Lake Bunyonyi Safaris Adventure in Uganda
Lake Bunyonyi is located in southwestern Uganda, near Kabale District, which borders Rwanda. Lake Bunyonyi is one of the most naturally beautiful lakes in Africa and one of the main tourist destinations in Uganda. The lake attracts tourists, honeymooners, and Ugandans who want to escape the busy city life and enjoy the cooler weather and beautiful islands. With stunning panoramic views in all directions, the lake is a great place to meditate and relax. The lake collects valleys formed by volcanic eruptions hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The name Bunyonyi means “place of little birds” because the lake and its islands are home to an amazing collection of birds. It is one of the deepest lakes in Africa. The Lake Bunyonyi region has a cool climate throughout the year with plenty of rain supporting the lush green hills surrounding the lake. This is a great place to relax after visiting some of Uganda’s great national parks such as Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
How many Islands are in Lake Bunyonyi?
Lake Bunyonyi consists of 29 islands including Bushara, Njuyeera, Bwana, and the infamous Soda Island (Akampene). In the Baquigas region, all girls who became pregnant before marriage were taken and abandoned on the island of Acampene, starving or drowning (girls were not taught to swim). Pregnancy was an abomination back then because no one paid a bird’s price for a girl who was pregnant before marriage. The purpose of the girl dying on the island is to send a strong message to others that pregnancy before marriage is not acceptable. There is no punishment for a man who impregnates a girl. For fear of dying, the girl could not identify the man who had impregnated her.
Some girls are saved by men who get them pregnant, men who are in love with them, or poor bachelors who cannot afford the bride price. This original practice was abolished in the late 1940s after the British colonial government banned it. Some survivors who were rescued and survived the ordeal are still alive.
Brief History of Bwana Island
Bwana Island also hides a dark past. When the British missionary Leopard Sharp arrived in Uganda in 1921, he noticed that Bovama Island was uninhabited. He turned the island into a center for lepers, providing housing and medical facilities.
Sharp lives with his family on the nearby island of Newer. Bwana Island became a center for leprosy, attracting many patients who faced social isolation. Bouchard Island, on the other hand, had a more peaceful past, although the natives removed the original beautiful trees to clear the land for agriculture.
Lake Bunyonyi Development Company
The Lake Bunyonyi Development Company has helped to plant large eucalyptus forests on the island, as well as several tourism-related activities. The company built a house and turned the island into a dream vacation destination. The recording of economic activity appears to begin and end at the main trading center in the village of Boufka. The main economic activities in the lake are subsistence fishing and agriculture. Large-scale fishing is limited because the deep water prevents the development of key species such as tilapia and Nile perch. These species require shallow water to reproduce.
The most successful species are crayfish (introduced from the USA) and mud. Various attempts have been made to introduce other larger species from the colony but without success. 80% of introduced species once died from chemical mixing caused by flooding. Check out our 3-day Lake Bunyonyi tour package. If you want to combine Lake Bunyonyi Tour with Gorilla Trekking, our 3-Day Gorilla Tour and Lake Bunyonyi Package may be more interesting.
Lake Bunyonyi Attractions
In addition to admiring the beautiful scenery upon arrival, there are plenty of fun things to do in Lake Bunyonyis. Relax with loved ones: The beautiful scenery and cool weather are perfect for unwinding after exhausting activities like gorilla tracking, mountain climbing, or safari in Uganda National Park. If you have a good book and want to read in a cool and peaceful environment, then one of the quiet island resorts would be perfect. The food is rich in local vegetables and fruits, as well as international cuisine. The crowning glory is watching the sunset over Lake Bunyonyi. The setting sun provides an opportunity to take beautiful pictures with the sun’s rays reflecting in the water of the lake.
Lake Bunyonyi is a clean lake with clean water and no pollution as there are no fishing grounds on the shore. The lake is free of crocodiles, hippos, and parasites that cause Bilharzia. Bilharzia is a common disease in some water bodies in eastern and southern Africa. The only drawback to swimming in the lake is the depth. Lake Bunyonyi is considered to be the second deepest lake in Africa. Those who are not good swimmers should be careful not to use the hotel pool.
Canoeing is the only way to visit the lake and its islands. The natives make canoes by digging up large trees and making hollows with axes. Canoes are propelled using reeds or motors. Canoes can be rented from private individuals on shore for 60,000 shillings. It can be sold with the engine for 120,000 shillings. Using these locally made canoes gives a completely different experience and adds to the magic of the lake. The best time for boating is early morning when the lake is shrouded in fog.
This is a beautiful sight for anyone who loves nature and adventure. Night canoes can also be arranged to enjoy the cool night breeze and the sounds of grasshoppers, frogs, and birds at night.
Canoeing for 2 hours or more allows you to hop from island to island while learning its history. Take a trip to the “Island of Punishment”, the girl is pregnant before marriage and left to herself. You can visit Bwam and learn about its history of leper accommodation. Lepers are no longer brought to the island because a cure for leprosy was discovered. The leprosy hospital has been converted into a children’s school.
Community and cultural visits:
One of the most popular activities is a walk to observe the daily life of the local people by the lake shore. It’s great to connect with the locals and try tasks like digging a garden with a local hoe or visiting a local school to interact with schoolchildren. Bakiga likes to take Marwa and Obushera, two strong drinks made from banana and millet/sorghum. If you’re intimidated to try something local, go for Uganda’s Waragi, which is factory-made and bottled.
Another option is to visit Batwa.
The Batwa people in this part of Uganda are far from the Echuca Forest and have set aside land around the lake. Like their relatives in other areas such as Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Virunga National Parks, the Batwa have not adapted to life outside the forest. It was difficult for them to make ends meet, considering that they used to be hunter-gatherers. They make a living by entertaining tourists and showcasing their cultural heritage through dance, song, and storytelling.
If you don’t like shared trails, they can hike established trails with a guide, exploring and admiring the ridged mountains that offer stunning views of lakes and powerful landscapes. Visitors can also visit the ancient Echuya bamboo forests or other groves around the lake and observe small primates and zebras. Mountain bike: One of the best ways to discover the lake is to rent a mountain bike and ride the beautiful scenery, passing human settlements. Many hotels do not offer bicycle rentals, but your tour company can make the necessary arrangements and provide you with a bicycle.
Visit a local market.
The local Rutindo market attracts islanders every Monday and Friday. The market has been full of people for the last two days. It is the perfect place to observe the daily life of the locals while interacting with them and buying fresh fruit.
Lake Bunyonyi is a paradise for bird watchers and one of the best bird-watching spots in Uganda. The name Bunyonyi suggests a place with birds.
More than 205 species of birds can be seen in the lake. The islands of the lake are places of refuge and breeding for many waterfowl. These species include resident species and species that migrate from Europe during severe winters. One of the best places for bird watching is Nyonbi Swamp. The best way to see birds is to buy a boat, and binoculars and go out on the water with a bird guide. Some of these species include herons, giraffes, weavers, egrets, gray-crowned cranes, and rhododendrons.
Uganda’s infamous military dictator Idi Amin also has a positive side. One is to support the introduction of Louisiana crayfish into Lake Bunyonyi. Crayfish are so successful that they have become the dominant species in lakes and surrounding bodies of water. All hotels and restaurants serve crayfish. If you don’t like crayfish, they can order delicious local tilapia.
How to get to Lake Bunyonyi?
Solo travelers to Lake Bunyonyi should first go to Kabale town. The journey from Kampala to Kabale takes 8 hours. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to reach the lake from the town of Kabale. To get to the lake from the town of Cabaret, you need to hire a bodaboda (motorcycle) or a taxi. Those coming from Queen Elizabeth or Kibale National Park safaris will need to travel approximately 5 hours by road to reach the lake. Lake Bunyonyi is closer to Kigali, Rwanda than Kampala (Uganda’s capital). It takes 3 hours to drive to the lake.
Where to stay in Lake Bunyonyi – hotels and hostels for overnight stays
Lake Bunyonyi has many accommodation options, which is a good indication of its popularity among tourists. Some hotels are built on islands, while others are built on the shores of a lake or in lakeside towns. There are medium-sized and luxury accommodations, as well as campsites. Budget hotels include Bunyonyi Overland Resort, Bushara Island Camp, Bayona Amagara, and Crater Bay Villas. Mid-range options include Arcadia Lodge, Bunyonyi Safari Lodge, and Bird’s Nest.
Let’s see what these and other hotels have to offer: –
Lake Bunyoni Onshore Resort:
This resort is locally owned and built using materials from the surrounding villages. The resort offers single and family cabins, as well as safari and mobile camping tents. The rented tents are portable, with or without a bed. The safari tents are built on elevated platforms that offer fantastic views of the lake and surrounding islands. The safari tent is fully furnished with chairs, a table, two single beds, and electricity. The resort can arrange activities such as swimming and badminton. If someone is interested in walking in the countryside or learning about the economic activities of residents, a guide can be assigned to accompany them.
Built on Itambira Island, this hotel is one of the famous hotels around Lake Bunyonyi. It is a non-profit organization, as all income goes to the development of the local community living on the island in the areas of agriculture and education. Being on an island makes people feel far away from the outside world. Part of the island is occupied by resorts, while the other half is divided into land for local people to cultivate.
The property has private balconies with stunning views of the beautiful rolling hills surrounding the lake. You can also discover other islands from this hotel. The hotel has friendly staff and chefs who prepare relatively cheap local and foreign dishes. Residents can choose deluxe rooms, economy rooms, or dormitories according to their budget. If you’re traveling with your family, there are even separate family cabins.
Arcadia is built on one of the hills overlooking the beautiful lake and its many islands. 12 rooms have a lake view and all rooms are equipped with electricity and hot water.
African Explorer Eco Village:
Another great option is with great views of the lakes, islands, and Virunga rangers. The cabins consist of modern-looking cabins individually equipped with hot showers, WiFi, and solar power. Dome acquisition and camping options depend on one’s preferences. The food served in the restaurant is relatively cheap and includes both local and international dishes.
Lost Paradise Beach:
Run by a Ugandan family, Paradise Beach offers, as the name suggests, Banda (modern-day African huts) built near a picturesque lake beach. The cottage is designed for a truly relaxing atmosphere and has an orchard. Canoes are organized free of charge for residents. The hostel is clean, with well-kept gardens, campsites, and a banquet hall. Residents can swim on the beach or in the hotel pool. Bananas, sugar cane, and passion fruit are harvested from the hotel’s garden and Asian, European, and local cuisine is served. Bugisu Arabica coffee and African tea are served in the room or the dining area.
Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort:
Nestled in a forest area, this eco-resort offers a sense of closeness to nature while offering stunning views of the lake and islands. There are 10 custom-built cabins with mid-range and luxury facilities. Facilities include a hot shower, bar, restaurant, and swimming pool. The resort is perfect for a family vacation. Other activities organized by the resort include canoeing, nature walks, and camping. The resort organizes cultural shows and traditional dances for customers. Bugombe Island Gateway: This recently opened resort has great rooms and also organizes exciting activities like island hopping, canoeing, and bird watching at the Bugombe Bird Sanctuary.
Upendo Guest House:
Upendo Guest House offers modern amenities, comfortable, well-furnished rooms, and a kitchen for guest use. The hotel rooms are suitable for budget and mid-range travelers. The hotel houses the Upendo Orphanage, which cares for the homeless and offers volunteer work.
Lake Bunyonyi View Resort:
This is one of the cheapest accommodation options in the Lake District. The lodge offers dome accommodation with private balconies overlooking beautiful lakes and islands. In addition to the dome, there are also family cabins and well-appointed single rooms for those who want more privacy. The hotel staff is friendly at dinner and prepares delicious local and foreign dishes.
Bushara Island Camp:
This camp is built on private land on Bushara Island. You need to take a canoe or motorboat to get to the camp. This camp is perfect for honeymooners and those who like to relax in a quiet place with beautiful scenery. The camp offers wooden houses, safari tents, and cabins. The villa has family rooms, double rooms, and single rooms. Other amenities include gourmet dining, fire pits, and meeting rooms. The camp organizes activities such as bird watching, canoeing, swimming, volleyball, rope swinging, nature, and cultural walks.
This homestay is built on a peninsula overlooking Lake Bunyonyi. They offer full-board accommodation in eco-friendly cabins. There are small tents that can accommodate one to four people. As there is no electricity connection, all rooms have solar panels. Special meals are prepared for tourists with special dietary needs, such as vegetarians. The hotel supports community projects and helps clients organize activities such as canoeing (using their canoes), and visits to nearby communities or their own children’s school – Amasiko Green School.
Crater Bay Cottages and Campground:
This hotel is built in the lakeside village of Buffalo. There are 12 private cabins with single, double, and even triple rooms. The hotel restaurant prepares delicious crayfish and other delicacies. Additional hotel amenities include a library, craft store, WiFi, and laundry services for a small fee.
The nest has single and double rooms in the luxury category. This is one of the exclusive accommodation options and it is reflected in the services provided. The room is perfectly furnished and there is a beautiful swimming pool outside.
Idris Inn is an international property and aims to provide a true African experience rather than the luxury offered by high-end hotels. Surprisingly, it is a favorite among many customers who want to stay overnight in desert conditions. In Lake Bunyonyi, they set up a campsite in the forest near a primary school with tents (hay huts) with beds, chairs, desks, and mosquito nets. The place uses solar energy and the shower water is heated by fire. Idriss deliberately keeps everything in the room simple, but not overly so the activities. There is more fun here than in many of the other resorts. The night camps are full of activity and wild partying. Canoeing is free and there is a unique submerged pool for swimming.