Lake Bunyonyi Uganda


Lake Bunyonyi is found in South Western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale near the Rwandan border and it is positioned 450 Km from Kampala. It is a drive of 7 hours from Kampala and a drive of 100 km (2 hours) from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Located at 1,962 metres above the sea level, the 25 km long and 7 km wide lake covering an area of 61 square kilometres is believed to be the deepest lake in Africa with varying length of between 44 m to 900 metres. The lake surface is a fresh with 25 degrees celicious thus bilharzia free and safe for swimming.

The lake has 29 islands that include Punishment Island and Bushara Island which are all concentrated in the central part. This water body is known for the surrounding terraced hillsides and is a visitation darling of many foreign and domestic tourists with a number of accommodations. Located seven kilometres west from Kabale Town, southwestern Uganda, Bunyonyi is surrounded by hills that are 2,200 to 2,478 metres high and intensely cultivated.

In the beginning of the 20th century, fish were introduced to the lake and in the 1930s fishing became profitable. Unfortunately in the 1960s the fish died massively as a result of a violent shallow mixing, likely caused by wind. Subsistence fishing prevailed in the lake, people mostly caught clarias species – the lake’s depth and stratification makes it difficult for the breeding of the common Ugandan species Nile Perch and Tilapia. Nevertheless, 300,000 Nile Tilapias and Clarias fish were released in the lake at the end of 2002. Also present in the lake are Mud fish, Cray fish and Mirrowcarp plus a plenty of their predators, otters.

About 200 bird species have been recorded at the lake area since “Bunyonyi” also means “the place of many little birds”. The bird species inlcude the White tailed Blue Monard, grey crowned cranes, the African Harrier Hawk, Herons and egrets, the Levillant cuckoo, the Cardinal Woodpecker and the Rufous-breasted wryneck. Weavers nesting on the Island, include the large golden, slender-billed Baglafetch, as well as the yellow-backed and spectacled weavers. The lake’s main centre is Bufuka Village. The area’s inhabitants are from the Bakiga and the Batwa tribes.

Lake Bunyonyi Main islands

1. Bushara Island

This island is also a place for Lake Bunyonyi Development Company, an organization with strong links to Church of Uganda. Tourism is the main source of funds for various developments around Bunyonyi areas. This island has many luxury tents, chalets, and also campsites for tourists to stay on. You can also hire canoes and sailboats to sail around the lake and its other islands. The island is forested with mainly eucalyptus trees that grow fast.

2. Akampene Punishment Island

The Bakiga used to leave unmarried pregnant girls on this small island with a tree to die of hunger or die while trying to swim to the mainland as swimming skills were rare. This was to educate the rest, to show them not to do the same. A man without cows to pay the bride wealth could go to the island and get a girl. In the first half of the 20th century, the practice got abandoned but is still possible to find women who were picked up from Punishment Island today.

3. Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp’s Island)

Around 1921, an English missionary, Dr. Leonard Sharp visited this place and established a leprosy treatment centre on the then uninhabited Bwama island in 1931. A church, patient quarters and a medical facility were built, while Sharp settled on Njuyeera Island meaning ‘white cottage’, after the similarity of the doctor’s small white house to Sharp’s father’s house in Shanklin, now The White House Hotel. The rationale of the leprosy colony was that of ‘voluntary segregation’, where the provision of a happy community to live in would attract leprosy sufferers, so removing them from the communities where they might infect others. The hospital buildings are used by a boarding secondary school which attracts students from the entire region and there is a primary school but no village on the island.

4. Bucuranuka Island

This island, according to legendary stories killed many people. About twenty were once brewing local sorghum beer there. An old woman was passing by and she said: “Can you give me some local beer?” They wrongly though that she was a beggar they knew. They refused her: “Get lost, beggar! Get lost! The old woman asked: “So you will not even give me a sip? Can I at least get somebody to take me to the mainland?” They answered: “Yes, because we are fed up with you!” They chose a young guy to take her over. When they reached the shore and the guy was just beginning to return, the island turned upside down and they all perished but only a chicken flew away and survived.

Safari activities at Bunyonyi include canoeing, boat riding, local tour, swimming, hiking the highlands around the lake, pygmy village tour and birding. AAB Tours and Travel will take you to Lake Bunyonyi Safaris to enjoy and experience the unique gifts of nature.

Nature walks;
Walking around the lake Bunyonyi’s waters while listening to bird songs and the tearing water and consequently the feeling of the fresh breeze of Lake Bunyonyi and community around.

Bird watching;
This is a key activity and a majority of bird species can be noticed, there are more than 200 species of birds recorded. Using a boat ride to the neighboring Nyombi swamp one is able to see a selection of bird species over the trees and the sky.
The waters of Lake Bunyonyi are free from the hazards of bilhazia, dangers of crocodiles, hippos and other threatening animals thus do not miss swimming opportunity. There are swimming spots with swimming docks on some islands of the lake.

Boat cruise and canoeing can also be enjoyed around the lake. This will help you experience the quietness, calmness and the tranquility of Lake Bunyonyi. A canoe ride at night is thrilling given the loud chorus of crickets, frogs, nocturnal birds singing plus the waving lake waters which all make the ride exceedingly exciting.

Historic and cultural tours;
there are attractive cultural and natural sights like the Bakora cave, the Batwa [pygmies] and the Abaheesi [traditional black smiths] communities that are accessible in close proximity. Also visiting islands around the lake like Habuharo, Akempene and Bucuraniko Island is a memory-catching experience.

Visiting pygmies during Lake Bunyonyi Tour;
Take a boat trip to the local communities of the Batwa/pygmies who live in the islands near the lake and see their ways of life, activities and their charming cultural dance performances.

Mountain climbing/biking as part of Lake Bunyonyi visit;
Family unit or group picnics and relaxation can also be enjoyed on the islands in the areas of Lake Bunyonyi.

Lake Bunyonyi is in the neighborhoods of Kabale town in South Western Uganda. On the road, it is 6 hours from Kampala (410 km) to Kabale town and 8 km marrum road from Kabale town to Lake Bunyonyi on your way to Bwindi Forest in Kabale or Mgahinga Gorilla home Kisoro district. Lake Bunyonyi is tangled between the hills of Kabale.