Hotel Review: Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa

The Ghion Hotel is the most popular hotel in Addis Ababa for birders thanks to its beautiful grounds and garden so no wonder I was keen to stay here!  Full disclosure, non-birders may not like the hotel as it is rather dated and the wifi is very weak at best in some rooms, many rooms don’t have it at all and you need to go to the lobby.

We arrived in the evening just before dark after a long journey from Lake Langano so there was no chance to see the grounds that day.  Driving from the bus station, I was dismayed to see it had been raining, not good for birders!

The next morning, we could see a lot more!  Here is the entrance where the taxi will drop you off.

Restaurants are also accessible from this section.

This is the room we got which turned out to be a good location as I could get a wifi signal from just outside the door.

I haven’t seen a tv like this in years!

So the room is simple and definitely channeling the 60’s.  We weren’t here to sit around the room so it was ok.

Back to the lobby to organize a driver for birding Menagesha Forest with the manager who knew a driver, then on to dinner.

For dinner you can choose the buffet or order off the menu.  We went for menu items as we weren’t really that hungry.  Breakfast is included in the rate and also includes the buffet and freshly made omelets.

If the weather is nice, you can also eat outside.

Interesting decorations!

There are several shops in the lobby area.

They also have an Ethiopian style restaurant where we had lunch after returning from the Menagesha excursion.  We opted to sit outside to look for birds while we ate.

I ordered some local food just to try it, I think it was the 3rd item down from the English side.  It was like a curry served with injera.  It was OK, I wasn’t wild about the injera and the portion was huge so I couldn’t finish it all.

The views were great!

A few little birds were hopping around looking for food.

Now the main reason to choose the Ghion is to have access to the beautiful gardens so look for the next post to focus on birding the gardens!

The Ghion Hotel is available on most online booking sites or you can book direct.

Lodge Review: Hara Langano Lodge, Ethiopia

I really have Trip Advisor to thank for finding this beautiful lodge.  We were originally going to stay at another place which had been the main birders lodge in this area but sadly burned down in the Oct 2016 riots.  So I went looking for somewhere else to stay in the area and the Hara Langano Lodge came highly recommended.

We arrived on time at Addis Ababa airport and quickly passed the formalities.  When we exited, there was no guide with a sign waiting so another hotel rep used his phone to call our driver.  The driver was on his way and we found him at the car park.  We had an interesting 3 hour drive to the lodge passing through the Ethiopian countryside and some small villages and markets.  They charged us $50 each for this transfer which was in a minibus and would have been shared with anyone else headed to the lodge that day but we were the only ones.

Leaving the main road, there is about 20 km drive to the lodge.

Bungalows like this one are scattered around the property with enough distance to feel private.

Entrance to the reception area which shares the building with the restaurant.

Fair warning!  Hippos do come into the property although they didn’t when we were there.

Our bungalow was near the reception and surrounded by trees – good for birders!  You can also request one closer to the lake if you prefer but they cost more.

The bungalows are tastefully furnished in a nice Ethiopian style.

Sitting on the porch we can still see the lake.

The restaurant – all meals are included.

That steak ala bismark was really good!

Desserts were really good too!

There are several places you can sit by the lake and watch birds or just relax. 

The resident birding guide is Hakim and he is absolutely brilliant!  He knows all the local bird calls and where to find most species.  He worked really hard to find my target birds.  The Black-winged Lovebirds coooperated and came pretty close.  The Yellow-fronted Parrots were only heard the last day in distant trees in the farmlands.  But the birding reports are yet to come so stay tuned for pics and more!

Hara Langano Lodge is a wonderful place and any birder would love it!  You can book with them on their website.  They can only accept cash at the lodge in either USD or Birr so plan ahead.

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