What you need to know:
- When the winds are strong, it feels like the house is drifting. You wonder what may happen next if the tree gave way. The thrill lies in sleeping in a house with a tree stem next to you in the bedroom.
Sleeping in the tree house is an adventure that will take you closer to the skies, interact with the calming allure of nature as you listen to the beautiful conversations of flora and fauna.
Nestled in Mukono District is where we got to exprience Margherita Hanging Cottage, probably the highest hanging house in Uganda. Standing at six metres high and the roof at 24 metres, Margherita is indeed an icon.
The tree house is very spacious standing on a raised platform with a panoramic view of the forest and cottages. According to the owners, it is named after Margherita, because it is the highest hanging tree house in Uganda. There are other tree houses in Uganda; the Murchison Tree House of Murchison Falls National Park and Agandi in Bwindi.
A night in the tree house is an enthralling moment any adventurous person should not miss. I have now added the tree house accommodation to my experience as a lover of the wild.
While in Mukono, all you will complain about is the punishing traffic jam. But there is a treasure at Chakig Eco Tourism Centre in Nakoosi a few minutes away off Jinja Road -- the hanging tree top house.
It is something I would recommend for a small family vacation, honeymoon or for intimate moments. It is a two-in-one experience. It is something adventurous and thrilling. When the winds are strong, you feel like the house is drifting. If you are not used to it, you wonder what could happen next if the tree gave away.
The thrill lies in sleeping in a completely new environment with a tree stem next to you in the bedroom. The stem protrudes at the foot of your bed giving you a memorable experience.
The treehouse lies along a monkey trail. Every evening, around 4pm, a troop of monkeys pass on top of the tree house on their way from the forest in search for fruits. If you love the monkeys or if you are a birder, this is an up and close thrill. You will have the animals coming to you and not vice versa.
At the time of my visit, it was fruiting time for the musizi. The monkeys and birds alike, were in clear view just over the head. If you have carried food, you have got to keep it away as monkeys are very invasive.
You cannot miss the high-pitched crescendo of cicadas, commonly known as enyanyagize in Luganda while nesting yourself in the tree house. For those that grew up in the rural villages, your parents perhaps told you that eating cicadas stops bedwetting.
Mind you, Chakig is among the last of the forest paradises in Mukono with more than 500 bird species. It is a birder’s paradise. You will hear soothing birdsongs, which many appreciated more than ever during the Covid-19 lockdowns. I am not a keen birder, but the birds in the nearby trees present fine acoustic melodies. The only disturbance for the melodies of parental care, mate attraction or predator warning, is the chatter from the nearby factories. That, coupled with a healing gentle rustling swishing sound of the tree leaves, takes away your troubles.
But do not forget that you are sleeping in nature. The forest in Nakoosi has even what guides call the Snake Well. Some of these reptiles love hunting in well-connected canopies for food. The eco-friendly space does not promote the killing of snakes, among other animals, but safeguard your stay with regular spraying of repellants.
What to expect
When someone travels, they expect to find something new that will create a memorable stay. At the tree house, you are able to cook the food you love. All the utensils are provided. The other option is to eat from the restaurant. But there is more to the food.
Taima says given the fact that there are clients that initially wanted to book into the cottages but ended up in the tree house, there is something magical about it. The magic is complemented with unique services.
“To most of them, it is about trying out something new,” he says.
The thought of parting with Shs400,000 a night may be out of reach for some budgets, but that is before the package is unwrapped. Taima says the customer experience offers the best of their getaway.
“It is a private space that is out of bounds for anyone,” he says. The tree top paradise house comes with amenities such as a swimming pool, bathtub, spacious work space, a kitchen, living room, intercom, a terrace, outdoor wide cinema, balcony, free wireless internet, dimmer lights, mini bar, DSTV and access to two bathrooms,” she says.
I personally loved the window view of the sunrise in Nakoosi. It is immersive.
The Margherita Hanging Cottage is a creation of Innocent Taima, a bicycle tourist and IT expert, who is also a practicing carpenter. In February 2021, 29-year-old Taima and his dog (which later succumbed to an infection on the tour) set out to visit all the 10 National Parks in Uganda in 90 days. Covering 2,740km across 93 districts, he was offered accommodation at tourist lodges and hotels. That is how he ended up at Chakig on his way to Sezibwa falls.
“I wanted to sleep in a tree house one day. As I was completing my tour in 2021, I was invited to stay at Chakig and after taking a tour around, I introduced the idea of a tree house to the proprietors, Paul Koorinako and his partner Bernard Rugambwa.
“My initial idea was to have a bicycle canopy trail in the forest, where people can ride around with a panoramic view of the forest. But when Koorinako introduced the idea of a tree house, it was a quick decision to make,” he says.
They identified a 45-year-old Musizi tree near the camping site for the construction of the house. Chakig has a 14-acre forest with numerous trees. But Taima explains that security could not be guaranteed in the forest.
“We found out that the tree was very ideal because in our assessment it had an established root system reaching more than five metres. We were convinced it could handle the weight effectively. At the time the estimated weight was two tonnes,” Taima says.
The initial plan was to have a bedroom, but later found out that a mini swimming pool and the upper bedroom was necessary.
The target group initially was for couples but the founders realised that families would love it and they later introduced the swimming pool and the upper bedroom for the children.
Even with the added weight, he says they are still in the weight limit of two tonnes they had planned.
Right from the stairs, the tree top hanging house is eco-friendly. About 95 per cent of the materials on the house are treated wood sourced from local business Busoga forest Company in Seeta.
It is roofed with grass obtained from Buvuma Islands. Monkeys love playing on the grass and you can only imagine if it were iron-roofed. The house has power efficient lighting. Inside the bedrooms are dimmer lights while outside are motion detector lights.
When you are booked, you are given a card that controls the door and electricity. The bathrooms are fitted with clay tiles while all appliances use the minimum water requirements.
“We have zero tolerance for plastics. We promote an eco-friendly environment. We insist people carry plastics along when leaving,” Taima says.