You know that strange feeling that hits you when you are in a boardroom, silently pondering how a massive table got into the room? That feeling of awe and curiosity struck me as I waited to meet the Directors of Nile Safari Lodge, Nathalie and Vanessa Van Pee, at their Lodge’s liaison office located at Quality Mall, Lubowa.
However, I wasn’t thinking about how they got the big table in; it’s just that my attention had been seized by this rather massive and unique table they use as an office desk. Often, I can tell a lot about a person’s character by just observing their office desk. The size, the positioning, the material it’s made of and how things are arranged on top of it, all carry deep insights into the character of the one who sits behind it.
It is this table that I kept glancing at while being initiated into the fascinating world of Nile Safari Lodge and the remarkable individuals behind its success. This antique Swahili desk exuded an air of wisdom and was clearly a custodian of countless tales from days of yore. But we’ll revisit this enigmatic table later on.
Vanessa and Nathalie Vanpee
A Family Legacy:
Nile Safari Lodge, owned by NOVAM Limited, is a family-run facility that reflects the shared passions and dedication of Nathalie, Olivier, Vanessa, Alexia, and Maxime – siblings whose names form the company’s acronym. “My family does lots of things together as that name shows. While the boys focus on the transport business with our father, we (Vanessa and Nathalie), have taken the helm of the Lodge’s management. Alexia, the youngest is still pursuing her education, they explained while sorting bathroom supplies for the Lodge and occasionally picking work-related phone calls.
The Unveiling of Uganda’s Beauty:
The roots of Nile Safari Lodge lie in the Van Pee family’s love for travel and camping, which revealed the immense beauty of Uganda to them. As Nathalie expressed, “This country was not called the Pearl of Africa for nothing,” evoking Sir Winston Churchill’s famous description. With the realization that many people remained unaware of Uganda’s splendor; the family seized the opportunity to showcase Uganda’s magnificence while also diversifying the family business. Patrick Van Pee, the father, is involved in transport and logistics.
Initially established as a mid-range/budget facility in 1994, Nile Safari Lodge was a Geo Lodge product that the family had fallen in love with. Luckily for the family, the property was put on sale and they decided to jump on this opportunity. NOVAM Limited was created with the intention to provide a unique accommodation experience.
The company operated the existing lodge for six months so as to gain a firm understanding of the tourism business, then shut it down for a year and revamped it completely into this new exclusive, luxurious, and Eco-friendly haven. Nathalie emphasized the dedication they poured into the project, spending days on-site and even sleeping in their cars. The result – A facility that undoubtedly lives up to its mantra, “Escape The Ordinary.”
On September 13, 2019, Nile Safari Lodge welcomed its first guests, but soon after, the world was brought to its knees by the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a very challenging time for the lodge, only compounded by an Ebola outbreak in Uganda. However, Nathalie and Vanessa’s determination remained unshaken this whole time. Believing in the value and uniqueness of their product, they weathered the storm, epitomizing resilience in the face of adversity.
On why they chose to create an Eco-friendly accommodation facility, Nathalie argues that, “we wanted to preserve Uganda’s natural wonders for future generations.” They recognized the global challenges of deforestation and climate change and sought to make a positive impact. Nathalie also acknowledged the vital role played by domestic tourists during the pandemic, appreciating the friendly nature of Ugandans and their proactive approach to problem-solving.
A Personal Touch:
Nathalie and Vanessa’s management style is marked by hands-on involvement and a personal connection with their guests. The sisters spend at least 10 days each month at the lodge, fostering a culture where every guest is treated like family. Maintaining high standards and ensuring a cordial experience is at the core of their approach, as they understand the importance of client relationships and constant upkeep.
Armed with degrees in Business Management and Hotel Management, Nathalie and Vanessa possess the expertise required to run Nile Safari Lodge professionally. They have been involved in every aspect, from construction to day-today operations. Their unreserved dedication not only uplifts their spirits, it also inspires others young women to thrive in business. The combination of their passion for tourism, instilled during family camping trips, and their commitment to upholding ethical business practices ensures the lodge’s success.
Preserving Precious Legacies:
As we delved deeper into the essence of family, the table that initially captivated me becomes more than just a piece of furniture. Transported all the way from Mombasa, it was once their father’s office table and now holds a special place in the running of Nile Safari Lodge. This heirloom symbolizes their commitment to preserving cherished artifacts for future generations, a testament to their love for family, industry, community and nature.
A Bright Future:
With the dedication and passion demonstrated by these exceptional young women, the future of the tourism industry shines brightly. Oh, and let me not forget to mention the incredible experiences awaiting guests at Nile Safari Lodge—game drives, sundowner boat rides, fishing, and chimp trekking—all within the embrace of Uganda’s surreal beauty. At this lodge, you can truly escape the ordinary and immerse yourself in an unforgettable adventure.
Nile Safari Lodge stands as a testament to the Van Pee family’s vision, passion, and unwavering dedication. Through their love for Uganda and the tourism industry, they have created a haven that captures the essence of luxury and environmental sustainability. The extraordinary journey of Nile Safari Lodge, led by Nathalie and Vanessa, inspires us all to embrace our passions, preserve our natural wonders, and create lasting legacies for generations to come.