Perched in the far south- western corner of Uganda, marked with 29 islands and overlooked by sprawling terraced of Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi is doubtlessly one of Uganda’s most picturesque and loveliest sites. It is on record that no place in Uganda beats Lake Bunyonyi in offering excellent options for R&R after a strenuous Uganda safari. It is a place to rewind after an adventurous gorilla trekking in the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national parks.
The name of the lake literally means a ‘place of little birds’ and it is truly graced with up to 200 bird species including a wide array of weavers that nest by the lake banks and on the many islands. Plus it is undoubtedly the best site in Uganda to sight otters. Lake is speculated to be up to 900m deep, though this fact has never been proven, but it could be the second deepest lake on the continent, second only to Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania and Burundi.
A place for many Islands
What makes Lake Bunyonyi so unique is not only its depth, but the numerous islands dotted around its interior. They are 29 in number, and most of them with historical and cultural importance. Visit each of them during your tour on the lake and learn more about their respective uniqueness.
Bushara Island. Also referred to as Sharp’s island, this is a remarkable island enveloped with a eucalyptus plantation forest. Recently it has turned out to be a treasure for many visitors on the lake but long ago the island was home to doctors working at the Bwama leprosy colony; a small health center that was set up by a British doctor, Dr. Sharp to curb the problem of leprosy disease in this community.
Punishment Island. Also known as “Akampene Island”, this islet is probably the most famous of all islands in Lake Bunyonyi. It is where young unmarried girls would be taken and left in isolation to die after conceiving unwanted pregnancies. Its name, “Punishment Island” was crafted from its horrible history.
The Akampene Island is little more than 215 square foot and what remains of it now is a raised muddy platform that protrudes from the lake but currently being eroded by the gradual waves that float across Bunyonyi. Just two trees now inhabit the islet, one which is long dead and an undergrowth of short papyrus grass and other water plants. In reality, while girls were ritually humiliated and left on the island to perish, many attempted to swim back but failed to make it to the shores and died in the middle of the lake.
Kyahugye Island. This one is also a popular island on Lake Bunyonyi due to its close proximity to the mainland, just a stone throw away. It is a few minutes by boat from the lake shores and a home to a luxurious eco resort, plus a profusion of wildlife and several bird species that dwell in this living zoo.
The island is privately owned and spans approximately 74 acres and host to a variety of verdant vegetation, zebras and abundant bird life.
Due to the numerous islands and other attractions along the lake shores, this has favored many tourist activities that can be done within and around Lake Bunyonyi.
A motorized boat trips on Lake Bunyonyi
This takes approximately 3-4 hours and exposes one to the entire lake, in and out of the islands, make a few stops on a couple of islands, and listen to the history of each as narrated by the local guide.
Nature walks can be done around Bushara Island, with lush vegetation and an array of unique birds. Enjoy the sights and sounds of thee little birds and learn a lot about how the Bakiga used, and still utilize natural plants as medicinal herbs to treat different illnesses. A short nature walk around the forested peninsula will bring you to a creative submerged swimming pool built purposely to train residents about life-saving skills, view grass-thatched huts built for volunteers, a rural primary school and so much more.
High Ropes Adventure
The high ropes are first of its kind on any lake in Uganda as well as East Africa. Built across the lake on Nature’s Prime Island, this adventure experience is run and operated by Supreme Adventure Park. The island is just meters away from the mainland, located in the same neighborhood with the famous Kansiime backpackers.
Take a morning or afternoon adventure encounter on the island and cross Uganda’s deepest lake on a zip line. The park is made up of 3 warrior levels which you have to complete in 3 different stages, and upon completion you are rewarded with an amazing Zip lining experience across the lake.
Birding in Lake Bunyonyi
Just like depicted in its name, a “place of many little birds”, Lake Bunyonyi is truly gifted with magnificence of birds. While the many Islands make it even more convenient for numerous birds to stay around even for those that are homeless are fond of taking refuge in various inland islands and this has increased the number of birds massively.
Lake Bunyonyi boasts over 200 species of birds and some of them include; the grey crowned crane (Uganda’s national bird), herons, and white tailed blue monard, cattle egrets, slender-billed baglafetch, cardinal woodpecker, African Harrier Hawk and many more.
These are interactive cultural tours with in the villages / communities on one of the islands or along the shores of the lake in the neighborhood. Popular community visits go to the Batwa pygmies who are known to be the original “forest people” who up to to-date still struggle to find pursuit of survival in the modern world outside of the forests.
Home stays with in the villages can also be arranged as well as visits to local schools, markets and health centers. On a typical village tour, you will learn how to prepare food in a traditional way and participate in farming with the locals.
An amazing way to uncover all the magic of Lake Bunyonyi is to follow in the footsteps of the natives and indulge into an experiential dugout canoe. A canoe ride along Lake Bunyonyi is an unforgettable journey on a beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, exposing undertakers up-close to all the famous islands.
Accommodation at Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi has an array of accommodation options to facilitate the stay of her many guests who come around to spend some days relaxing along the shores. These lodges/resorts range from luxury, mid-range / moderate and budget/basic. Some of the lodges around Lake Bunyonyi include Bird Nest Lodge, Arcadia Cottages Bunyonyi, Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort, Bunyonyi Overland Resort, Bunyonyi Safaris Resort, Supreme Adventure park, Bunyonyi Rock Resort, Kansiime Backpackers and more.
Lake Bunyonyi is located in the midst of Kigezi mystical highlands. Situated along the Kabale – Kisoro road, accessing Lake Bunyonyi from Kampala takes approximately 7-8 hours driving through Masaka-Mbarara Highway. From Kabale town branch off from Kisoro road and take the left murram road driving for only 8km.