Situated 1962 meters above sea – level and bordered by steep sided yet heavily cultivated hilly scenery, Lake Bunyonyi is approximately 25 kilometers long and just 7 kilometers wide (the word means ‘the place of many little birds’). The waters of Lake Bunyonyi are dotted with 29 islands each with varying depth although this ranges between 44 meters and 900 meters. The biggest of all is the Bwama Island, which is commonly referred to as the “lepers colony”, while the smallest island is the “punishment island”, on which the long ago Bakiga people used to abandon unmarried girls that got pregnant prior to getting married. These were left there to starve to death. The fresh waters on the lake’s surface are 25 degrees Celsius and fortunately they are bilharzia free with no crocodiles and hippopotami and very safe for any water activities particularly swimming. The fantastic scenery persuades most visitors to this lake to enjoy an overnight experience around the beautiful Lake Bunyounyi than actually having an overnight in Kabale.
Lake Bunyonyi is situated in Kabale district in the southwestern part of Uganda and was formed as a result of lava damming, which blocked the outlet the river due to volcanic eruption thus forming Lake Bunyonyi one of the deepest lakes in the whole of Africa. “Bunyonyi” is a word in the local language meaning a “place of little birds”. The lake was named so because of the more than 200 bird species found on main land as well as on the various islands on the lake.
Among the commonly see bird species around lake Bunyonyi are: Pied kingfisher, Black headed weaver, Malachite kingfisher, Bronze manikin, Cinnamon-chested bee eater, Pin tailed whyder, Bronzy sun bird, Speckled – mouse bird and the Knobed coot. Additional species include: Pied wagtail, Streaky seed eater, Swamp – fly – catcher, Black clake, Fan-tailed widow bird, stone chat, Great commrant, Grey shrike, Black heron, Grey crowned crested crane and the Hadada ibis.
Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp’s Island)
Back in 1921, Dr Leonard Sharp an English missionary traveled to this part of the country and after one year (in 1931) he built a leprosy treatment – centre on this island which was that time was actually unoccupied by any people. He later settled on this island and constructed not only medical facilities but a church as well as patient quarters. He provided a happy community that drew various people that suffered from leprosy and this helped to remove them from the rest of the community so as to reduce infecting other people.
Today the hospital buildings are used as a boarding section for the secondary school in the area. Many tourists have journeyed to this island to pay respect to Dr. Sharp’s efforts.
Akampene (Punishment Island)
The Bakiga people left young girls that got pregnant before marriage here on this small island with nothing but just one tree. These would die of starvation or die as they tried to swim back to the mainland. This was primarily done to educate the other girls so that they would never do the same mistake. Men without cows wouldn’t pay the bride-price so what they would do was to go pick one of the girls from the island. By the start of the 20th Century, this practice was actually abandoned although at present day you will be able to find some women who were actually picked from this very punishment island.
Activities on and around Lake Bunyonyi:
Visitors travel to this lake to enjoy the beautiful scenery and unwind in the cool ambience.
Enjoy Swimming in this lake as well as take part in the popular dugout canoe expeditions.
With more than 200 species of bird recorded here, particularly with common sights of the Crested Crane which is the national bird of Uganda, this area is among the best bird watching paradises in Uganda.
Visits to the Rutindo market which open every Monday as well as Friday. The markets are very lively and colorful drawing several fleets of canoes that carrying baskets loaded with vegetables plus other merchandise.
Purchase locally handmade crafts available at very bargain-able prices
Where to stay
Lake Bunyonyi has a variety of up market, moderate as well as budget accommodation around Rutinda area as well as on the various islands. Among the most prominent facilities are; Lake Bunyonyi overland camp, Feza cottages, Nature’s Prime Island, Arcadia cottages, Bushara island camp, Crater Bay Cottages, Heritage Lodge, Jajama Panorama and Jaspers Camp among many others.