Lake Bunyonyi (place of many little birds) is one of the freshwater lakes found in the hills of southwestern Uganda in the Kigezi region. It is located between the districts of Kabale and Kisoro and close to the border of Rwanda. Lake Bunyonyi is 25kms long and 7kms wide. It has a surface area of 46sqkms and is elevated at 1962m .it has a depth of approximately 900m making it the second deepest lake in Africa.
Lake Bunyonyi is made up of 29 islands in total. Some of the islands include Bwama island, Bushara Island, Njuyeera(Sharps island), and the most Infamous Akampene island(punishment island). Akampene island is the island where the ancient Bakiga used to dump girls who would get pregnant before marriage. The girls would be left on the island to starve or die while trying to swim to the lakeshore. Some of these girls would be picked up by men who could not afford to pay the bride price. It was done to create fear among the girls who would intend to get pregnant before marriage. In 1921 a British missionary Leonard Sharp came to southwestern Uganda and Established a leprosy treatment center at Bwama island. The leprosy patients were ignored in the community thus making this island a treatment and isolation center. Leonard Sharp stayed on the nearby Njuyeera island with his family.
The main economic activities done on the lake are water transport, farming on the islands, and subsistence fishing. The common types of fish in the lake are crayfish which was introduced from Louisiana in America and catfish. Because of the depth of the lake, the growth of the common species of fish in Uganda such as Tilapia and Nile perch is not favored. The government has tried to introduce these types of fish in the lake but without successful results. These species need shallow waters for breeding.
Other Aquatic Animals in lake Bunyonyi are spotted-necked otter, African clawless otter, and frogs.
Birding. As the name says, Lake Bunyonyi is a place of many little birds and more than 200 bird species have been identified here. The best spot to see many birds is a dive to the Nyombi swamp. This swamp has a variety of birds including migratory birds from Europe. Some of the bird species around lake Bunyonyi include; Malachite kingfishers, cormorants, cuckoos, Grey-crowned crane, pelicans Herons, among others.
Swimming. Swimming is the best sport to do in Lake Bunyonyi. The water is very safe from animals such as Hippos and Crocodile. It is also very clean and free from Bilharzia. Note that lake Bunyonyi is very deep so you have to be having a good experience in swimming.
Canoeing. Canoeing is also another experience one should not miss on a visit to lake Bunyonyi. Some hotels have dugout canoes but you can as well hire at an affordable price. The best time to do canoeing is in the morning when the lake is covered with whitening mist.
Visit the Rutinda market. If it happens that you are in Buyonyi on a Friday or a Monday don’t miss seeing how local people come from across the lake and from the islands loading their agriculture produce in their overloaded canoes coming to the market at Rutinda. Mix freely with the local people in the market and share your experience with them.
Volunteering. You can as well opt to volunteer at one of the community schools nearby the lake and spend a day or two teaching the children.
Mountain Biking. This is also another adventure that is worth doing while at lake Bunyonyi. Enjoy the panoramic views of the lake and the hills as you ride and rotate in the hills of Bunyonyi. Most hotels do not have mountain bikes but you can arrange with your tour operator to organize.
Nature walks. Take a walk around the lake and interact with the Bakiga community. They will share with your different experiences such as culture, storytelling, myth. You can as well participate in their Bakiga dance which requires a lot of energy.
Boat cruise. You can take a boat cruise and explore all the islands. enjoy the beautiful lush green fields dotted with different species of birds and a cool breath from the environment.
Lake Bunyonyi has a variety of accommodations ranging from budget, midrange, and luxury. Some of them Include Bunyonyi overland resort, Entusi resort and retreat center, Bunyonyi view resort, Bushara island camp, Bunyonyi safaris resort, Arcadia cottages, Birds nest resort among others.
Lake Bunyoyi can be accessed from different areas. It can be accessed from Kampala to Kabale which is approximately 8 hours by bus. From Kabale town, you have to hire a Boda Boda or a private taxi to take you to the lake. It’s approximately 10kms from the town to the lake. you to the lake. You can also access lake Bunyonyi from Kigali. Kigali is just three hours away from lake Bunyonyi. From Bwindi, it’s about three hours and from queen Elizabeth national park it’s between 4-5 hours depending on the location you are coming from.
Yes, it’s very possible to stay in Bunyonyi and do gorilla tracking in the Ruhija sector in Bwindi impenetrable national park. This sector is just 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive from Bunyonyi. You just need to arrange with a driver to pick you at 6 am in the morning from your lodge.
Safari Vacations & Travel services organize 1-day gorilla trips from Kabale/ Bunyonyi to Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. Feel free to contact us about Gorilla safaris from Kabale or lake Bunyonyi.