Lake Bunyonyi, literally translated as place of many little birds is a freshwater lake thought to be the second deepest lake in Africa. It covers an area of 61square KMS at 1,962m above sea. The freshwater lake is 25km long and 7km wide ,it has a varying depth between 44m to 900m. However the water temperatures continue to rise and it’s maximum surface temperature reaches 25°C/77°F.
Lake Bunyonyi is believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa with its deepest end approximately 900m. The lake is dotted with 29 islands. The most prominent of these include the Akampene Island also known as the punishment island, Bushara, Kyahugye, Bwama and Njuyeera, and Bucuranuka. Also the deepest lake in Uganda, home of Otters, crayfish and a place of many little birds.
It is located in south-western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale, and it is close to the border with Rwanda.
Lake Bunyonyi is a young lake believed to have been formed as a result of lava flow from one of the Virunga mountains and managed to occupy Ndego River and when it continued blocked the river ,so when the river was dammed by a lava flow and the river drowned thus forming the lake.
It is referred to as the place of many little birds because it has over 200 different species of birds that are live at this lake. The Nyombi swamp stands out as the best place for bird watching and you can see some of the swamp flycatcher, red chested sunbirds ,grey crowned cranes to mention but a few.
29 islands each one more fascinating from the other. With your preferred mode of transport, you get a chance to visit every island on the lake and explore it. The most commonly visited are;
Akampene (Punishment island): Regarded the smallest island on the lake and yet one that is most memorable. Akampene island holds a morbid history of a tradition that was upheld for quite a long time by the local people. Young girls who got pregnant before marriage were taken to this island and tied to the one tree that sits on the islands to atone for their transgressions. As times changed, this tradition was ignored and regarded as an outdated ancient tradition.
Kyahugye Island: Considered one of the most exciting islands, here there are a number of animals you can see. The Island is home of Zebras, Waterbucks, Impalas and a lot more. For a mini version of a game drive, with a view of the glittering sun-kissed waters at a distance and fresh breezes, an hours’ ride will be a perfect addition. These animals were introduced to the area.
Bushara Island: For a closer look at the birds around this area, you have to check out Bushara Island. Carry your binoculars and long-lens cameras to be able to get the best of the experience.
Bwama Island: This is the largest of the islands and happens to be inhabited by people. Dr Leonard Sharp was a Scottish missionary that came to Uganda in the 1920s and in 1931 started up a sanctuary for people suffering from Leprosy. He set up a Leprosy treatment Centre where people would come to be treated without feeling mistreated or neglected. This is strongly embedded in the island’s history. Currently, these hospital structures are being used as schools for the island inhibitors.
Bacuranuka Island: The mythical story about this island is quite a tale. Long ago, 20 men were making local brew (obushera) when an old woman came upon them and requested for a sip of the drink. The men refused to offer her a sip of the drink in an ungentlemanly manner. The old lady requested them to offer her a ride to the mainland to which they accepted gladly for they wanted her out of the way. One of the men was sent with her to the mainland, out of frustration, the old lady cursed the island which turned upside down and swallowing the men brewing ‘bushera’ on the island.
With 29 small islands, you can be sure that each island has a special tale that ties to the local history and cultural beliefs.
There are many things to do at Lake Bunyonyi. You could either choose to relax in the comfortable surroundings of our Lake Bunyonyi Lodges and Resorts or you could partake in the many activities that include bird watching, nature walks and hiking canoeing and boat crusing, mountain biking among others.
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. It has over 200 bird species including occasional ,endemic and migratory birds. Birding can be done as tourists canoes to Nyombi swamp ,forest around the lake and shores as well. Some of the bird include the grey-crowned cranes, red-chested sunbirds, flycatchers, white-tailed blue Monard, slender-billed baglafetch, weavers, egrets, herons, woodpeckers among others all over the banks of the lakes. If you are a bird lover but also in dire need for a quiet getaway, Bunyonyi is the perfect place to experience this.
The waters are very safe and so you can move from corner to corner enjoying the scenic view. With a local guide, you get to learn a lot about the 29 islands (inhabited and uninhabited), tribes of people that live around the lake. There are countless boats for hire on the banks of the lake ready to take you inland all day.
For some more enriched experience, a walk around the communities opens your eyes to the traditional way of living, cultural beliefs, history and mythical stories that have been told from generation to generation. The local people are very welcoming.
Tracks along the terraces, banana plantations and lush green vegetation give a clear view of the 29 islands. It gives quite a great picture-perfect spot from all Community walks and visits
This is the commonest mode of transport on Lake Bunyonyi. The locals are constantly making trips across the lake from island to island and different sides of the hills to do their personal business.
To have a better feel of what it feels like to live the way they do, a canoe ride is a perfect option, giving you extra time on the lake, a chance to stop right in the middle for a little serenity and panoramic view. You can choose to be paddled or even do the paddling yourself as long as you have a guide with you.
This service is available any time of the day including evenings for the lovers that want to watch the sunset as they glide with the lake. The lake is not infested with any dangerous water animals like hippos and crocodiles making this evening and possibly romantic experience unforgettable while Canoeing.
There are several roads/tracks around the Lake and uphill on the surrounding hills. The entire ride provides a clearer and clearer view of the magical islands and allows you to get up-close and personal with lots of the local people. Some of the lodging arrears provide bikes for hire. This can be arranged by your tour guide – to make sure everything is well prepared in advance
It is a fun, exhilarating experience to linger over the lake and splash the water as you drift from one end to another. Safety equipment is provided for this activity on site. The equipment used is well tested to ensure the safely of everyone on the ziplines.
You get to swing over the calm waters of the lake and even make half somersaults to touch the waters and feel the breeze on your face.
A local market is a place where people come to connect and catch up with others. African Market experience is something you should. Markets around Lake Bunyonyi have about anything you can think of ranging from African crafts, vegetables, shoes, clothes, and electronics. The people move around swiftly as they haggle for cheaper prices, others stand around and catch up with each other and others riding in with more merchandise to sell.
Change from the swimming pools is just what you need on holiday and Lake Bunyoyi is open for this all time of the day. Take time to chill on the banks of the lake, sunbathe and deep dive any time of the day.The Lake is filled with fresh waters and is Bilharzia free. There is no shore but safe structures have been put in place to allow easy deep dives into the open waters.
The Batwa and Bakiga of Western Uganda. The Batwa settled along the lake after their eviction from Echuya forest, Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi gorilla forest. The Batwa are a unique tribe in Uganda who have a unique culture and different traditions
The Batwa pygmies are a very small group of people found on the border of Kabale and Kisoro in the ‘Echuya Forest Reserve’ who is believed to have been originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a tribe of hunters who used to live in the DRC rain forests until they migrated to Western Uganda after being removed from their land as a result of industrialization. There are almost 4,000 Batwa in living in this area.
The Batwa have a fascinating history including their own creation story, a unique relationship with the forest who have been marginalized for quite some time now. They live in small grass and stick houses and generally keep to themselves. The Batwa experience was set up the Kellerman Foundation and being a part of this highly benefits this endangered group of people.