Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda
Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda
Lake Bunyonyi lies between the two south-western districts of Kisoro and Kabale, close to the boundary of Uganda and Rwanda. Written science has it that Lake Bunyonyi is 30 metres (130ft) deep but local people and guides say that it is much deeper at 900 metres (3,00ft) which makes it the second deepest lake in Africa. Lake Bunyonyi is a 7 kilometre water body with 29 virgin green islands dotted on it, creating an eye catching natural feature that is wonderful on the eyes. Due to its beautiful appearance and pristine atmosphere, tourists and honeymooners regularly visit it for relaxation, unwinding, cuddling and meditation. It is one of the top popular tourist sites in Kigezi region.
Bunyonyi locally means “a place with little birds” and this is in regards with a wealth of birds that linger in the environs of the lake. Though Lake Bunyonyi has 29 islands, only three are the most popular ones (Akampene, Bwama and Njuyeera). Akampene is historically known as the punishment Island. The Bakiga used to dump unmarried pregnant girls on the island to die of hunger or die while swimming back since swimming was a rare trait by then. By the punishment, other girls could be intimidated not try getting pregnant. Pregnancy before the wedlock was looked as an abomination in the society. In addition, men who could not afford bride price were sent to the island to pick any of the girls for marriage. However, the practice was dropped in the middle of the 20th century.
Bwama and Njuyeera are known as sharp’s islands. In 1921, Leopard Sharp an English Missionary descended to this area of Uganda to carry out some Christianity and humanitarian work. Of the works he did, was setting up of Leprosy Treatment Centre on the then inhabitable Bwama Island. The centre comprised of the medical facility, the patient’s quarter and the church. Leprosy victims were stigmatised in the society and therefore, Sharp established the centre so that they could get better care and treatment. Sharp settled on Njuyeera and built a small white house. Njuyeera island was named after his home meaning “white cottage”. The House was turned into an accommodation facility and it is now called The White House Hotel.
The major town around Lake Bunyonyi area is Bufuka Village. People in the area commonly practice fishing and subsistence farming to make ends meet. Large scale fishing has had little success on the waters of Bunyonyi due to their deepness as the most demanded fish species in Uganda like Nile perch and tilapia cannot thrive. Fish species like Cray fish from America and mud are the popular ones caught.
Tourism also has a stake at Bunyonyi, there are different tourist structures established around the area apart from the lake and its islands. For instance, numerous resort lodges have been constructed at the islands and shores of the lake. Lake Bunyonyi is a popular site for honeymooners and tourists from gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park. it is a great spot to rest your mind and refresh.
Things to do at Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi being a place of nature, it has lots of adventurous and exciting activities to offer to its visitors and these include;
Unwinding and Relaxation: Lake Bunyonyi is one of the most beautiful places in the whole world and dubbed as “Wakanda” by many people. It has “a garden of Eden like” scenery with a great climate for chilling and merrymaking. It is a place to be for visitors who wish to escape from the bustle and hustle of the urban areas. Its islands are so virgin with soothing and fresh air making it a perfect place to relax. It is a popular stopover for tourists from doing strenuous activities like gorilla trekking, game viewing and mountain hiking in the national parks. The Resort lodges at the islands present the cosiest treatment a person can ever wish of. Their beddings are comfortable, the dishes are mouth watering and the hospitality from the stuff is next to none.
Swimming: The waters of Lake Bunyonyi are safe, still and clean thus creating a natural swimming pool to cool off after a tiresome sunny day around the kigezi highlands. The lake is less polluted because of the minimal or no fishing sites on the shores. This deep water body is also free from dangerous animals like hippos and crocodiles. In addition to that, bacteria that cause water diseases like Bilharzia are absent. The only detriment for swimming is the deepness of the lake. It requires good swimmers to enjoy the waters of Bunyonyi.
Canoeing: This is the perfect experience to enjoy and explore the lake and its islands. On a locally crafted wooden boat, a visitor gets to relish the sea bliss of Lake Bunyonyi and its natural beauties for about 2-3hours. The canoes are scheduled any time of the day but the most exciting times are the mornings and evenings. In the morning, you enjoy the sunrise experience and in the evening, the sunset. These times create a scintillating outlook around the lake as the sun reflects its rays on the water turning every scenery golden. Also in the early mornings, the lake is covered with mist and this is another phenomenon to craze about. Canoeing is also organised in the nights to enjoy the moon lingering in the skies and the sounds of birds, frogs and other nocturnal creatures. The canoes are hired at 60,000 Uganda shilling from the locals. The motored ones cost 120,000 shillings.
Cultural and community Tours: The best way to know the historical and present social activities around Lake Bunyonyi is taking a stroll around the local communities. Get to interact with the people on a personal level, they will wow you with their tales and their social and economic routines. Visit the gardens, local schools and trading centres, you will fall in love with a new culture that is full of hard work, joy and free spirited people. The Bakiga love booze and they have both locally made and factory distilled. Take the Marwa and obushera, you will have no regrets as the two beverages are made out of millet, sorghum and bananas. For those who don’t trust locally made liquor, an alcohol distilling factory is with in vicinity to get yourself a bottled Uganda Waragi. The wow factor in Uganda Waragi is the crispy taste as it massages your tongue. It is the best gin to taste around Africa.
Apart from Bakiga, Batwa is another community around Lake Bunyonyi. Batwa people are the indigenous descendants of the Kigezi region but they were reduced to the minorities and down trodden ones. The Batwa are short in stature and live in destitute. These pygmies lead a rudimentary life and enjoy a forest habitat. The Batwa has stuck to their traditions and culture up to date and a visit around their communities will leave you awestruck. Their cultural rituals and practices are intriguing and so is their music dance and drama.
Nature Trek: Walks in the Echuya forest is one of the popular activities around Lake Bunyonyi. Those who are entirely about nature, this is an activity for you. A trek around Echuya forest spoils with lots of marvels from the amazing views of the lake, highlands and Island to the living species that reside in the forest.
Tour the local market: All sorts of merchandise can be found at Rutindo local market but the most outstanding ones are the organic and fresh foods, fruits and vegetables. Don’t miss on having a bite of a juicy pineapple or a succulent mango and sweet bananas too. Away from the foods, craft items are available at market which are great souvenirs to take home. Visiting the local market is also another way of interacting with the local people.
Birding: Bunyonyi means “a place with little birds” and this water body leaves to its title. Over 200 bird species are recorded in the area. There are both resident and migratory birds found on the lake and the islands. The common birds around Bunyonyi are weaver birds, grey crowned cranes, slender-billed baglafetch and egret. The best way to watch the bird is by canoeing and the best birding spot is Nyombi Swamp.
Accessibility of Lake Bunyonyi
It takes about 8hours by car from Kampala to Kabale where Lake Bunyonyi is located. For sole travellers using public means, you have to first get to Kabale Town and then proceed to Lake Bunyonyi by either boda boda or special hire. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Bunyonyi from Kabale Town. Travellers from Kibale national park or Queen Elizabeth national park require about 6 hours to reach Lake Bunyonyi by road. From Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga national park, it takes about 3 hours. The distance from Kigali to Lake Bunyonyi is shorter than that of Kampala as it only takes about 5 hours.
Safari Lodges for accommodation at Lake Bunyonyi
While at Lake Bunyonyi, you are spoilt with a variety of choices of where to stay. Bunyonyi has numerous safari lodges and hotels for its travellers ranging from budget to luxury.
Let’s look at some of the popular accommodation establishments around;
Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort: It is lodge established on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi. It is constructed in local materials. The resort has cottages and cabins offering a luxury experience and permanent tents for middle class. There are also dormitories for budget travellers. camping site where you can pitch your own tent is available too. It has a modern restaurant offering delightful cuisines. Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort is a great base for visitors who wish to engage in activities like canoeing, nature walks, biking, zip lining and village tours.
Byoona Amagara: This is a community initiative constructed to uplift their livelihood. Every funds gotten from the facility is reimbursed into community development projects like education and farming. The hotel is established on Itambira Island. On the island, some part of the land is occupied by the hotel and the rest, there are farmlands for the locals. The hotel has a very scenic surrounding while at the balcony of any of its rooms, you are about to view the lake and other islands. The rooms vary from luxury to standard rooms and also dormitories are available for guests on a tight budget. Cottages are presence for family accommodation. We can not forget to mention the great foods served at the restaurant of the lodge.
Arcadia Cottages: This is one of the most popular accommodation establishments at Lake Bunyonyi, it is nestled at the upper slopes of one of the highlands providing a magnificent sight of the lake and its green dotted islands. There are twelve self contained rooms at the cottage offering exquisite first class treatment to the residents.
The Africa Explorer Eco village: It is an eco lodge lying on the terraced hill of Kyabahinga overlooking Lake Bunyonyi and the Virunga massif at the borders of Rwanda and Congo. At this lodge, everything is in nature form from the self contained huts to the solar electricity that light up the lodge. Domes and camp sites are present for budget travellers. The meals offered are both local and international but may seem costly to the budget travellers.
Lost Paradise Beach: It has simple African setting cottages with a beach upfront. Lost Paradise Beach has the best relaxing and unwinding environment around. Its restaurant serves, African, Asian and Europeans dishes thus appealing to all sorts of travellers from different countries. There is a food farm on its premises and organic fruits and foods like sugarcanes, passion fruits and bananas are harvested from it. These are normally served to its esteemed guest during the meals. The lodge offers free canoeing to its guests. The lake water on the beach is great for swimming and also a swimming pool is available in the cottage premises.
Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort: This is one of the places to be in Bunyonyi for luxury travellers. The 10 executive and standard cottages are nestled in one of the forests around offering a pristine ambience to the guests. The rooms have all sorts of facilities needed for a sumptuous stay, for example; flushing toilets, hot and cold water showers, wifi and room service telephone. The restaurant has all sorts of delicacies and the bar is fully stocked. There is a poolside for cooling off after engaging in tiring activities around Lake Bunyonyi. The resort too arranges for its guests, activities like canoeing, biking, nature walks, zip lining and camping retreats. Cultural entertainment from the local groups is organised on request from the guests.
Bunyonyi View Resort: A budget travellers’ favourite because of its unbeatable rates. It has normal single self contained rooms, family cottages and dormitories of which most of them overlook the lake. The cuisines at the resorts are tasty and affordable.
Bushara Island Camp: The Island Camp is a resting place tailor made for lovers or honeymooners. It is established in a secluded environment on Bushara Island. It has a nonchalant surrounding as it is detached from other amenities. The camp has tents, cottages and tree houses. There are family, single and double chalets. Hammocks are available for loves to swing and cuddle in the cosy evenings
Bird’s Nest. It is a storeyed accommodation facility with a grass thatched roof located in Kabale on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi. Bird’s Nest has both single and double high-end rooms. The restaurant has both local and international dishes and the bar is fully stocked with some renowned beverages. The lodge’s lounge has a DSTV connected screen and Wifi is available. Guests can swim in either the pool or the lake.