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Holland Park: breathtaking setting along the Nile

The dawn is accompanied by a slowly swelling bird concert. We wake up in one of the beautiful and stylish furnished homes of Holland Park, a vast piece of hilly landscape in the south of Uganda with breathtaking views on the river Nile. After opening the terrace doors the sounds of the singing birds increases in volume. Somewhere far away crows a cock. In silent wonder we look at the sun, slowly rising from behind the mountains. A small boat with two fishermen is floating half way up the river.










After breakfast we walk through the carefully decorated green park and descend a steep stairs in the direction of the Nile bank. 

In a small boat Wim is already waiting for us. Together with his wife Monique this Dutchman is running Holland Park since 2011. Some years earlier they bought about twelve acres of land here in order to establish themselves private.


Later on this day we will hear the complete story of the Dutch couple. First Wim is going to show us a part of the Nile that he knows like the back of his hand. During the small boat safari he emerged as a true ornithologist. “It’s not my profession, but a real hobby. It gives me a good feeling to show our guests the huge variation in the animal life along the river. Even people who know nothing about birds always appreciate the sailing trip.”

So do we this morning. Wim scans constantly in to colorful birds. Some of them are amazingly small, like the blue-breasted Kingfisher. After spotting a white pelican we approach a small island with trees overcrowded by birds.

Wim wants to show us another inhabitant of this island: the monitor lizard. One of the reptiles is sunbathing on a rock and while we come closer another lizard of about 1,5 metres long is slowly climbing another rock and disappears from sight.

Bootsafari-3







W
hile approaching the Owen Falls dam in Jinja the conversation on board inevitably comes about the source of the Nile. Wim is laughing. “Before this dam was built in 1954 the water of Lake Victoria was flowing straight into the Nile here. This is still the one and only source of the Nile. A lot of stories wants us to believe the real source is somewhere else. Like the so called ‘discovery’ in 2006 of a farther source in Rwanda. But I am strongly convinced all these attemps are inspired by an ever lasting competition. If you look at the history of the Nile, this competition already started ages ago.”

We sail back to Holland Park along the right bank, slowly passing a small village. Men are preparing their fishing boats, women are washing clothes and children are playing along the shore.

A little further Wim swings his boat close along two dark holes in the rocks. “This is called the Idi Amin cave. During the last part of his reign of terror the mayor of Jinja kept himself hidden here for months.”

A safe country

Talking about the black pages of Ugandan history Wim has noticed that a lot of people outside Africa still connects Uganda with the bloody era of Amin. “It’s still in peoples minds. We have to face a persistent bias about travelling in this country. Amin was forced to leave in 1979 and in the meantime Uganda has developed as one of the safest countries in Africa.”


Later that day we’re visiting Wim and Monique in their house, the first building on their property. Monique: “This is a place where we live in satisfaction without unnecessary luxury. No one here cares about status. You don’t have the latest car? No problem, driving on an old motorbike is also perfect. And why wearing clothing in accordance with the latest fashion? Nobody cares. Enjoying life, that’s our main goal here.”

Travelling

Wim and Monique met during the celebration of a Millennium party in the North African desert. This was the beginning of a relationship with a leading role for travelling. After ten years exporting mussels and oysters Wim had already decided to sell his own company to find more satisfaction in travelling. After meeting Wim the same feeling came across in Monique’s mind. “I had no reason to discontent at all. I had a good job at the Tax Service and lived on my own in a nice house without any money problems. However I began to think: there should be more in life. After a while I took a sabatical year, sold my house and never went back to my job.”

Interview WimInterview Monique









After travelling with Wim through Africa for two and a half year they were about to go back to the Netherlands from Kenya. But in Nairobi they met a New Zealander who they met before during traveling and is now their current neighbor in Uganda. Wim: “He already had a look in Jinja for settling down and convinced us also to have a look there.” 
Monique: “It was love at first sight and we both wanted to stay here.”

Wim: “It turned out to be surprisingly easy to buy a piece of land and we got all collaboration with the official authorities. After buying 12 acres the most difficult part of the job was the construction of the road to our property and installing electricity and water. We all had to do that by ourselves.”

Monique: “Our first aim was to build a house and to settle here. Although the everyday life here doesn’t require a lot of money, we soon got the idea to build some more houses to rent. In the beginning our guests were mainly expats from all over the world, staying here for the time of their temporary employment contract. Increasingly we also give hospitality to travellers from the Netherlands and Belgium.”

3-Apen in park

Advice service about travelling in Uganda

Wim and Monique want more than just renting out homes.

Monique: “We have noticed there is a great need for information about travelling in Uganda. That’s why we have developped an additional service for our guests. After arriving by air in Entebbe, we offer a taxi service with reliable taxi drivers that we all know very well. Within almost four hours they bring our guests here in Holland Park, where they can recover from the tiring flight. While enjoying this place for a few days we can  - if desired - provide our guests with information and advice for travelling further in Uganda. We don’t want to be a travel agency, but rather concentrate on giving practical advice as an additional and free service.” 

Asked about their future ambitions Wim and Monique both reply with a big smile. Wim: “We are never planning too far ahead. Just yesterday we started with the construction of a swimming pool. Maybe we’re going to build some more homes in the near future.” 

Monique, strict: “But not too many. Six
houses are the maximum. We definitely don’t want to create a large park with many staff. This place should remain personal, because that is our strength.” 

(For extensive information regarding a stay on Holland Park: www.hollandparkuganda.com)

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