Should I Expect Very Basic Accommodation Facilities?

Article from the series: Frequently Asked Questions about Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo

120 mm, f/8.0, 1/250, ISO250

Hotels in the Gorilla Highlands region range from cheap and very, very basic — though rarely dirty — to the kind of opulence you would expect to be able to find in most big cities. Outside of urban areas, however, hotels probably aren’t where you want to spend your nights when there are guesthouses and lodges.

No matter how comfortable and luxurious, African camps and lodges are almost by definition in nature. “Camp”, by the way, does not mean camping; they tend to be similar to lodges but with comfortable safari tents — still with beds, bathrooms and plenty of space — rather than permanent buildings.

So while the facilities can be top-notch, it’s not the same as a hotel. You might need to walk outside to get to the restaurant from your room, or perhaps you have an outdoor shower. Your afternoon tea might even be interrupted by an elephant or two! Personally I’ve always loved this about traveling and working in Africa and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Elephants are, not incidentally, among the easiest animals to use to demonstrate this closeness to nature photographically as they are a) large and b) often come through camps and lodges without making much of a fuss about it. Worried? Just stay calm and don’t get in their way. In this case I didn’t even have to stage the photograph — the elephants really did appear across the river as we were having tea and reading before the afternoon game drive.

Guesthouses and local hotels are usually decent value, and cleanliness is rarely an issue even if you shouldn’t expect any frills. Once or twice I’ve ended up in what was essentially a concrete box with a pseudo-mattress, a plastic chair and a bible, but these are places few tourists are likely to see. The biggest culture shock will probably come if you try an authentic off-the-beaten-track homestay, but in those cases the hospitality tends to overshadow any squeamishness about a drop toilet.

Don’t miss our extensive interview with Marcus and head to his website for even more.