Lake Bunyonyi is located in southwestern Uganda close to the border of Uganda and Rwanda between the districts of Kisoro and Kabale. It has a surface area of about 46 square kilometers and its maximum depth is at 40 m; although claims have been made that it goes up to 900 meters which would make it Africa’s second deepest lake after Lake Tanganyika.
It is about 25 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide and is nestled amidst the free rolling hills of south western Uganda, dotted by a total of 29 islands. The name Bunyonyi was adapted from a local phrase meaning, “many little birds”. The Lake was often called so due to immense numbers of birds that could be seen flying over the lake and about the islands and hills surrounding it.
The most famous Island on the lake is Punishment Island; locally known as Akampene. This island holds many dark memories for the Bakiga because it served as an exile place for unmarried pregnant girls. They would be taken ashore the Island in a boat and left there without food…many would die of hunger and some would drown trying to swim ashore.
How to get there:
Getting to Lake Bunyonyi is an actual adventure on its own. You would literally feel like you are on a road trip, driving from Kampala to Kabaale and covering a distance of about 410 kilometers for 6 -7 hours. Explore the hilly landscape of Kabaale and most of the western region through banana and tea plantations. From Kabaale town, transfer straight to Lake Bunyonyi.
Attractions and activities:
Lake Bunyonyi has about 29 islands dotting its surface creating a rare blend of patches of sand covered in papyrus floating over a lake. The famous Islands that should pick your interest are Punishment Island, Sharp’s Island, Kyahugye Island, Bushara Island and Bucuranuka Island. You can explore some of the islands using a dug-out Canoe.
Lake Bunyonyi was once famous for its varied winged inhabitants that were often seen flying about the landscape. Although most of the birdlife has migrated, there is still a healthy record of about 200 species especially in the Nyombi swamp along the Lake’s shores. Keep a look out for birds like the grey crowned crested crane, Bronze sunbird, Swamp flycatcher, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Black Heron and some Cormorants as well.
Have you ever entertained the thought of sailing upon a lake in a dug-out canoe? If not, then this is the perfect time to do that! The canoes are made from tree trunks where pieces of the tree are taken out from the inside to create space for people to sit in. Guided by professional operators, you will row around the lake to visit different Islands and also find some birds.
Boat Cruise or boat launch:
Upon the still waters of Lake Bunyonyi, a boat cruise is set to introduce visitors to the magic of the area. The boat cruise is similar to canoeing only that this time, you will not be using a dug-out canoe but instead a modern vessel to visit some islands. Evening boat cruises create that magnificent view of the sun setting upon the horizon…perfect for nature photography!
Owing to the fact that Lake Bunyonyi is free from Bilharzia, it has been deemed safe for swimming. Treat you and your friends to a gate-away for the weekend to swim and enjoy some fresh fish from the Lake. It is recommended to exercise extreme care while swimming in the lake especially for non-expert swimmers since Lake Bunyonyi is rumored to be deeper than it actually looks.
Hiking and nature walks:
Lake Bunyonyi is surrounded by a series of rolling hills and cultivated plains of tea plantations. For visitors in need of a nature walk or light hike, you are often guided along the edge of the lake; through vast tea and banana plantations to see some birds like the Harrier Hawk, White tailed Blue Monard and Cardinal woodpecker among other birds.
Carry your fishing equipment and everything that you will need for a sport fishing safari at Lake Bunyonyi. Many once extinct fish species have been re-introduced in the lake and you thus stand a great chance of catching some specials like the Nile Perch, mud fish, Cat fish, Mirow carp and Swamp Cray-fish among many other species.
Equally as thrilling as hiking along the edge of the Lake; aboard your mountain bike, follow a trail circuiting around Lake Bunyonyi. Watch out for the rough terrain as you explore the local community, meeting the natives and finding some birds. The scenery from the mountain bike is quite breathtaking and you can opt for a half day or full day biking safari.
Whenever planning a safari in Uganda, there is a chance to meet the local people and get integrated into their unique culture. Every tribe in Uganda has its own special traditions and the Batwa community is one with such a unique background. Follow your guide as you are led through this ancient pygmy community to fully experience the African tradition.
Where to stay (accommodation):
Upon this vacation, you will be staying at a cozy lodge along the shores of Lake Bunyonyi with beautiful scenery of hills and the sunset in the background. Accommodation options around the Lake include; Entusi Resort and Retreat center, Byoona Amagara Island retreat, Bushara Island camp, Arcadia cottages Bunyonyi, Bird Nest lodge and Bunyonyi Overland Resort among others.