirty as you want and then they will wash it for you every time you come back to the hotel yard. Okay. To be sincere it was my first time to see my car looking brand new, forget about banana peels I normally forget on the carpets when am on road trips.
Do you want to be at Mbale resort hotel for imbalu festival? If yes, I will tell you briefly about this cultural norm as told by locals
As Bagisu boys grow, they are told by their parents, peers and other influential community members that they will have to pay a cultural debt.
“Bamasaba become men through Masaba’s spirit or what we refer to in the Lumasaba language as “Kumusambwa Kwe Masaba”. Bamasaba boys are expected to execute Masaba’s covenant by losing blood to the land, Masaba gave his children. Imbalu is one way in which Bamasaba express pride in their ancestry and its distinctiveness,” Poi Khaukha, a clan elder in Bungokho explains.
In the past, the Bamasaba took exception to any ethnic labels as a form of identification, preferring instead to be identified by the more honorific term-Basani or men
Our story will continue after Imbalu festival this July to August. Start packing your bags and w meet at Mbale Resort Hotel. Its one of the luxury experiences locals and foreigners can get in Uganda.
I was facilitated for my stay at Mbale Resort Hotel Limited and Entrance to Mt. Elgon National park by Mbale Resort Hotel Limited and Uganda Wildlife Authority BUT all opinions expressed here are mine as the author of Travel With Darius TV Documentaries, Vlogs and Blog.
Am a travel enthusiast, a destination guide, content generator and lover of positive vibes. Let me tell you how i started all this while i was doing what i love most – Travelling. I have been to 4 continents across the globe and 46 countries collecting unique stories, photos and videos and delivering them to you in original. I have a target of covering the whole world of over 197 countries before i retire to my home town.
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