The rich biodiversity of Uganda It is not only due to its geolocation in the Equator of the Earth, It is also thanks to the abundance of lakes; So many, that there is no exact number. Among all, it stands out andLake Victoria, for being the greatest of Africa. They are an important source of water and fishing for the country, a paradise for thousands of wild animals, and a fascinating and very little-known tourist destination.

Many lakes in Uganda like Bunyonyi were formed when lava from volcanoes blocked the flow of rivers.

Many of these lakes were formed when lava from volcanoes blocked the course of rivers, creating dams that would later flood valleys and cracks caused by the Great Rift Fault, which little by little separates Africa from its horn. This is what happened about eight thousand years ago in southwestern Uganda, when one of those deep cracks filled with water forming the picturesque Lake Bunyonyi almost 2,000 meters above sea level.


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Canoe on Lake Bunyonyi.
Canoe on Lake Bunyonyi.

Ideal habitat for birds

Due to its volcanic origin in the Rift Fault, Bunyonyi is the second deepest lake in Africa, reaching in some points 900 meters deep. Your name means “place of many birds.” Its rich biodiversity and vegetation-covered hills make it the ideal habitat for hundreds of birds, such as herons, ospreys, cormorants, kingfishers and even the formidable crowned crane, symbol of Uganda; There are more than two hundred species of birds recorded.

Bunyonyi is the second deepest lake in Africa, reaching 900 meters deep in some places.

Its very clean waters are also home to a rich aquatic life, with a great variety of fish, including catfishes, reptiles and amphibians, easily visible if the visitor dares to give a boat trip. Fishermen also contribute to the scenic beauty of this lake, with their elongated wooden boatsits lush vegetation and the capricious and irregular shape of its banks, extremely sinuous, with hundreds of micropeninsulas and minibays. Local communities have lived on its shores for centuries, developing a harmonious relationship with their environment, from artisanal fishing to the most traditional ceremonies, contributing an important cultural legacy to the region.


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Gorilla in the Biwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Gorilla in the Biwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Natural treasures

Hidden between mountains, very close to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where gorillas have managed to overcome the extinction to which they were doomed, Lake Bunyonyi is a true gem, a diamond in the rough far from conventional tourism. An extremely quiet natural treasure where in addition to sailing its waters it is possible to explore the surrounding hills, visit nearby communities of Batwa pygmies and enjoy walks along surrounding trails, although it is recommended to do so accompanied by a local due to the density of the vegetation that surrounds it. Uganda’s most picturesque and unique lake, dotted with up to 29 small islands and islets, It is also the one that accumulates the most surprising stories. We enter a place where every morning is reborn and every sunset is a reminder of the transience of time.

The most picturesque and unique lake in Uganda, dotted with up to 29 small islands and islets, is also the one with the most surprising stories.

They say, and it seems true, that on one of these islands, the one known as Akampene, or Punishment Island, abandoned girls that they had been raped and to make matters worse, they became pregnant. They were the shame of their families and the solution (in other times) was to leave them to their fate in Akampene. Very few managed to survive, they did not know how to swim, and the ones who did did so were because they were rescued by some fisherman. Not everyone could pay dowries and this was a good solution to get a wife. Everyone happy. In 2017 a BBC journalist He located the last of the survivors, an old woman of uncertain age but a hundred years old, Mauda Kytaragabirwe, who, grateful to her now deceased husband, confirmed this tragic episode of the lake.


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View over Lake Bunyony from a terrace.
View over Lake Bunyonyi from a terrace.

The “madness island”

The bwama islandwhich at the beginning of the 20th century had been freed from a sinister sect led by a powerful witch, was chosen by a British doctor and missionary, terrified by the very high mortality caused by leprosy, to build a hospital for lepers. We already know what in another time, and not only in Uganda, happened to leprosy patients; They were plagued by society, stigmatized and totally marginalized by their communities. This missionary provided them with medication while keeping them away from the towns to avoid contagion. The missionary was called Doctor Sharp and next to the island of lepers he lived with his family in the small house they built on the Njuyeera Islandbetter known as Sharp Island, today converted into tourist accommodation.

The “madness island” owes its name to an ancient legend according to which the gods took away the sanity of the man who lived here with his twelve wives.

Crowned crane, the symbol of Uganda, on the lake shore.
Crowned crane, the symbol of Uganda, on the lake shore.

Is Kyahugye, the “madness island” in the local language, one of the largest islands in the lake and one of the most visited due to its accessibility and for being the only one that has a mini safari, with impalas, blue monkeys, Ugandan conch antelopes and zebra; Yes, there is only one left, the rest drowned trying to leave the island. Whoever it was Governor of the Central Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, bought the island, provided it with electricity, acquired several specimens of wild animals and built an ecoresort at the top of the island to complete the stay with impressive views of the lake.


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Not all the animals acclimatized to their new, small home and opted for freedom even at the cost of risking their lives. A family of “cebrallos” (crossbreed of zebra and horse) It does seem well established. The “madness island” owes its name to an ancient legend according to which a man lived here with his twelve wives, and that is not the reason for the madness. They say that he ran out of cows to offer to the gods and they claimed their sanity, the island becoming known as “the island of the madman”. The resort also organizes a wide variety of activities.

Members of the Batwa tribe next to Lake Bunyonyi.
Members of the Batwa tribe next to Lake Bunyonyi.

Bushara Island Camp

Another of its islands, that of Busharahas hosted since 1992 the Lake Bunyonyi Development Company (LBDC) to address the environmental impact of agriculture on Lake Bunyonyi. With the collaboration of several entities, including the Church of Uganda and the local community, LBDC operates from Bushara Island Camp. The camp has become a popular tourist destination that funds agroforestry programs, women’s craft groups and hospitality training. It manages a forestry program to help local farmers improve soil fertility and crop yields by planting trees on terraces.

Bushara Island Camp has become a popular tourist destination that funds aid programs

Bushara Island Camp tent.
Bushara Island Camp tent.

Development model

It also offers programs and opportunities for local artisans who can sell their products in the camp craft store. This sustainable approach has benefited hundreds of farmers and community members, making LBDC a development model in Uganda. The camp organizes activities and boat excursions, such as a visit to the bukoora cave, that was a place of refuge when there was civil unrest and also a local sanctuary, or visiting nearby communities, such as the Mukoni town, to share with them their customs and the daily life of the farmers in the area, or to thes Abaheshi blacksmiths in Ahamugada village, where blacksmiths continue to use traditional methods passed down from their ancestors to make tools and weapons.

Bushara Camp organizes visits to nearby communities and boat trips to the local Bukoora Cave Sanctuary

Beyond madness, legends, tragedies and good deeds, Lake Bunyonyi, privileged witness to the history of Uganda, It is a vein of the earth that makes the indomitable force of life pulsate with water. A natural sanctuary that invites you to immerse yourself in the very essence of existence.

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