Have you been to Lake Bunyonyi?
Lake Bunyonyi, the home of little birds, ought to be considered one of the natural wonders of the world and, now that we have seen it before our own eyes, it’s joined the ranks of one of our most beloved travel destinations.
With 29 Islands, each with a different story to be told, this is surely a wonder.
Lake Bunyonyi At A Glance:
(a). Location: Kabale – South Western Uganda
(b). Activities: Dugout Canoeing, Zip-lining, Bird tours & Boat rides etc.
(c). Facts: One of the deepest lakes in the world.
What we loved about the lake:
Lake Bunyonyi is bilharzia free and there are no hippos nor crocodiles found here, making it such a safe place to swim. You will be swimming in one of Africa’s most beautiful lakes.
In this article, we bring you 11 things to do when you visit this place. These are 11 activities that we personally did – so we would recommend them to you too.
Lake Bunyonyi without a doubt is one of the most popular chill-out spot in Uganda.
It attracts backpackers looking to lounge around for a few days, mid-range travelers recovering from a gorilla trek, and Ugandan families escaping the capital for a weekend.
The variety of Lake Bunyonyi activities means, there’s something for everyone.
As promised in this post, we cover the best things to do in Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda!
There are many things to see and do at Lake Bunyonyi; from walking, bird watching to safe swimming and boat trips some of which land on the islands.
1. Visit Bwama & Njuyeera (Sharp’s) Islands – Historic Site in Lake Bunyonyi
This is the first site our boat driver suggested we visit. It’s where British missionary Dr Leonard Sharp founded a leper colony and settled in 1921, but the story is more interesting than the sights.
The colony on Bwama was shut down in the 1980s (there are two schools on the island now) and nearly all Njuyeera’s history was stripped when it was converted into a hotel.
2. Kyahugye Island (Wildlife Reserve in Lake Bunyonyi)
This one is run by Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort, this 35-acre island is worth a visit if you want to see wildlife such as zebra, waterbuck, ipala and kob up close.
All were brought here from Lake Mburo National Park. Our host suggested we visit the place, but we decided to enjoy the site as we cruised past.
3. Explore Akampene Island (Learn how “Punishment Island” got its name) another Historic Site in Lake Bunyonyi.
Translated as Punishment Island, this tiny island was so named because it was once the place where unmarried pregnant women were dumped to die.
Their only rescue from drowning or starvation was if a man who was too poor to pay a bride-price came over to claim the banished woman as his wife. There’s nothing much to see here though, with just one spindly tree in its centre.
4. Lake View Coffee House (Cafe in Lake Bunyonyi) aka Kansiime Backpackers
Grab a cup of local coffee or cold beer at this open-air cafe, also known as Kansiime Backpackers – so colourful you can’t miss it.
There’s little competition for ambience – it has a fantastic wooden deck with sweeping views over the lake. There’s also a crafts shop.
When we visited, they were shooting a video so we didn’t spend much time there or chat with the local Comedian and owner – Ann Kansiime.
5. Paddle a dugout canoe: (The most iconic of all Lake Bunyonyi activities) -Dugout canoes – the main form of transport at Lake Bunyonyi.
The best option for a Lake Bunyonyi safari is to paddle around in a dugout canoe.
As much as Lake Bunyonyi has a bit of a resort vibe, local life here is still fiercely traditional.
The majority of people who live around the lake still use dugout canoes as an important form of transportation. So there’s no better way to start your exploration of the best Lake Bunyonyi activities than by taking a ride in one!
The best thing? You are given chance to try out the paddling, it was a nice experience for us.
To get your feet wet, hire a canoe captain to take you around a few of the lake’s 29 islands. You’ll learn a bit more about the lake from your boat driver. You can organize a two-hour tour through most guesthouses, or just go down to the nearest dock and start bargaining. Prices start at just 8,000 shillings.
Some guesthouses let guests use their canoes for free.
You can dock at most islands and hop out of the canoe to explore. A few charge admission fees — most notably Bushara Island and Kyahugye Island, where you can spot the resident impalas and zebras
6. Go for a swim in the hippo, croc and bilharzia-free waters.
Most lakes in Uganda have hippos, crocs, or bilharzia, but not this one. You can safely swim.
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the only places you can swim in Uganda without fear of an accident.
Lake Bunyonyi may be the second-deepest lake in Africa, but it’s one of the safest for swimming.
This is because it lacks the three biggest nuisances to fresh water bodies on the continent: hippos, crocodiles, and bilharzia (a parasitic worm).
Just remember, the water is deep — really deep. If you’re not a strong swimmer, ask at your resort or guesthouse if you can borrow a life vest.
You won’t be able to stand, even directly off-shore, and there aren’t any lifeguards around.
Most resorts and guesthouses have a dock you can swim from. Some even have diving boards, rope swings, small beaches, and other amenities. The water is surprisingly warm.
7. Hike up to Arcadia Cottages for the best view of Lake Bunyonyi.
The view from Arcadia Cottages will allow you catch some pretty epic views of the Lake by hiking around the local footpaths for an afternoon.
Lake Bunyonyi has some of the most dramatic scenery in Uganda. It was supposedly even an inspiration for Wakanda in Black Panther. So you can’t spend two days at Lake Bunyonyi without taking in the views.
The absolute best views of the lake and islands are from Arcadia Cottages, a high-end resort at the top of a hill on the mainland.
You don’t have to shell out for the luxury rooms to enjoy the view, though. They also have a restaurant and espresso bar, so you can come for a juice or cappuccino if you aren’t staying here.
You can take a boda (motorbike taxi) to Arcadia, but to enjoy more Lake Bunyonyi activities, walking is a better option.
8. See how many of the 200+ bird species you can spot.
Jaqi and I are not big fans of watching birds, but we were captivated by the African Fish Eagles and the many other birds in the area. (Kingfishers. Bee-eaters. Crested cranes. African broadbills)
These are just a few of the bird species you can find around Lake Bunyonyi.
Even if you’re not a big “bird person” like us, Lake Bunyonyi will stun you. For the full effect tour guides suggest – you sleep in a tent and wake up to the sound of a dozen different bird calls all around you.
But even if you stay somewhere with four walls, it’s hard not to be in awe of the colors, sounds, and unique behaviors of the different birds.
One of the best Lake Bunyonyi activities is to look out for the iconic Crested Crane – the national bird of Uganda, that graces the Ugandan flag.
It’s not hard to spot one around Lake Bunyonyi. You can see them hanging out in trees or flying across the lake.
Most guesthouses have binders with full bird checklists in them if you want to keep track of what you’ve spotted.
9. Responsible Tourism Activities.
Sometime in 2019, we decided we would start doing some community tourism of giving back. It’s something we later called “Travel For Peace”.
On both visits to Lake Bunyonyi, we decided to check out two charities and here we recommend them for you too;
(a) Visit Little Angles
Little Angels Nursery & Primary School is a Growth Educational Trust’s inaugural partner school – founded by Duncan Musinguzi, a local resident from Lake Bunyonyi, Kabale.Duncan was once sponsored as a child and decided to give back and help his community by starting Little Angels.
Starting out with only a few local children, Duncan has grown Little Angels into a fully functioning primary school with over 300 students.
To fulfill our Responsible Tourism goals, we founded;
PROJECT: Travel For Peace UG
CASE STUDIES: @Entuhe Project Uganda & @Little Angels Uganda
PROGRAM: The Art Of Public Speaking & Self-Expression.
MISSION: Empower young people through capacity building
IDEOLOGY: Our belief and effort is based on Nelson Mandela’s words; “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
#Travel4PeaceUG is a project based on education with the aim to bring a change into the local communities we travel to, by teaching and sharing skills on The Art of Public Speaking and Self-expression.
PARTNER: @MasterPeace Club Uganda
(b) “The Entuhe Project”
The project takes care of underprivileged children who can’t access mainstream education.
When you eat here or buy a drink you help educate 56 underprivileged children who can’t access mainstream education at Kindergarten level.
We visited and had Dinner with the Project manager – Muhereza Boaz, such amazing host. He picked us from our Resort and dropped us back late in the evening.
10. Stay at two of the most reviewed places to stay around Lake Bunyonyi.
(a) One of the best places to stay on the mainland: (Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort)
If you’d rather be closer to the main Lake Bunyonyi activities, you’ll have to stay on the mainland. Your best option here is Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort.
This camp has one of the best set-ups in East Africa, allow us say that.
On any given night, it can accommodate a half-dozen overland trucks and buses, plus a couple dozen independent travelers, without feeling crowded or noisy.
Pitching your own tent costs $10-$12 depending on your bargaining skills. Dorms are a fairly steep $20, and private rooms start at $40.
The showers are hot and have fantastic water pressure.
Their enormous restaurant has 24/7 electricity, good WiFi and plenty of charge points — a huge luxury if you’ve been traveling around for awhile.
The food is solid, if not spectacular. Mains (courses) run between 12,000-25,000 shillings, and vegetarians won’t have trouble finding something they can eat.
Board games, fooseball tables, and TV’s playing international football matches add to the appeal.
The property also has private swimming docks, boat docks, and lounge areas. You can book all the typical Lake Bunyonyi activities at reception.
(b) Bunyonyi Safaris Resort.
Located on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi in South Western 🇺🇬 Uganda, Bunyonyi Safaris Resort is a Countryside hotel, with scenic views of Lake Bunyonyi, the hills and the Sunset.
Bunyonyi Safaris Resort At A Glance:
1. Location: Kabale
2. Main Attraction: Lake Bunyonyi
3. Main Activities: Boat & Bird Tour
s4. Nearest Airport: Kigali Int. Airport
5. Food prices – Ranges from 40,000/-
6. Beer prices – 6000/-
7. Room prices:
√ Family Suite: $90 (B&B)
√ Cottages: $80 (B&B)
√ Superior Room: $60 (B&B)
√ Deluxe Room: $50 (B&B)
√ Dormitory: $30 (B&B)
√ Camping: from $10
What We Loved Most:
√ Our Suite
√ The scenic views of Lake Bunyonyi
√ Friendly Staff
√ Boat Tours
11. Zip-lining across one of the world’s deepest lakes (Lake Bunyonyi)
Activity Operator: Supreme Adventure Park Bunyonyi
Price: From 40,000/-
Our host: Genn John
John is the operations manager at @Supreme Adventure Park on an Island within Lake Bunyonyi.
Our Adrenaline Zip lining experience was made comfortable by this guy. They have created a world where the environment doesn’t feel threatened.
Its a haven for various species of birds and of course the only place with High Ropes Course and the only zip-line across one of the deepest lakes on Earth.