Tourists Activities and Attractions in Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Sandwiched between Kabale and Kisoro towns in the Southwestern part of Uganda, at the border with Rwanda, Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda and the second deepest in Africa after Lake Tanganyika.
Lake Bunyonyi derives its name from the Rukiga word “Bunyonyi” which translates as “the place of many little birds” due to the plethora of weaver colonies and other larger birds that line its shores. Lake Bunyonyi is known to host more than 200 bird species, both water birds and migratory species that come from Europe during the winter season thus is an ideal spot for bird-watching safaris.
At an altitude of 1,950m/640 ft. and a depth of about 45m, Lake Bunyonyi constitutes 29 islands, the most famous Akampene (Punishment island) where girls who had conceived before marriage were taken and abandoned to die of either starvation or in an attempt to swim back to the mainland.
The pregnant girls were considered a social disgrace and were punished that way to intimidate the rest of the girls in the community to desist from such immoral behavior. Today, this practice no longer exists.
Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp’s island) was named after an English missionary-Leonard Sharp who in 1931 set up a leprosy treatment center on Bwama Island to attract lepers for treatment. Leonard built a church and hospital on Bwama Island where these new inhabitants were isolated from the rest of the community and sought treatment. Today, the island inhabits a hotel.
Tourists Activities in Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi provides various opportunities for tourism. Travelers can opt for bird watching, canoe ride/boat cruise, swimming, nature walks, or a community visit/tour to the Batwa. Below we briefly describe some of these tourist activities.
Known worldwide as the place of many little birds, Lake Bunyonyi is undoubtedly an ideal bird watchers’ destination. With over 200 bird species, avian travelers will tick off quite a good number from their bird checklist. Both small and big species will be seen on tree branches or flying in the sky.
The best way to explore and experience Lake Bunyonyi is by taking a nature walk. Nature walks are undertaken at the lake shores. Experience the lake’s cool breeze and sweet melodies of birds singing as you explore the environs of the lake or visit the local Bakiga and Batwa communities.
Boat cruise/Canoe ride
There is no better way to explore Lake Bunyonyi’s islands than paddling through its calm waters. Experience the tranquility of the lake and the local culture of the Batwa pygmies and Bakiga by riding on a canoe or motorized boat.
Swimming in Lake Bunyonyi is safe. The lake is free from bilharzia and dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles. Being the deepest lake in Uganda however, you should take precautions when going swimming and should have some bit of experience of swimming in deep waters.
Explore and experience the culture of the Bakiga and Batwa pygmies surrounding Lake Bunyonyi. Communities living on the islands of the lake can be accessed by taking a boat cruise or canoe ride to the islands. You will be excited by their unique cultural dance performances, hunting demonstrations, and making fire out of small sticks among several other activities.
How to get to Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi can be accessed by both road and air.
Lake Bunyonyi is approximately 8 hours away from Kampala. The lake can be accessed by both private and public transport means using matatus or buses that ply the route.
It is also possible to reach Lake Bunyonyi by air. Domestic flights from Entebbe to Kihihi airstrip last about 1.5 hours. From Kihihi, the road transfer takes approximately 3 hours. Special hire taxis and cars are readily available to complete your journey to Lake Bunyonyi.