Travel: Aramaga Lodge in Fort Portal Launches with Accommodation Pods, the First in Uganda

One of the accommodation pods at Aramaga Rift Valley Lodge. (Courtesy photos)

A new exquisite accommodation facility in Kabarole district has opened its doors to travelers and it seeks to satisfy their wanderlust, boasting of the first of a kind residential pods.

Photos of the beautiful Aramaga Rift Valley Lodge in western Uganda, have been making rounds on social media and attracting good reviews.

Aramaga Rift Valley lodge is located 10 km (6.2 miles) west of Fort Portal and it overlooks Africa’s spectacular Great Rift Valley and the popular Semuliki Wildlife Reserve. 

It’s co-owned by Hashim, a Ugandan entrepreneur and an American business partner.

To the north of the lodge, you can see all the way to the Congo’s Blue Mountains and even the outline of Lake Albert and with close proximity to Kibaale National Park and Chimp Tracking.

But it is their unique accommodation facilities – pods – that will stand out for the guests looking to spend a night there.

Pod lodges are accommodation units with an internal WC (water closet), shower, small kitchen and dining area with more floor space. Pod lodges are a new concept in sleeping accommodation – essentially they fill the much-needed gap between where a camping pod ends and a large two or three bedroom lodge starts. You can call them mini lodges.

Aramaga lodge has 6 of these pods.

Julia Michalowsky, the Lodge Manager and Marketing Lead at Aramaga told SoftPower News that the concept of the pods was based on the need to ensure the guest satisfies their viewing experience. 

“One of our selling points is the view around the lodge. That’s why the pods have big windows. They also allow the guest see the whole Milky Way (the large spiral system that consists of the numerous stars seen in the night sky)”. 

“The pods are based on the space view. There are 6 pods named after the stars in the galaxy,” Michalowsky said.

The pods were designed to take advantage of the breathtaking views and the natural curves of the landscape to create exclusive and highly-personal experiences with a relaxed approach to luxury. 

She said each pod has a French double bed, a wardrobe, table and a bath tab which is build at the centre of the pod.

The lodge says the pods reimagine luxury in small spaces as could be in a space shuttle with a reasonably sized bed, sitting area, green roofs with roof top cold/hot tub “Jacuzzi” experience that gives one the whole sky and spectacular valley and mountain views.

Aramaga was initially set to open in April but Michalowsky says the Covid pandemic interrupted this timeline.

“We finished construction in April but that’s when there was extreme lockdown. So we used the time to do some tweaks, final paintings to ensure everything is perfect,” the Manager said.

Domestic tourism

The Lodge Manager says the travel restrictions mean that they cannot get international travelers at the moment and as such, they will be targeting the local market in the interim.

“We are seeing a lot of interest from people in Kampala who have seen the photos. More than we expected. And some people are already beginning to have trips from Kampala to Fort Portal”.

She says this lockdown period will allow the lodge to open to small numbers and help them assess their service performance before international flights can reopen. The human resource will have an opportunity to ascertain which areas they can improve and gauge customer feedback. 

A guest will have to spend $300 per night (full board) at Aramaga lodge. But there’s currently a July offer at $200 per night. This covers transportation from Fort Portal town to the lodge. The lodge also arranges transportation for guests seeking to tour Kibaale and Queen Elizabeth parks or hiking Rwenzori. 

At full capacity, the lodge can only take 14 guests. However, as it opens, it is limiting bookings to 10 guests (at any one time).

There has been a long standing debate on luxury accommodation facilities in Uganda setting prices that often times discourage Ugandan travelers. While some say this undermines the efforts to promote domestic tourism, the private sector says the prices are driven by the cost of investment and operation.

Michalowsky says their lodge targets both domestic and international travelers.

“Our biggest selling point is exclusivity. Having only 10 guests allows us to guarantee the quiet they need. There will be no guests that just come in for a soda or meal. In peak time, say Christmas, we can then increase the number to 14”.

As an opening offer, the lodge will give day passes for those seeking to stop by to enjoy a lunch or swimming in the pool.

“When the place is swamped by people, then you’ll have pool parties, loud music and people who are drinking quite a lot. We try to avoid this by having a small number”.

She explains that the $300 is also based on the exceptional service that every guest gets. Each guest will have a dedicated staffer to attend to them in their pods.

“Also, the lodge is largely constructed using timber which means there was a lot of operational costs involved”.

Soon, the lodge will also have yoga sessions, 3-day retreats as well as guided community/nature walks, and hikes.

She says anyone looking to visit Aramaga should expect a quiet stay and healthy food that’s sourced locally from farmers in the area and delivered to the lodge fresh.

The lodge is designed for sustainability. From solar energy to green roof technology, every aspect of the lodge was carefully constructed to protect the environment and harmonize with the natural landscape. 

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