Its easy to get caught up in all the valentines day hype and spend the day trying to pull off elaborate shows of affection, that you forget to actually spend quality time with your loved ones. You don’t really need all the chocolates and flowers and fancy dinners. Sometimes, all you need is a beautiful, unpretentious, intimate space, without the pressures of society dictating how you should express your love. This one is for the couples who are seeking more than the cliche candle lit dinner and and who are willing to go a little further to find a place to have undisrupted one on one time with your beloved, even if that beloved is yourself in need of some undisrupted ‘me time’.
I love to travel with my Mpenzi, is always a great bonding experience, and creates a closeness that sharing a passion with a loved one can bring. The last time we were together, we found a this spot well off the beaten path, raw, untamed and stunning. But like most getaway spots, it’s quite a journey to get there;
An hours ride in a special hire or taxi down to Kasenyi landing site in Entebbe, a precarious back or shoulder ride on top of a small framed but surprisingly strong fisherman waddling across open water towards a large public boat stuffed with nervous chicken (sometimes a cow or two), people and bags of groceries, followed by a slow 4 hour boat ride across Africa’s largest lake to Kitobo, and finally a pick up in a smaller but faster boat run by a man named Vincent, we eventually found our way to the shores of Banda Island.
There are many ways to get to Banda Island, but this, as we were advise, is the most direct, from kampala anyways.
This tiny (about 2km wide) island was owned and run by an eccentric German engineer, Domenic (who’s name often pops up along side Banda Island) who died suddenly, leaving a fragmentary “Castle” and two haphazard Banda’s by the beach, remnants of a dream unrealized. This alongside the lack of wifi or any decent phone connection, against a backdrop of rich dark green forest, seamless hypnotic waves of the lake, and open sky created a sort of surreal atmosphere, like you had entered a different realm, where time was frozen, or like a post apocalypse era, nature untamed and with freakishly fascinating giant millipedes scurrying about. It was romantic in a raw and rustic sort of way.
We slept in one of the large tents, (I recommend the lazy camping option, quite comfy), and showered in an outdoor shower, water warmed by firewood that was lit every evening. I must give the caretaker, a curious Australian man known as Andy, or more affectionately called ‘Andy-loo’ by the locals, props for formulating the perfect warm shower temperature. I can hardly get it right with the hot and cold water nozzles in the tub at home, yet even attempt to do so using firewood!
The food was good, with fresh fish and vegetables sourced from the other nearby islands, you’re bound to whip up something delicious, right? Served buffet style, (with vegetarian options), and eaten communally, often around one dining table. Drinks were available pretty much through out the whole day, based on the honor system, you were free to pick whatever you wanted to drink as long as you wrote it down in the drinks book, which would be tallied up before you left, and used to calculate your bill.
We spent our days uninhibited, often barefoot and topless, enjoying the restorative nature of the slow life. Together, exploring the surrounding forest and pebble beach shore, soaking up the glorious Ugandan sun, indulged ourselves in a long private outdoor yoga and drum jam session, mastered the art of skipping stones across the smooth surface of the lake, helped ourselves freely to the supply of cold beers, engaged in conversation, either swaying lazily on a hammock or under the shade of a tree or by a crackling fire in the evenings. It felt like we had all the time in the world.
Although it felt like it, we didn’t have the island to ourselves. During our time there we saw different groups coming and leaving, mostly backpackers, but the occasional couple, odd family here and there, group of friends and colleges. Everyone was friendly enough, yet what I appreciated the most was that there was a silent agreement between us all to respect each others space. Perhaps most of us had sought out this tiny remote island for the same reasons; because once you found your space, it was easy to forget there were other people around you.
Being a bit of an adventurous retreat between me and my Mpenzi, there are some moments I’ll choose to keep to just between us. However a few highlights however include sailing out on the lazer, and getting a mini crash course on sailing from ‘Andyloo’.
Rooftop scenic sundowners, perched on top of the “castle”.
And the radiant morning skies, rewarded to only those who bothered to wake up as dawn was breaking.
I was a blissful four days camping out on Banda Island, not a typical romantic spot, but i suppose we’re not a typical couple either.
Whether you’ve got loads of money to spend this Valentines, planing something simple or a getaway to an unlikely location, or just spending a night in with family, remember to spend some genuine quality time with your loved ones, that is after all, what Valentines is all about.