Swimming Pools in Kampala

Swimming Pools in Kampala

Spending the day relaxing by a pool is one of the favourite pastimes of the Kampala expat, and with its prime spot on the equator and ever increasing number of fancy hotels Kampala has no shortage of good weather and pools on offer. These places generally pack out on weekends so if you’re planning a pool day make sure to get their early to claim the prime lounger spots…

Kabira Country Club

Located in Bukoto on the Old Kira road this hotel has one of the larger pools and is surrounded by verdant palms and what is generally thought of as the best (if far from being the cheapest!) gym in Kampala. Entrance to the pool for the day is 30,000 UGX, which includes free use of the gym and a discount on any exercise classes that day. For those with kids there is also a nice kids pool around the corner and even a play area. Private swimming lessons can also be booked in advance. The restaurant is adjacent to the pool with large TV screens and quite a wide selection of foods (including the steak sandwich and quesadillas which are my personal favourites!). The food here, however, is pretty overpriced, so be warned that if you plan to spend the day here and eat it’s not a cheap day out!

Speke Resort

Definitely the nicest pool in Kampala, this place is located right on the shores of Lake Victoria in the fancy Munyonyo district. It boasts an Olympic-size pool and also has an attached gym for those looking for a complete workout or some serious swimming. Entrance here is 20,000 UGX and thankfully food is slightly cheaper than at Kabira and includes such poolside snacks as fish fingers, club sandwiches and cheese naans (all tasty!). The location means you can also take a wander along the lake and instead of leaving frustrated at being unable to take a dip in its bilharzia-ridden waters you can head up to the pool and plunge in there instead! The gym here is also included in the pool entry price and you can hire towels for a small extra cost. Like Kabira there is also a very small children’s pool equipped with sun loungers for families. Private swimming lessons can be arranged for those with designs on becoming the next Michael Phelps or Ye Shiwen. Probably the best thing about this pool for me, however, is the people watching – you often don’t even need to bring your book for entertainment!

*TIP* Kabira Country Club and Speke Resort are owned by the same company (who also own the Speke apartments on Wampewo Avenue, Kololo) so if you are staying in any of these places (or know someone who is!!) and want to check out any of the others, you can get in free with a note from management.

Emin Pasha Hotel

The pool here is pretty small, in keeping with the boutique theme of the hotel. It’s not always kept the cleanest but the biggest draw is the spa package they offer. For 70,000 UGX you get use of the pool for the day, a sandwich and fruit juice, and a massage in the luxurious poolside spa (you can also mix and match different spa treatments instead of basic massage). This is definitely a great place if you want to indulge yourself for a reasonable price, and if you go on a weekday you’re likely to have it all to yourself. And, another plus, towels are provided free of charge!

Sheraton Hotel

Found in central Kampala off Nile Avenue the Sheraton offers a convenient pool option. Entrance is 15,000 UGX, which includes a towel for the day and use of the fitness centre (including aerobics classes). There are also poolside lockers for those looking to store valuables. The pool is circular, so again not the best option for serious swimmers, but it does come with some inflatables and balls as well as a small adjacent children’s pool, so it’s a nice place to hang out and/or play. They also offer a lunchtime poolside grill with all dishes at 15,000 UGX and poolside drinks service, not to mention Kylie Minogue tunes on repeat, if you’re into that sort of thing. Make sure to arrive before lunch to get one of the better sun loungers around the pool edge.

Serena Hotel

I thought I would include this as it is the biggest and fanciest hotel in Kampala, however, entrance to the pool here for non-hotel guests is 60,000 UGX, which I think says it all, really!

Imperial Royale Hotel

This hotel located next to the Serena is a much cheaper option and costs a pretty standard 20,000 UGX. It has a relatively large pool found outdoors on the 5th floor, which gives some nice views over the city. Its all concrete though so doesn’t have some of the nicer, garden vibes of the other major pool hotels, but again its central location makes it handier than some of the other, more distant pools for a lazy day.

Cassia Lodge

This hidden gem of a hotel boasts the best views in Kampala. Perched on the top of Buziga Hill, you can see right across Lake Victoria. It’s a great place for a sundowner cocktail. It also has a VERY small infinity pool, which you can visit for the day for 10,000 UGX (towel hire is extra). Food here is very good – especially the fish dishes and pork nyama choma – and its definitely worth making a full day of it. Only problem is that the pool really is very small (more decorative than intended for any serious swimming) and this means that it fills up extremely quickly on the weekends. If you arrive after lunch you’re in danger of not being able to find any space around the pool.

Jacaranda

Found in Mengo opposite the Backpackers hostel on Albert Cook road, this pool is small and a little bit grimy but also cheap! It is more in the Lido fashion, i.e. meant for swimming rather than sunbathing, and is very popular with locals. It costs a bargainous 6,000 UGX to get in and while there are only a couple of ‘sun loungers’ there are plastic chairs around the edges that you can position if you’re trying to catch some rays. On Sunday evening it turns into a pumping outdoor nightclub – blaring the R&B and hip-hop out from around 5 p.m., which depending on your frame of mind might either be a drawing point or put-off – so be warned!

Imperial Resort Beach (Entebbe)

Located in Entebbe, about an hour’s drive from Kampala (traffic willing), it’s not terribly local. But Imperial Resort is a favourite of many local Kampalites who like to get out of Kampala on the weekends. This is one of the cheapest pools (entrance is a mere 6,000 UGX) and also boasts a private sandy beach on the Lake Victoria shores, as well as an awesome meat grill restaurant – Carnivore – and sports bar with plenty of screens. It offers a great day out and can even be made into a bit of a beach crawl by stopping at the Ssese Islands gateway beach on the way down and ending off at Entebbe’s oldest beach  – Lido Beach, opposite the old airport (renowned for its party vibe on Sundays as well as frequent beach volleyball tournaments). The easiest way to get down there is probably to drive, but there are numerous matatus going daily from Kampala – especially on Sunday night when they leave as late as 2 am back to Kampala!

About Lucy

A Kampalite as of the start of 2012 - I'm really loving my time here and planning to stay for a while. I’m originally from London where I’ve worked for a range of NGOs and am now hoping to try my hand overseas, plus London is way too cold and grey and full of pigeons. I’m currently in search of interesting job opportunities and experiences here and elsewhere – until global warming kicks in that is and then I can head back to the UK as it should have removed the pigeons. Get in touch at lucy@livinginkampala.com.