Gorilla Forest Camp (GFC).
If you go to Uganda.
If you go see the gorillas.
If you can afford it.
You won’t be sorry.
Gorilla Forest Camp is a luxury tented camp located actually inside Bwindi Impenitrable Forest. There are 8 luxury tents, but don’t be fooled by the world ‘tent’. These tents are bigger than some studio apartments I’ve seen. Very roomy with two double beds, plus a lot of walking around room. In front there’s a porch with a table, and you are completely surrounded by foliage, although in some cases not more than a foot or two deep. Attached to the back of the tent, but not enclosed from the open air elements (ie: cold or bugs) is a bathroom that has a sink area, a shower, a toilet and a separate room for the bathtub (described in an earlier post).
In addition to the usual maid service (and free laundry!) they turn down your bed at night and put a hot water bottle in your bed and spray some kind of perfume or scent in your room (very light and nice, not noxious). They also provide you with umbrellas to walk do and fron the dining area.
The food is top notch by US standards, which means it is off the charts by Ugandan standards (sorry, but Uganda is not a place to go for fine dining). The first night we had Chicken Escarole (alernate choice vegetable tart) with an appetizer of baked zuchinni and cheese, mushroom soup, and a bread-and-butter pudding for dessert (which I didn’t like, but not because it was bad, that’s just me). Second night was beef (alternate choice fish) with baked mixed vegetables and onion soup, plus apple strudel for dessert. It was fabulous. Breakfast was more run-of-the-mill, but still good. I never had lunch there, so can’t comment on that.
The dining and lounge area are in the center and they have a little bonfire pit set up if it isn’t raining (which it usually is).
But even moreso than the tangibles were the impeccible customer service of the whole staff. At one point I had left my camera in the car after the Gorilla Trek. The car was not MY car, but a car of another group (fortunately the same tour group as mine) but because there is no cell phone coverage there was no way to ‘call around’ to find the car. But, they sent out not one, but two, different people to hunt down either my driver or the driver of that van so I could get my camera back.
Also, although they offer free laundry they were up-front with me saying their dryer was broken so the could not guarantee the clothes would be dry by when I left. I was fine with this since they were honest about it. Sure enough when I was packing to leave the next morning the clothes were still damp, but the woman manager there, Doreen, said that the dryer had been fixed and they should have used the generator for it. Since I had a half hour before leaving she asked if she could run the clothes in the dryer for that last half hour so the clothes would be as dry as possible. I wasn’t in the least upset that they were still wet as they had told me to expect it, but she still wanted to make sure I had the best possible service!
GFC is NOT cheap. By Ugandas standard, let’s just say I knew some NGO volunteers who paid less for a month’s rent than was one night here. It is about the same as the Sheraton in Kampala (also top notch from appearances, but I didn’t stay there so can’t really comment). But, if you can cough up a few, or several, hundred dollars for a night’s luxury in Uganda, this is the place to spend it!
Now, not that GFC has any control over this, but it happens I met THE nicest people there. My first night I happened to come into the lounge and met up with 3 people who we did the usual “where are you from” and as I said “US” and they said “where” “California” “where” “Los Angeles” “where” (at this where you know they are also from LA) and I said “Santa Monica” they said “Sherman Oaks”. There were two men, one is an actor I recognize but can’t place the name (will devote some IMDB time when I get back) and the other a semi-retired entertainment executive. Also with them was the exec’s new wife who I speculate was 15 year’s younger than him, but given some later conversations, it is more like 10 year (she was older than she looked — imagine that in LA!).
They were traveling in a group of 9 on a super-posh 10 day safari (the kind that flys you around and your guide is another posh white guy from South Africa). As their group grew larger, I ended up talking with more of them including the doctor from Pasadena and the woman from Connecticut who had done a tour of the Dordogne region of France with Ian Tattersall from the American Museum of Natural History. I had done a similar route (on my own, about 10 years ago) and I also had worked at AMNH and had met Ian a few times. We discussed many of the caves I hadn’t thought about in ages, plus several of Ian’s interesting personality habits. They invited me to view their slideshow, but as this was their last night together (and slide shows are generally not interesting to those except who were on it), I declined. But I really, really enjoyed talking with the whole group of them for the evening.
The next morning was gorilla trekking and in my group was a gay italian couple of who were staying at GFC. They both spoke excellent English and in fact one of them, a professor, will be coming to Princeton to deliver a lecture this fall. We had a wonderful evening talking about the many places they have travelled. Egypt (not Cairo but the Nile River Valley) happens to be one of the professors favorite places of all, so we spent a lot of time talking about that, since I’m going there next.
Sitting at the table next to us was another Italian couple but I didn’t pay much attention to them. After the left, the three of us gathered close as the professor said he was a famous Italian world cup soccer star named Paulo Rossi (sp?). He said he was a bit like the David Beckham of the 80s in Italy. I then asked if the woman with him was his wife or girlfriend. They said they didn’t know but prbably wife, as Uganda is not exactly the place you bring a mistress. Unfortunately, what we didn’t know was that they hadn’t actually left the building, they had just moved from the restaurant to the lounge! Fortunately, I don’t think they heard us.