Hotel Review: Lake Heights, Entebbe

I had some special criteria when choosing the accommodation for our 2 night stay in Entebbe.  I wanted a nice birdy location and I wanted it to feel African.  Finally, it had to be bookable through the Flying Bue/Pointshound portal so I could get 10,000 miles bonus!  After doing some searches, I found the Lake Heights Hotel in Entebbe.  As an added bonus, people on eBIrd had reported seeing African Grey Parrots fly over!

I had emailed them ahead of time and their driver was waiting for us at the airport.  He led us out to the minibus and it was about 8 minutes to the hotel.

Security is tight and we felt very safe there.

The grounds are beautiful…………….

………..the staff very friendly……………………..

…………………and the room was awesome!

The decor was simple but elegant.

The bathroom was spacious and very clean.

The pool was beautiful albeit somewhat too cold to swim (April) but still a nice place to hang out.

There’s a roof top bar and you can also have them bring food up from the restaurant below.

From the rooftop, the view gets even better!

We did see a few birds but we also were out most of the day so not much time to bird the grounds.

The breakfast buffet had a lot of choices for both African and Western palates.

The last night there was a BBQ with delicious roast meats and live entertainment.

On top of all that, the wifi was very strong and they were nice about letting us use the facilities up to 11pm (after the BBQ) when we had to go to the airport in their shuttle for a 3am flight.  I really loved this place and would definitely stay there again if we returned to Entebbe!

Hotel Review: Ibis Al Rigga, Dubai

I had some Le Club Accor points to burn and we just needed a well-located budget hotel to crash at night so I chose the Ibis Al Rigga, Dubai when Accor was running one of their sales.  They don’t always accept points during these sales but luckily for me they did on this one and breakfast was included!  The location is excellent, just 5 minutes walk from a Metro station.

It’s a decent budget hotel, really it’s the location that makes the place.

The staff are very friendly and were happy to make phone calls for me to check on restaurants so we wouldn’t have a huge phone bill.  They also gave us a late check out and kept our bags after check out as we didn’t have to go to the airport until 11pm.  I chose this hotel intending to use the Metro to go everywhere but that plan fell apart after the heat got the best of me and the Metro proved to be rather crowded, at least crowded enough to make getting a seat difficult.  We used Uber to go everywhere using the hotel wifi and that  worked really well.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Internet City, Dubai

We just needed a cheap and cheerful room for free on points as I knew we would be arriving around 2 am and found a good option using IHG Rewards at the Holiday Inn Express Internet City in Dubai.  It was one of the cheaper ones at 20k IHG points and also had a free shuttle to Mall of the Emirates.

We weren’t really that tired as we pulled up in the Etihad car as we slept well on the plane

The room was really nice, especially for a HIX which is at the budget end of the chain.

We enjoyed the breakfast buffet which was free, even on a points stay!

The shuttle minibus to Mall of the Emirates was being serviced so after a bit of coaxing, they paid for a taxi to take us and one other guest to the mall.  We passed the Burj al Arab on the way. 

Once at Mall of the Emirate, I made sure we complied with the dress code-we did.

I really wanted to try the Discover Ski lesson at Ski Dubai since I have never tried to ski in my life.  Unfortunately there was a public holiday giving locals a 3 day weekend and the place was packed!  We would have had a 3-4 hour wait and I didn’t want to hang around the mall all day so we just watched for a while.

Shake Shack for lunch, we don’t have this in Australia but I love their burgers and shakes!

Most of the mall shops were just like you would find in any large city shopping mall with an emphasis on luxury brands.  We walked around a bit, then decided to get the metro to Deira where our next hotel was booked.

Lodge Review: Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Northern Territory

Conveniently located on the road from Darwin to Kakadu, the Mary River Wilderness Retreat is a worthy addition to any Northern Territory birding itinerary.  It’s also close enough for people visiting Darwin on business to make a weekend trip.

The property is huge and has some amazing birding habitat which is best discovered by hiring a buggy (golf cart).  Of course we did this so look for my report on birding by buggy!

The main building overlooks the swimming pool and houses the reception, shop and restaurant.  This is also the only place to get the wifi connection.

Nice display to show off the local birds!

This was our bungalow.  As you can see, they aren’t large but are set up well for budget accommodation.  They do have larger but more expensive bungalows and safari tents as well.

No cooking facilities but they do have a small fridge so suitable for sandwiches, salads and other non-cooking meals.

Just relaxing on the deck, birds can be seen flying from tree to tree.

My husband cooled off in the pool while I used the wifi.

A few garden birds.

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (I think, can’t see all of him)

Spangled Drongo

Mistletoebird

Red-collared Lorikeet

I need some help with these.

Not pictured but positively ID’d by a guide staying in the next bungalow from Experience the Wild was a Dollarbird.  He said it was the first one of the season and I reckon he would know!  I ran for my camera but the uncooperative bird had left the scene.

I really liked Mary River Wilderness Retreat and would love to come back for a longer stay sometime.  You can book on their site or try the usual booking agents like Pointshound or Rocketmiles to earn miles for your booking.

Lodge Review: Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru

Not to be confused with the similarly named property at Cooinda, Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru is managed by Aurora Resorts and is located in Kakadu National Park’s main town, Jabiru.

Welcoming comittee!

The lodge is the best budget option in what is usually an expensive tourist destination and caters for campers and people who want a room or bungalow.  We went for the cheapest budget room.

Budget means no ensuite, you use the shared bathrooms and a camp kitchen.

You still get a fridge and tea service in the room. 

It is pretty small but in a place like Kakadu, we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room.

They have an attractive shaded swimming pool with a non-heated jacuzzi.  Cockatoos will watch the swimmers below and towards evening you also get flying foxes.

In the town of Jabiru there are a few shops but I recommend stocking up before entering the park for better selection and prices.

The famous crocodile shaped hotel which is now an Accor property is also in Jabiru but was twice the price of Kakadu Lodge.

Maybe not everyone would be ok without an ensuite but since we come from a backpacker background,m we were fine with it for the savings.  The grounds are nice and plenty of birds to keep you entertained while you have a refreshing swim!  Book on their website or try Pointshound or Rocketmiles to gain some airline miles!

Lodge Review: Gagudju Lodge, Cooinda

Staying at the Gagudjdu Lodge Cooinda in September wasn’t cheap!  For some reason, this month was higher than August or October and I did plan the trip outside of school holidays.  I was able to bring the cost down somewhat by using Le Club Accor certificates.  40 Euros was equal to about $60 each and between my husband and I we had a few of them.  If you are birding in Kakadu, you really do need to stay at least one night here because this is where the Yellow Water Cruises depart from and they are a MUST!

This was our room in a building that had 4 rooms (I think), 2 on each side.

Very neat and tidy room.  Since it was my birthday, they gave me a bottle of white wine!

Nice assortment of toiletries!

One thing is that they don’t have that many tables in the restaurant.  We ended up on a couch with a coffee table in front of us.

I had a lamb shank which was really good.  They  didn’t have birthday cakes so I ordered this pineapple flavoured dessert.

The next morning, a breakfast buffet was included as part of the Yellow Waters package I bought.  It had a good selection, but again we had to take the same couch as the tables were all full.

We weren’t in a hurry to leave so had a quick swim after breakfast.

A few birds were hanging around the pool, including a Blue-faced Honey-eater, a Great Bowerbird and a pair of Torresian Imperial Pigeons.

There is a small gift & food shop and info centre near reception.

I really liked this lodge for the location and the nice rooms.  The people were very nice and helpful.  There is no wifi but you are way out in the bush!  I was sorry we could only afford one night here, 2 would have been better.

Lodge Review: Knotts Crossing Resort, Katherine

When planning this trip, I was really torn between staying out at Katherine Gorge in one of the caravan parks or in town.  The deciding factor came down to price (town is much cheaper) and the fact that the Gorge is only a half hour drive from town.  Even better, Knotts Crossing Resort is out on the main road heading towards the Gorge, plus I stumbled on a special rate that included breakfast.

After checking in, they told me how to find the car park closest to our room.  The grounds are very nice, full of trees and birds of course!

Our room was in this block fairly close to reception and the swimming pool.

The rooms are neatly furnished with a double bed and 2 bunks which is standard for a caravan park.

I found that if I lie on the bed near the open door I can JUST barely connect to the wifi.

A nice little swimming pool, we didn’t have time to use it though.

We were happy with Knotts Crossing Resort as a budget option in Katherine and would stay there again if we went back.  Be on the look out with online booking sites for special deals like the one we got that includes breakfast.  They were happy to pack a breakfast for us to take to Katherine Gorge as a picnic, the 2nd morning we got up early and ate at the buffet which opens around 6am-ish.

Lodge Review: Victoria River Roadhouse, Northern Territory

About 200 kms west of Katherine on National Highway 1, the Victoria River Roadhouse is a welcome sight after almost 3 hours driving in the heat of the day.  This was the first place we really felt the Territory’s Outback experience.

The main building houses the reception, petrol pumps, restaurant, bar and shop and the campground surrounds the main building.

The cabins are off to the left surrounded by trees which attract Corellas, Cockatoos and Red-collared Lorikeets.

The rooms are fairly typical of an outback roadhouse – simple decor but functional.  The tv only has 1 channel which is controlled by reception and shows the same in all cabins.  No wifi.

The restaurant is HUGE considering the location, maybe they get busloads of tourists at times.  We had hamburgers for lunch as the restaurant closes at 7pm and I wasn’t sure we would be back from birding by then.  We had sandwiches and noodle cups to eat for dinner.

They have some interesting souvenirs for sale and some camping supplies.

I was soooo tempted but the budget didn’t allow.

Plenty of space for caravans and tents.

The truth is they pretty much have a captive audience as there is nothing else for at least 50 kms but it’s a decent place and there are some nice birds to watch around the grounds, even out the window of the restaurant!  The top bird here is the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren as we will see in another post.

They don’t have online booking or even a dedicated website so you’ll have to call.  Trip Advisor has some reviews.

Victoria River Roadhouse Hotel/Motel
Victoria Hwy, Victoria River NT 0852
Telephone: (08) 8975 0744
Facsimile: (08) 8975 0819

Lodge Review: Lazy Lizard Tavern and Caravan Park, Pine Creek, Northern Territory

The Lazy Lizard located in the heart of the historic Pine Creek in Australia’s Outback Northern Territory was my first choice as a perfect base for birders.

Approaching from the northern entrance to Pine Creek, it’s very easy to find.

DSCN5609 DSCN5610 DSCN5794

Lazy Lizard is typical of Aussie caravan parks and caters for everyone from tent campers to caravanners to people who want a small cabin.  We chose the latter.DSCN5795

Petrol is costlier here as it is trucked in from Darwin but you will probably need to top up (we did anyway) especially if you plan a side trip to Copperfield Dam and Edith Falls.DSCN5796

General layout of the grounds.DSCN5797

We were in the 2nd cabin from the left.DSCN5798

BBQs are available to cook your dinner – a fun part of the Aussie camping experience!DSCN5799

Caravan spaces further down.DSCN5800

Cool pool to chill out during the heat of the afternoon……………..DSCN5804

………………..with Cockatoos watching the humans below.  I was actually sitting in the pool when I took these shots!DSCN5803 DSCN5808

The Lazy Lizard has tourist information on display…………DSCN5612

……………a small general store……………..DSCN5613 DSCN5614

…………..and souvenirs.DSCN5615

Our cabin was very close to the swimming pool.DSCN5616 DSCN5617

The cabins are named after lizards.DSCN5618

Furnishings are simple but comfortable and provide all you need.DSCN5620

There’s a small kitchenette and a tv.DSCN5621 DSCN5623

Shower/ensuiteDSCN5624

We really liked the Lazy Lizard for its small outback town personality.  You can get half an hour free wifi near the bar, after that you need to sign up and pay.  Or you can go to the Railway Resort, order something and use their wifi.

There are quite a few birds to be found on the grounds which will be in the next post!

Hotel Review: Hi Way Inn Motel, Darwin

Our needs were simple for this overnight stop.  We would be checking in around 2am and getting up at 6am to head out to Howard Springs.  We just needed a cheap place to lay down for a few hours.  The Hi Way Inn Motel is an easy drive from the airport and I had already programmed it into my personal GPS so we had no trouble finding it.  They are well used to late night arrivals and I had called that morning to remind them we were on that late Jetstar flight.  All went smoothly and we were quickly checked in, the even gave us a couple bottles of mineral water as nothing had been open for us to buy anything when we arrived.

Exterior photo taken in the morning after check-out.  It was dark when we arrived.

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Lobby area.  You can grab some tourist info here and some free maps.DSCN5524

Simple room but clean, wifi worked well.DSCN5519 DSCN5520

It had one queen bed and one single, fairly small but like I said we weren’t here for long.DSCN5521 DSCN5522

They do have a pool if you find yourself here for a longer stay.  DSCN5525

The location is perfect to hit the highway heading south.  Most rental car companies don’t allow you to drive between dusk and dawn in the Territory so you will need a place like this for the first night if you arrive at night.  You can easily book this hotel at any of the usual OTAs such as Hotels.com which is what I did as I needed one more stay to make 10 stays for a future free night.  Both the night clerk and the morning clerk – a French working holiday visitor were very friendly and helpful.