With a wooden walking stick in his right hand and walkie-talkie in his buggy trouser, former career diplomat Ibrahim Mukiibi, still guides visitors around what he proudly calls his retirement package, a serene resort in Mukono District, he named Serenada Eco Resort.
He offers to explain that Serenada means serenity. According to Mukiibi, la serenade, means music for lovers, in Spanish.
“I love tranquillity and this name resonates well with what I and my wife believe in,” Mukiibi said.
The former minister of Internal Affairs in the Museveni cabinet, runs a truly natural resort sitting on an estimated 18 acres at the shores of Lake Victoria. By using the boat ride, it is a 25-minute trip from Ggaba. The optional route to Serenada is a 65km road trip via Mukono.
Born May 5, 1945, Mukiibi was a powerful minister throughout the early 1990s before he was deployed as an ambassador and later a presidential adviser before he retired six years ago.
Mukiibi served as minister of Foreign Affairs between 1986 until 1989 when Paul Ssemogerere took over. From that time until 1994, he was minister of Internal Affairs.
President Museveni dropped him from Cabinet and subsequently appointed him Ugandan ambassador to Scandinavian countries.
His impact in the Nordic countries have to-date earned him the role of chairman of the Swedish Uganda Business Association.
In 2002, Mukiibi was transferred to Ukraine before moving to Egypt a year later. In the 2005, President Museveni moved him to Saudi Arabia before posting him to Tanzania in 2006 until his retirement 2012.
When he returned to Uganda, he served as a retained senior presidential adviser alongside Francis Butagira.
“Diplomatic relations expose you to many things and I loved every bit of my appointments. Much as it has its own hazards, it is a worthwhile experience,” Mukiibi says.
He is now identified as an hotelier. Their retirement business, Serenada Eco Resort, is a cool holiday destination with luxury tents, canoeing experience, a restaurant that serves grilled chicken and has a bar.
“The only exception here is that we do not allow parties with loud music. We welcome people who love and cherish serenity,” says Mukiibi.
This privately owned resort sits between the shores of Lake Victoria and a tropical forest in Kyaggwe, Mukono District acquired during the real estate rush of the 1980s.
Whereas most of the rich people at the time acquired properties in Kampala, Mukiibi and his wife, Harriet, also a former long-serving employee at the ministry of internal affairs, acquired a lakeshore property from one of his in-laws in Butere which they have conserved for more than three decades.
But it was not until 2012 after his retirement when the couple embarked on establishing their dream retirement package.
“As a career diplomat, I was exposed to many cultures and what impressed me most was retiring in a serene environment where I could live with nature,” Mukiibi said in an interview.
“Having been born and raised in a rural setting, I realised that I loved nature and conserving it became my new commitment,” Mukiibi explained.
His dream now is to turn Serenada Eco Resort into a dream retreat destination for people who love nature and serenity.
Despite the forest remaining in its pristine condition, Mukiibi still encourages visitors to leave a footprint of their visitors by planting an indigenous tree for Shs5,000. And there is more to trees at the paradise.
“Nature is what makes us. Humans will struggle living when nature is destroyed. It forms a big part of our lives. The natural world around us offers food, water, medicine as well as natural cycles like climate.”
True to its mission, at Serenada, the facilities are intended to have a minimal impact on the local environment and true to its mission, a lot of steps are taken to reduce its carbon footprint.
In 2003, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) awarded Mukiibi, as the best investment promoter of the year for attracting investment worth $131.9m. Mukiibi had attracted African Development Incorporation Uganda Limited to improve the country’s tourism sector.
Last year, their activities were recognised at the Ekkula Pearl of Africa Tourism Awards as the best eco safari lodge in Uganda.
The business though is not a walk in the park. During my one-day stay, a floating island invaded Serenada and it took effort of more than 30 minutes to redirect it. “Those floating islands are becoming numerous because of several people that are misusing the lake shores,” he explained. “There are people who are reclaiming the lake and they continue cutting away part of the papyrus near them,” he added.
The recent rise of the lake has not spared them either. The place meant to be the landing site has more than 20 feet under water with some of the tents that had been put on the sand deserted. The pier is redundant too.
“We do not know how long it will take for the water to recede but even our gardens have been flooded. We are now looking at an alternative place,” he said.
Yet he says hospitality is a good business for retired people as it brings with it little pressures of daily hustle. Mukiibi says that with Uganda among the fastest growing destinations for leisure travel spending, it is wise to invest in hospitality.
A 2016-2026 forecast indicated that Uganda is growing at 7.4 per cent behind Angola (7.6) and India (7.8).