Things To Do Around Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda

Things To Do Around Lake Bunyonyi In Uganda

Things To Do Around Lake Bunyonyi – Lake Bunyonyi, located in the southwestern part of Uganda near the Rwanda border in Kabale District, is one of Africa’s most naturally stunning lakes and a top tourist destination in Uganda. It attracts visitors, honeymooners, and locals seeking an escape from bustling urban life to enjoy the lake’s cool climate and picturesque islands. The lake offers panoramic views from all sides and is an ideal spot for meditation and relaxation. The lake formed in a valley created by a volcanic eruption hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The name Bunyonyi translates to “a place with little birds” in reference to the abundant bird species that inhabit the lake and its islands. It is one of the deepest lakes in Africa and features a consistently cool climate throughout the year, with ample rainfall supporting the lush, green hills surrounding the lake. Lake Bunyonyi serves as a perfect retreat after exploring Uganda’s renowned national parks like Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Lake Bunyonyi is home to 29 islands, including Bushara, Njuyeera, Bwama, and the notorious Punishment Island (Akampene). Among the Bakiga people of the region, any girl who became pregnant before marriage was taken to Punishment Island and left to die from starvation or drowning (since girls were not taught how to swim). Getting pregnant before marriage was considered an abomination because no one would pay the bride price for a pregnant girl. This harsh practice was meant to serve as a deterrent to others. Unfortunately, men who impregnated the girls faced no repercussions. Some girls were rescued by the men who impregnated them, secret admirers, or poor bachelors who could not afford a bride price. The British colonial government outlawed this practice in the late 1940s, and some survivors of this ordeal still live today.

Bwama Island also has a dark history. When English missionary Leonard Sharp arrived in Uganda in 1921, he noticed that the island was uninhabited and transformed it into a treatment center for leprosy patients, complete with housing and medical facilities. Sharp lived on nearby Njuyeera Island with his family. Bwama Island became a leprosy colony, providing refuge for many who had been ostracized in their communities.

In contrast, Bushara Island has a more serene past. While the area originally had beautiful trees, much of the land was cleared for agriculture. The Lake Bunyonyi Development Company has since planted a large eucalyptus forest and established various tourism activities on the island. The company has also developed accommodation facilities, turning the island into a desirable holiday destination.

When considering economic activities, everything in Bufuka Village revolves around its major trading center. The predominant economic activities around Lake Bunyonyi are subsistence fishing and farming. However, large-scale fishing is limited due to the lake’s deep waters, which aren’t suitable for breeding major species like tilapia and Nile perch, as they thrive in shallower waters. The most successful species in the lake are the introduced crayfish from the US and mudfish. Various attempts have been made to introduce other major species since colonial times, but these efforts have seen little success. In one instance, 80% of the introduced species perished due to a chemical reaction caused by flooding.

For an immersive experience, check out our Safari package that includes Lake Bunyonyi offered by Kenlink Tours. If you want to combine a visit to Lake Bunyonyi with gorilla trekking, our 3-day Gorilla Tour and Lake Bunyonyi package is an exciting option .

Things To Do Around Lake Bunyonyi

Swimming

Lake Bunyonyi is known for its pristine, clear waters free from pollution, thanks to the lack of fishing sites along its shores. The lake is also free from crocodiles, hippos, and parasites that cause bilharzia, a common disease in some East and Southern African water bodies. The only drawback to swimming in Lake Bunyonyi is its depth; it is believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa. Those who are not strong swimmers should exercise caution and consider using the hotel swimming pools instead.

Canoeing

Canoes are the primary mode of transportation on Lake Bunyonyi and its islands. Locals craft these canoes by hollowing out large trees using axes. The canoes are propelled either by rowing sticks or motor engines. You can rent canoes from individuals along the shores, with prices around 60,000 shillings for traditional canoes and 120,000 shillings for motorized ones. Using these locally made canoes offers a unique experience and enhances the charm of the lake.

The best time for canoeing is in the early morning when the lake is shrouded in mist, creating a stunning, tranquil setting for those who appreciate nature and adventure. Night canoeing can also be arranged, providing a serene experience with cool night breezes and the soothing sounds of crickets, frogs, and birds.

Relaxing And Chilling

The picturesque scenery and pleasant weather make Lake Bunyonyi an ideal place to unwind after adventurous activities such as gorilla trekking, mountain climbing, or game drives in Uganda’s national parks. If you enjoy reading, you can indulge in a good book in one of the serene island resorts, providing a tranquil and peaceful setting.

The area offers an abundance of food, including local vegetables and fruits alongside international cuisine. The highlight of your stay is the Lake Bunyonyi sunset, which offers a stunning spectacle. Capture the beauty of the sun’s rays reflecting on the lake’s waters, creating a memorable experience and the perfect opportunity for breathtaking photos.

Island Hopping

Island hopping on Lake Bunyonyi offers a delightful experience of exploring its islands while learning about their rich history. Spend a couple of hours canoeing from one island to another, including a visit to “Punishment Island” where, in the past, girls who became pregnant before marriage were abandoned. Another notable stop is Bwama Island, which was once a leper colony but now houses a school for children.

Cultural Experiences

For a cultural experience, consider taking a walk along the lake shores to observe local daily life. You can mingle with the residents and participate in activities such as tending gardens with traditional hoes or visiting local schools to interact with the children. The Bakiga community enjoys local beverages like marwa and obushera, made from bananas and millet/sorghum. If you’re hesitant to try these local drinks, you can opt for the factory-made and bottled Uganda Waragi.

Batwa Experience

Another option is to visit the Batwa community, who were relocated from the Echuya Forest and now reside near the lake. Similar to their counterparts in Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Virunga National Park, the Batwa face challenges adapting to life outside the forest. They earn a living by entertaining tourists and showcasing their cultural heritage through dance, music, and storytelling.

Nature Walks

For those who prefer exploring the natural environment over community walks, hiking established trails with a guide provides an opportunity to marvel at the terraced hills and stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscapes. Visitors can also explore the ancient bamboo forest of Echuya and other smaller forests near the lake, where they might spot small primates and zebras.

Mountain Biking

One of the best ways to discover the beauty of Lake Bunyonyi is by renting a mountain bike and riding along the shore, passing by human settlements and taking in the picturesque landscapes. While many hotels may not offer bike rental services, your tour company can arrange a bike for you.

Local Market Visits

The Rutindo local market operates on Mondays and Fridays, attracting residents from the surrounding islands. This bustling market offers an opportunity to observe the daily life of locals, mingle with them, and purchase fresh fruits.

Bird-watching

Lake Bunyonyi is a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 205 species of birds, both resident and migratory. The small islands in the lake serve as sanctuaries and breeding grounds for many water birds. The Nyombi swamp is a prime birdwatching spot. To make the most of the experience, consider hiring a boat and a birding guide to observe species like egrets, slender-billed baglafetch, weaverbirds, herons, grey crowned cranes, and levillant cuckoos.

Eating Crayfish

Uganda’s infamous military dictator Idi Amin had a positive impact on the lake by endorsing the introduction of Louisiana crayfish. Crayfish have thrived in Lake Bunyonyi and its surrounding water bodies, becoming the dominant species. All lodges and restaurants serve crayfish, offering a delightful culinary experience. For those who prefer other options, tasty local tilapia fish is also available.

Lake Bunyonyi in southwestern Uganda is one of the most stunning and serene destinations in the region, offering a tranquil retreat with picturesque views and abundant wildlife. Staying around Lake Bunyonyi is a pleasure, with numerous accommodation options catering to a range of tastes and budgets. Here are some of the best places to stay around the lake:

1. Luxury Lodges and Resorts

For those looking for a more upscale experience, there are several luxury lodges and resorts around Lake Bunyonyi that provide high-end amenities and personalized services.

  • BirdNest @ Bunyonyi Resort: Known as one of the premier lodges around the lake, BirdNest offers stunning views, comfortable rooms, and a range of facilities including a restaurant, bar, and spa. The resort has a stylish and modern design, with a focus on guest comfort and relaxation.

  • Arcadia Cottages: Arcadia offers private cottages with stunning views of the lake. The accommodations are comfortable and come with en-suite bathrooms. The lodge also offers activities such as canoeing and bird watching.

  • Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort: This resort features luxury rooms and cottages built with local materials, blending seamlessly with the surrounding natural environment. The resort offers stunning lake views and a range of activities such as boat rides and cultural tours.

2. Mid-Range Lodges and Guesthouses

Travelers looking for comfortable accommodations without the luxury price tag can find mid-range lodges and guesthouses around the lake.

  • Bunyonyi Overland Resort: This resort offers a range of accommodations, from camping and budget rooms to comfortable cottages and family apartments. The resort has a restaurant and bar, and offers activities such as canoeing, bird watching, and cultural visits.

  • Hawk’s Eye Lodge: Hawk’s Eye Lodge offers comfortable accommodations in a beautiful setting, with cozy rooms and great views of the lake. The lodge also has a restaurant serving local and international cuisine.

  • Crater Bay Cottages: Crater Bay offers a variety of accommodation options including cottages and family rooms. The lodge also offers a variety of water sports and other activities for guests.

3. Budget Accommodations and Campsites

For budget-conscious travelers, there are several budget accommodations and campsites around Lake Bunyonyi.

  • Byoona Amagara: Byoona Amagara is located on a small island and offers a range of budget accommodations, from dormitories to private rooms and cottages. The lodge focuses on sustainable tourism and community involvement.

  • Bushara Island Camp: This eco-friendly camp is located on Bushara Island and offers a range of accommodations, including budget rooms, safari tents, and family cottages. The camp is known for its peaceful atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.

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