Travel

Exploring the Natural Wonders of Lake Bunyonyi

A view of some of the islands in lake Bunyonyi

Most visitors – local or foreign – who have been to Lake Bunyonyi describe the features of the lake as “Beautiful, symptoms magical, prostate relaxing, price and peaceful.”

A few weeks ago, a group of “anonymous” friends and I, courtesy of Kuamka Tours, embarked on the long trip to Lake Bunyonyi.

Bunyonyi, which appears on the Shs5, 000 note, is found in the Southwestern part of Uganda near the border of Rwanda, 7km away from Kabale town.

Dotted with 29 serpentine islands, the beautiful waterbody also comprises of a flooding river valley that extends northwards for 25km, following the steep contours of the hills separating Kabale from Kisoro.

Formed 8,000 years ago, the lake is described by many as “Uganda’s most popular water front chill-out venue”, boasting of a thick manifestation of culture and tradition is also home to a Pygmy tribe.

We converged at the shores of the lake from the Bunyonyi Overland Resort at exactly 9am where we spent a night.

Our guide Derrick Waiswa, executive director of Kuamka Tours, walked us through the features of the island, hinting on how we were going to visit only five islands due to limited time.

My friends and I canoeing on East Africa's second deepest lake

My friends and I canoeing on East Africa’s second deepest lake

Crayfish

At one of the shores, we were given a brief study on the Louisiana red swamp Cray fish living in the second deepest lake in Africa and third on the world’s list.

“Cray fish has been an overwhelming dish to the Bakiga but never the less some of them have begun including it as part of their diet,” Waiswa revealed.

Tourists from all over the world, Waiswa said, come to have a taste of it.

A kilo is surprisingly Shs15, 000; one wonders how much it would cost in Kampala.

Bakiga (inhabitats of Kabale District) have overtime learnt to eat crayfish

Bakiga (inhabitats of Kabale District) have overtime learnt to eat crayfish

Akampene /Punishment Island

Akampene Island, the smallest of all islands, is visible from the north shore of Bwama and the East shores of Bushara.

Standing at the island is a solitary tree, surrounded by a thick tangle of reed and tall grass, which leaves one wondering if nature is punishing the island because of the past deeds.

According to Waiswa, “Unmarried pregnant women would be brought to the punishment island.”

The village people, he continues, “would first gather and beat her up to reveal the man behind the pregnancy.”

Thereafter she would be escorted by the village elders to the island and abandoned to die.

Only one tree stands tall on Akampene island

Only one tree stands tall on Akampene island

In some cases the fishermen who were the girl’s boyfriends would come and pick their lovers in the wee hours of the night and elope to the next villages.

The punishment, Waiswa says, served as a strong warning about pre-marital sex.

With contemporary living, things have changed a lot as one can leave with a partner without even knowing their origin.

BWAMA Island

Divergent to the tiny Punishment Island is Bwama Island, the largest on Lake Bunyonyi famously known as the leprosy island.

The island got its name after Dr. Leonard Sharp, a Scottish missionary that came to Uganda in the 1920s to spread Christianity witnessed the huge impact of leprosy in the region.

To fight the disease, Sharp established a treatment center and a church which still exist till date.

The treatment center was however changed into a community secondary school while the church is now Bwama church of Uganda and is still used by the local’s, majorly the pygmies.

Bwama Community School. Most children staying around the island study here

Bwama Community School. Most children staying around the island study here

Akabucuranura Island

A rather imaginary legend is attached to this island whose name means upside down, Says Waiswa.

He narrates that many years ago, a group of male revelers refused to share their abundant stock of beer with an old lady who had disembarked from her canoe to join them for the drinking party but unfortunately, the woman was a sorceress.

She returned to her canoe, paddled a safe distance away and then used her magical powers to turn over the island drowning everybody in the party and then flipped it back as if nothing had happened.

Bwama Church of Uganda, one of the oldest churches in Kabale

Bwama Church of Uganda, one of the oldest churches in Kabale

Other places we visited are Kyahugye Island, Muko and Ruhuma swamp.

All in all Lake Bunyonyi ought to be considered as one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, not only because of the history it has but also for the rich nature it bears.

Now that l have seen it with my own eyes, it joins the rank of the most loved travel destinations of all time.

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