Lake Bunyonyi “Home of many little birds”, ought to be considered one of the natural wonders of the world, is in south-western Uganda with-in Kisoro and Kabale and also close to the border of Rwanda. Lake Bunyonyi is a young lake believed to be formed 10,000 years ago, its process of formation was described as a result of lava flow that emerged from one of the Virunga mountains and managed to occupy Ndego river and when it continued, blocked the river and when the river was dammed by a lava flow and the valley, towns on its shores include Kyevu and Muko while its 29 islands include Punishment Island and Bushara Island .Lake Bunyonyi is surrounded by beautiful terraced hills. These hills are a blessing to the local Bakiga tribe living in this area as they carry out cultivation on subsistence level creating a beautiful scenery. Lake Bunyonyi is loved by both local and international tourists and it’s indeed a recommended place to visit if you love water, culture, and in dire need of ultimate relaxation.
Akampene (Punishment Island)
It is believed that the Bakiga used to leave girls who got pregnant before getting married on this small island as a punishment to die of hunger or even to die as they try to swim to the main land because they had no swimming skills at the time and this was mainly done as a way to scare the rest from misbehaving before marriage. A man without cows to pay the bride price could go to the island and pick up a girl. However this practice got abandoned in the first half of the 20th century.
Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp’s Island)
In 1921, one of the English missionary Leonard Sharp came to visit this part of Uganda. He found when the local people had suffered from leprosy and this influenced him to establish a leprosy treatment Centre in 1931 on the then uninhabited Bwama island. Sharp settled on Njuyeera Island (which is believed to have meant “white cottage” after the similarity of the doctor’s small white house to Sharp’s father’s house in shanklin, today The White House Hotel). All this leprosy colony was an act of “voluntary segregation'”, where the provision of a happy community to live in would attract leprosy sufferers, so removing them from the communities where they might infect others.
Lake Bunyonyi being a place of many little birds has over 200 different bird species recorded as habitats at the lake. Visitors who take a tour to Lake Bunyonyi always get the best experiences of their life time by the breathtaking nature and the incredible activities done there for example canoeing, boat riding, and local tour, swimming, hiking the highlands around the lake, pygmy village tour and birding. Below are the activities done while at Lake Bunyonyi;
Bird watching; This is with not doubt key activity at lake Bunyonyi because as the name itself states” Lake Bunyonyi , meaning a home of many little birds and therefore majority of bird species can be spotted at this place, Lake Bunyonyi has over 200 bird species at the destination however this can be easily seen while on the boat ride to the areas of Nyombi swamp, some of the species found at this place include both the natives and also those that migrates especially from the parts of Europe in winter season.
Nature walks; enjoy the sweat sounds from the birds singing, a fresh breeze from the lake giving you a warm stay at Lake Bunyonyi and this is done on the shores at any chosen island of the 29 islands concentrated in the central park. Some of the islands include Akampene (Punishment Island), Bwama (former leper island), Njuyeera (Doctor Sharp’s Island) and Bucuranka (Upside Down Island.
Canoeing; have a blast sail on Lake Bunyonyi while enjoying the calmness, quietness and the tranquility. A canoe rides can be done at any time of the day, not forgetting that it can also be done at night to experience the loud chorus of crickets, frogs, nocturnal birds singing plus the waving lake waters which all make the ride exceedingly exciting.
Swimming; it’s a blessing that the waters of Lake Bunyonyi are free from the hazards of bilharzia that is the crocodiles, hippos and other threatening animals, providing great experience of swimming on a deep lake. However it being the deepest lake, visitors are encourages to be experienced or expert swimmers to take part in the activity.
Community Encounters; There is an amazing cultural around Lake Bunyonyi and also natural sights like the Bakora cave, the Batwa (pygmies) and the Abaheesi also known as (traditional black smiths)are the communities ,not forgetting to visit the islands with ahistorical back grounds of the native people for example the Akempene(punishment island) and also Sharp’s island. There are several Batwa villages in the area but Batwa are the most recommended, aiming to deliver a more authentic exchange. Trips heading to Echuya Forest, the former home of local Batwa are provided, take a boat trip to the local communities of the Batwa/pygmies who live in the islands near the lake and see their ways of life, activities and their famous cultural dance performances.
Biking; this is when groups of tourist use bicycles to tour around Lake Bunyonyi and its communities which is a great experience. However Family unit or group picnics and relaxation can also be enjoyed on the islands in the areas of Lake Bunyonyi.