Lake Bunyonyi also called a place of little birds is located in southwestern Uganda between Kabala and Kisoro close to the border with Rwanda. Lake Bunyonyi is 1962 meters above sea level, about 25kilometers long and 7kilometers wide. Its depth is between 44 meters and 900meters which makes it the deepest lake in Uganda and the second deepest in Africa. Lake Victoria is the most beautiful and stunning lake in Africa with 29 islands with various shapes and size which are surrounded by the steep green terraced hillsides and farms. The hills that surround Lake Bunyonyi are 2200m to 2478m high and are used for cultivation by the villages around. The 29 islands on the lake are scattered in the central part of the water and have few settlements and are therefore used for tourist facilities and for school study tours among others.
Lake Bunyonyi is also known for its fresh waters, moderate temperatures, changing climate which has mist rising off the placid waters and cools in the mornings and evenings. There is subsistence fishing with different fish species including mudfish, Crayfish, mirror carp among others and is not a breeding lake for the common species in Uganda like the tilapia and Nile Perch because of its depth. Lake Bunyonyi has towns like Kyevu and Muko on the shores with the main center being Bufuka village which has two tribes of the Bakiga and Batwa. Lake Bunyonyi is popular for both domestic and foreign tourists and has a variety of accommodation facilities hence being a great place and quiet to rest, relax and chill out after a gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Volcanoes national park in Rwanda since Lake Bunyonyi is close to Kigali.
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the few lakes in Africa that have waters which are free from human disease bilharzia and without water animals like crocodiles and hippopotamus which makes it a great place for swimming though the visitors have to be aware of its depth while swimming for their own safety while at the lake. Lake Bunyonyi has five main island which include Bushara island, Akampene island also known as punishment island which has a historical background which gives a wonderful experience to visitors on the safari, Kyahugye Island which harbors a number of animals like zebras, monkeys among others, Bucuranuka which is an upside-down island, Bwama and Njubeera islands. Lake Bunyonyi is a great destination for bird watching just like its name, pleasant climate, great views of the landscapes, islands, sunsets in the evening, variety of activities to participate in among others which makes it a fascinating area to visit while on Ugandan safaris.
Getting to Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi is located in kabala south western Uganda and it takes about 7hours drive on road from Kampala to kabala town and 8km on marram road from Kabala town to Lake Bunyonyi and three hours drive from Kigali Rwanda. You can connect to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla trekking or Mgahinga Gorilla National park for mountain climbing from Lake Bunyonyi.
Activities on Lake Bunyonyi
Bird watching: Lake Bunyonyi as its name the place of many little birds is a home of about 200 birds species and birding is a key activity on the lake which can be done with a guide on Nyombi swamp which is located at the end of the lake, on some islands which can be reached by a canoe and bird species that can be spotted include grey-crowned cranes, red-chested sunbirds, herons, weaver birds, egrets, levillant cuckoo, slender-billed baglafech, flycatchers among others hence referred to as a birders paradise for bird lovers.
Motorized boat cruise to the islands, this is an activity that is done around the lake in a motorized boat and will visit areas like Bwama island where you get to know how a British missionary called Dr. Leonard Sharp founded a leper hospital in 1931, he lived with his family on Njebeera island which was also known as barren but he turned it into a tropical paradise where lepers lived and were treated. The hospital was open until the 1950s which was later converted into two schools the secondary boarding school and the primary school where pupils arrive at school by boat or canoes from other islands because there is no village on Bwama island.
Boat ride to Akampene also known as punishment island and this has a cultural history where the Bakiga people used to take girls who got pregnant during the 1940s to abandon them and starve them to death as a punishment and some girls tried to swim to the mainland but often died while others would survive if a poor man who would not afford bride price would come to rescue the pregnant girl. The event was to make girls abstain from sex before marriage and this gives visitors a fascinating experience.
Swimming, Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda and the second deepest lake with freshwaters in Africa. Lake Bunyonyi is one of the lakes in Africa which is free from human disease bilharzia that is caused by parasitic worms and also dangerous water animals like hippos and crocodiles hence making it a great place for swimming. Lake Bunyonyi has enclosed some places which act like swimming pools where you can swim while at the lake because of its height and some lodges like Birdnest resort have swimming pools where visitors can swim. Visitors are also advised to use safety precautions like the use of nearby canoes in case they are to swim out into the lake and you have to be a good swimmer if you are to swim in Lake Bunyonyi.
Ride in a dugout canoe, dugout canoe is the common mode of transport the surrounding villages from one island to another on Lake Bunyonyi. During the ride in the dugout canoe, visitors will explore the villages surrounding the lake, forest, islands, take part in nature walks and learn more about the lake, the people and their traditions. Paddling a dugout canoe can either be done on a guided tour or you can rent your own canoe, it can take a few hours or it can be an all-day event where you have to take packed lunch from the lodge and enough drinking water depending on your schedule and is also done on other lakes like Lake Mutanda in Uganda. Lake Bunyonyi also has an overnight dugout canoe trip which is the most popular since there is the night quietness on the water and this experience cannot be found elsewhere except in Uganda.
Cultural encounters, visitors on a safari on Lake Bunyonyi will visit the Batwa community also known as pygmies who were the original people of the forest which provided food, shelter, medicine but were later disposed off their ancestral lands by the government of Uganda to build Echuya Forest Reserve which has caused suffering of the Batwa from social problems and therefore survives on tourism by organizing performances in terms of songs, dances among others where money earned is used to improve on their lifestyles. Visitors also visit the homestays of people in the community who are the Bakiga by visiting the schools, local markets, see local settlements, their lifestyles, cultures, learn how to cook their dishes, visit restaurants which serve Crayfish because it’s one of the common fish species caught on lake Bunyonyi though some lodges have fish pounds where they rare tilapia fish, visit farmlands and participate in digging among others which gives them the experience to know the people in the villages because they are the heartbeat of lake Bunyonyi.
Nature walks, this is an activity on lake Bunyonyi where visitors move on foot to the villages with terraced gardens which surround the lake or in a canoe to explore the neighboring villages on the islands. Visitors move with the guides to explore the highlands of Kigezi, see landscapes, wildlife like zebras, otters, monkeys, birds, tree plantations, hiking Echuya Forest Reserve among others. During nature walks in Lake Bunyonyi visitors will visit the local market at Rutindo which happens every Monday and Friday at Rutindo landing center where they will interact with villagers in the market and see women wrapped in multi-colored kangas.
Mountain biking: mountain biking on lake Bunyonyi is done around the lake with a guide on a bike to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the villages, islands among others which creates an enjoyable moment for the visitors on the lake Bunyonyi safari.
Cultural heritage and historical beliefs
Visitors on lake Bunyonyi visit the souvenir shops to see the traditional crafts like baskets, hats, mats which are done by the local people to earn a living know how they are made and the equipment used, visit the local medicine men on the hills of Kagarama, have a stopover at the Bakiga cultural museum which was built in 2002 by the elder in Kabale who fights for the Bakiga language and culture Festo Karwemera.
Accommodation on Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi has several accommodation facilities which offer sleeping services, meals, drinks beautiful scenery of the lake, islands, villages, birds, wildlife among others and they include arcadia lodge, Lake Bunyonyi eco-resort, crater bay cottages, Bushara island camp, Bunyonyi overland camp, paradise eco hub, hawks yes lodge Bunyonyi among others.
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the top places and the best place for relaxation and chills out after a gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National park, hiking, volcanic climbing in Mgahinga national park with beautiful and magical panoramic views, pleasant climate, and quiet environment among others for a memorable lifetime experience in Uganda.