In the south western part of Uganda lying between Kisoro and Kabale and is close to the Rwandan border is found Lake Bunyonyi which is Uganda’s deepest lake with a varying depth of between 44m and 900m, a width of 7km and 25km long. It is also said to be the second deepest lake in Africa lying on an altitude of about 1962meters above sea level.
The name Bunyonyi means “place of many little birds”. Since the lake is commonly known for its fresh waters, moderate temperatures and ever changing climate that is mostly cool in the mornings and evenings, let alone the scenery that is characterized by the flourishing green terraced hills and the breathtaking 29 Islands that are scattered transversely in the central part of the lake.
Lake Bunyonyi is approximately a 7 hour drive from Kampala and around 2 hours if one is traveling from Kigali; Rwanda’s capital city. Lake Bunyonyi also appears on Uganda’s fifty thousand shilling note and is among Uganda’s few lakes that are Bilharzia free and safe for swimming. In other words, Lake Bunyonyi is a place a tourist should not miss out on when on a safari in Uganda.
There are thousands of things one can do besides ogling at the magnificent landscapes from the sloppy hilltops and they include the following;
Lake Bunyonyi has an enormous assembly of bird species which makes bird watching a key activity. This lake is home to over 200 species of birds that have been recorded flying into the Nyombi swamp. These birds comprise of the home based species as well as those that have crossed over from International borders particularly during winter seasons. Some of the birds you get to see include; the herons, weaver birds, the grey crowned cranes, egrets, levillant cuckoo and the slender-billed baglafetch among others to mention but a few.
Lake Bunyonyi has fresh waters that are serene and lucid and free of Bilharzia a human disease caused by parasitic worms that makes the water unsafe for swimming. Another assuring advantage for the swimmers out there is that it is free of any kind of dangerous wildlife like the man eating crocodiles and hippopotamus. However, the waters are too deep for the inexperienced swimmers.
Canoeing and boat rides
Canoeing and boat rides give you time off to explore the Islands one by one, getting to know the story behind each one of them for example the Akampene (Punishment Island) where the Bakiga brought their unmarried girls whom they found pregnant, these would be forsaken and left for dead. You can make a selection of renting your own canoe or opting for a guided tour on a motorized or non-motorized canoe. Alternatively, the night rides are said to be more spectacular and fascinating for the reason that the waving waters, the alluring sound of the crickets and singing night-time birds make the journey eccentric.
on these community walks visitors get to see the beauty of the places and the people living there because these are the heartbeat of the place and know how life without them would be like. Plus also check out the many settlements and insights about the lifestyle and cultures of the locals who will probably be easy to identify by their kangas (multi-colored wear). What’s more, you can visit the Batwa, a tribe of pygmies who are the original inhabitants of the country. These survive on inviting tourists into their community.
Hiking and Nature walks
Hiking and Nature walks enable the visitor to see the spectacular and enthralling tranquility of the place and the local guides can be hired to lead you to explore through the highlands of Kigezi or even on the islands while on foot where you are sure to have yourself a stunning sight of the landscapes and a variety of wildlife like the zebras, monkeys, forest tree plantations and otters that can be spotted in the waters among others. You can also go hiking through the ancient Echuya Forest.
Cultural Heritage and Historical beliefs
At the cultural heritage sites, one can have souvenirs made for them by the gifted locals and blacksmiths which is a way to earn a living for them. Also get a chance to see the way the locals make their farm equipment from the hoes to the machetes and many more. In addition, you can get to stopover at the Bakiga Cultural Museum, a replica of a complete Bakiga homestead built in 2002 by Festo Karwemera a known elder of Kabale and a famous fighter for the language and culture of the Bakiga. There is also a village called Bufuka where tourists are welcome to experience the cultures of the Bakiga and the Batwa. While there, a tourist can get to join in on the proceedings of the locals like weaving, dancing and singing. There are also some shrines and local medicine men on the hills of Kagalama that will further reveal to detail more about the historical and cultural beliefs of the locals.
Many boat drivers will take you to these islands, where British missionary Dr Leonard Sharp founded a colony and settled in 1921.
Run by Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort, this 35-acre island is worth a visit if you want to see wildlife such as zebra, waterbuck, ipala and kob up close.
Akampeine which is translated as “Punishment Island” is a tiny island which was named so because it was once the place where unmarried pregnant women were dumped to die.
One can Grab a cup of local coffee or cold beer at this open-air cafe. There’s little competition for ambience – it has a fantastic wooden deck with sweeping views over the lake with craft shops included.