We arrived at Sambiya River Lodge just after sunset and our first impression upon pulling up to the main lodge was "Wow" with the main entrance giving a real sense of grandeur. Those impressions wouldn't last long however as this was hands down our least favorite property of our 17 day trip.
It is really hard not to feel a sense of disappointment while here. We imagined that when the property opened in the mid '90's it was a real top notch place, but unfortunately they haven't done anything to maintain that feel. From the buildings to the landscaping, everything just had a worn down, dreary appearance to it. The dining hall was decorated with large photographs of animals seen in the park, but unfortunately after 20 years in the sun, they are extremely faded, adding to the dismal appearance of the place. The bathrooms were filthy, giving the impression they have never been cleaned since they were built. The swimming pool was missing about 1/3 of the water. Even the road into the property is heavily rutted and full of potholes, which is odd considering that 3 large excavation/heavy machinery sits near the entrance of the property.
Our group of 4 stayed two nights in November and as it turns out, we were the only guests here the entire time. In most other lodges having the place to yourself would be a bonus, but considering how big this place was, it really made it feel deserted and lonely, only adding to the dispair that loomed everywhere.
The cottages are round buildings that are divided into two halves or rooms, each with a separate entrance. Our cottage had a door on the common wall that joined the two rooms. This may be what the property website refers to when it says they have cottages that have "two bedrooms". While this feature could come in really handy for families traveling with children, it does pose a security risk if the property is ever 'full'. Although there is a lock on door, a common key can open it from either side. Thus if you are on one side and the party on the other side has the key, there is nothing you can do to keep them out of your room.
Each room is appointed with the customary number of beds, mosquito nets, luggage racks, a chair, table and small closet. There is an outlet for charging phones, cameras, etc which is a nice feature, however you can only use it during the hours the staff is running the generator. There is a small bathroom in each unit with sink, toilet and shower. The bathroom does have hot water, but it is warmed by solar power, thus if it is cloudy/rainy there is a good chance you won't have hot water. Another issue we found is that each cottage only has one water source, so although there are two bathrooms, only one shower can be in use at a time. While this wasn't convenient, we were able to talk to our friends and work out shower times, however if you don't know who is on the other side of the wall, this could present a problem...especially if they use all the hot water!
Outside the main building there is a large veranda that runs the length of the building. This overlooks a large fire pit and the river/forest beyond. There is a small gift shop that sells some local crafts and wares. And oddly there is even a swimming pool on property, but as I mentioned above, it was missing a good share of the water.
As far as location goes, you are a 1 hour drive from the south or Masindi gate of Murchison Falls National Park and you are a 1 hour drive from the ferry crossing to the north. So although you are just a 20 minute drive from the "top of the falls", there is really no location benefit for the property. Staying here meant we had to be on the road at 6:00 am to ensure we could make the 7:00 am ferry and once we were done with our game drive, we had a one hour drive home. With this in mind, we see no logical reason as to why one would want to stay here in terms of location, especially when comparing price.
It wouldn't take much effort to get this property back on its feet and once it is, we really feel this could be a wonderful place to stay, especially if you are looking for something that is away from the hustle and bustle of your life back home. However, as it is, we just can't recommend this place to anyone.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.