ECO TOURISM: Sitting on 17 acres of land off Entebbe Road, Roots Retreat is an ideal place to return to nature
It took me about 20 minutes on a winding single-lane road off Entebbe-Kampala highway, to get to the resort.
Though still under construction, this neatly tucked away camp that is spread over 17 acres in Sisa Lumuli, is a virgin ecotourism hub and private events venue, as well home to a dazzling array of flora and fauna.
The main lounge, complete with satellite television, a fully stocked bar and dining room welcomes you to the site that also boasts of four bandas (cottages) and five very comfortable executive tents. The bandas are self-contained, complete with hydro-electricity and will cost you about $50 (Shs130,000) per night. The tents go for $30 (Shs78,000).
One of the walls in the lounge is lined up with photographs of famous actors including Forest Whitaker and Whoopi Goldberg with the proprietor, Sam Okello Kelo. African art and crafts are conspicuously placed all over the establishment.
“This is Whitaker with my cousin and I when he visited Hope North. And this is me and Whoopi at her birthday party somewhere in Los Angeles. This is Barbara Bush, former first daughter,” he will proudly tell you about his ‘wall of fame’.
Hope North is another of Okello Kelo’s establishments in northern Uganda and has been visited by among others Ms Bush and Mr Whitaker.
Back at Roots Retreat and Camping Resort, the food is grown on the camp. This, according to Okello Kelo, who prepared the Cajun blackened fish and Irish potatoes on the day I was there, will give a customer fresh taste. Chicken and fish served with fries, boiled Irish, deserts, soups, soft and hard drinks are all part of the extensive menu.
In fact, a hen pen with over 80 local chicken and kroilers sits on one end of the camp, next to five fish ponds, a vegetable patch and irish potato garden.
According to Okello, in the future, clients will have the luxury of choosing the chicken they want slaughtered or get an opportunity of catching their own fish. The meal will then be served to you around one of the several bon fire pits, lovers’ park, the main lounge that overlooks a forest or the well-tended compound.
One of our highlights though was the guided tour offered by the friendly and welcoming staff. For bird watchers, this is an ideal place to visit. As we walked through the forest that covers three quarters of the camp with Ronnie, our guide, we encountered several bird species as well as monkeys. The pathways through the forest are lit by solar powered bulbs.
Some of the guests sat in the lawn area near a giant wooden stage, watching Mizizi Ensemble, a cultural dance troupe perform traditional dances like entogoro and amagunju, as they enjoyed the afternoon sun. Others played board games like scrabble, chess and draughts while a young couple outplayed each other in a game of badminton.
An elderly man swayed in a hammock hanging between trees. A children’s play area is under construction.
The staff, including, Cissy and Mary, were professional and helpful and treated every client like kings. The service is bound to get even better as the official opening draws closer. Because of its proximity to Kampala and Entebbe, Roots Retreat is an ideal place for a family reunion or office get together.