April 7, 2024

Honeybear Bush Camp – Feature

If one were to say “Come to Honey Bear Bush Camp, you’ll have the worst sleep in your life…” the marketing people would have a heart attack. It could be reworded. “Come to Honey Bear Bush Camp, and after spotting the leopard skulk through the bush near your tent, lie awake listening to hippos grunting and grazing right outside your window. And then, just as it gets quiet, snap awake again to the Hyena sniggering as they walk through camp. And then, and then, and then …don’t fall asleep because lions.” That would be more accurate.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live here in Uganda know that there is that lovely deep silence just before dawn. That heavy, dark, cool silence when all is still and the duvet is just the right weight and you feel suspended, cradled somehow. Then that stillness, that predawn velvety calm, is punctuated by a single White Browed Coucal. That’s enough to kick off the dawn chorus, and there’s no way you will sleep through it. Off go the Egyptian Geese, the Hamerkop, and the cacophony of the hippos – again – as they trundle back to the safety of water for the day. You’re wide awake again, better get up and enjoy the day.

Honey Bear Bush Camp is one of two new camps in the Wildplaces portfolio, joining the well-known collection of Clouds, Semliki and Apoka. (The other new one, Papa’s Camp, opened in November 2023 on the south bank of Murchison Falls National Park. More on that later).

Savvy people say: “Honey Bear? That’s not an African mammal. That’s not even a real animal”. And the savvy people would be right. The camp is named after Ava Gardner’s character in the beautifully awful 1953 film Mogambo. Also starring Clark Gable and

Grace Kelly, this ridiculous romp through the bush of Uganda and Rwanda was partially filmed on location. Gardner’s character Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly is an alluring, gutsy broad who takes no poop from anybody. She is an accidental tourist in East Africa and makes the best of it. Honey Bear ain’t no aristocrat. She falls in the mud, she showers outdoors, she sings at the piano, she bottle feeds baby elephants. She smokes, she drinks, she survives the bush… and everyone is captivated by her. We love Honey Bear Kelly. We want to be Honey Bear Kelly. And since we cannot be her, we may as well name a bush camp after her and strive to be a little more like her in life.

So, the camp is very Honey Beary. With only 5 guest tents (all ensuite, with outdoor Ava Gardner showers, no less), the camp is private and chic. Beautiful fabrics, vintage furniture, creative dashes here and there. But the location is the superstar here. On the banks of the Kazinga Channel in the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Honey Bear is the only accommodation inside the park. Guests can drive in, but most guests arrive at the private launch site on the Kasenyi side of Queen Elizabeth and get picked up by boat. The cruise starts here, gliding down the Channel past herds of elephant on both sides, over pods of hippos, alongside pelicans sailing low, skimming the surface of the water with their wing tips.

Arriving at Honey Bear you feel like an extra on an episode of White Lotus. The staff are lined up on the riverbank, waving and smiling, trays of welcome drinks at the ready, the hint of adventure in their eyes. They’ve just spotted the herd of elephant approaching the camp. Turns out this is their daily bathing site. They frolic, they play, they spray, they bathe, all in front of the camp. All in good fun. Just like Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly, that saucy minx.

In this article:
Those of us who are lucky enough to live here in Uganda know that there is that lovely deep silence just before dawn. That heavy, dark, cool silence when all is still and the duvet is just the right weight and you feel suspended, cradled somehow.
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