Visiting Lake Bunyonyi, on your Uganda or Rwanda trip

Most people believe, touring Uganda is incomplete without visiting Lake Bunyonyi. This is why everyone travelling to Uganda would wish to get a chance of stopping by for a night or two before they head to Queen Elizabeth national park, Kampala or Rwanda on their gorilla trip. If you or your friend is one of the people who want to include lake Bunyonyi on their trip, you have to read this. Lake Bunyonyi is located in the southwestern part of Uganda. It is on the southern tourist route, the most popular tourist routes of Uganda that leads to the mountain gorillas. A visit to lake Bunyonyi destination can start from different places which include Bwindi, Mgahinga, queen Elizabeth Rwenzori mountains, lake Mburo or from across the boarders in Rwanda. For those who want to start their journey from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, it is possible to travel from Kampala to Lake Bunyonyi in one day, a distance of 416km that can be driven in about 6 hours.

These are the three key routes that will easily lead you to Lake Bunyonyi on your Uganda / Rwanda trip

  1. The gorilla trip route or southwestern route (Kampala – lake Mburo – Bwindi or Mgahinga) a distance of around 416km
  2. Uganda cross boundary route to Rwanda (Rwanda-Uganda through Kisoro or Kabale) a distance of around 148km from Kigali
  3. Midwestern route (Murchison falls, Kibale forest, Rwenzori mountains, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi forest) a distance of around 192km from Queen Elizabeth national park as the nest destination before or after lake Bunyonyi on this route.

On all the three routes, it is possible to travel both by public or private transport. From Kampala to Kabale, the buses travel for about 6 hours via Mbarara Masaka road. From Rwanda, buses move from Kigali heading to Kampala and you would stop en-route in Kabale town. From Murchison falls or Kibale forest national park, the buses move from Masindi, Kagadi, fort portal, Kasese via Bushenyi/ Mbarara to Kabale town. From Kabale town, it is only about 9km to Lake Bunyonyi. This distance can be covered by Bodaboda (motorcycle taxi), special hire or even by walking, for those who want to get the real adventure of the wonderful hills walk, views and meeting the people of this area.

After spending time at lake Bunyonyi, many travelers like to move north along the Albertan rift, covering the main national park corridor to Murchison falls national park and back to Kampala. Depending on your travel arrangement, from Lake Bunyonyi, you will be in time to head south, west or north taking the Midwestern route.  Heading north, you will be travelling to Queen Elizabeth national park for your unique wildlife adventure. Queen Elizabeth National park is located about 192km from Lake Bunyonyi. You will be going through Mbarara Busheny, Rubirizi then to your chosen accommodation near this national park. St this moment we invite you to stay with us at The Elephant center campsite. A minimum of two days are recommended for Queen Elizabeth national park to explore a range of wildlife and cultural activities in and around this area. Inside the park, options include, the wildlife safari, a boat cruise on the Kazinga channel seeing wildlife from a close range, a balloon safari in the Kasenyi plains or chimp tracking in Kyambura gorge. Optional cultural activities include; Katwe traditional salt mining tour, a traditional dance, a basket weaving workshop or a village experience at Kikorongo.

After Queen Elizabeth NP, you will be heading to Rwenzori foothills or the high mountains. The Rwenzori gateway is located about 50km from Queen Elizabeth. Options at Rwenzori include trekking the hills or trekking to the high mountains from 1 to 8 days that take you up to the lower mountains on the three days two nights mahoma trail loop or eoght days Margherita peak trek at 5109m above seas level. The community activities here include forest hike, hill climb hike, village walk or just staying at the community camp reluctantly taking the beautiful mountain views. Two days are suitable for this location but you may need more if you will trek the high mountains.

From Rwenzori Mountains, you head to Kibale forest, the home of chimps and other primates. This is the best place to see chimps in Uganda and east Africa. Please note that you need to buy a ticket for chimp trekking from Kampala before you travel. Other optional activities here include the Bigodi bird sanctuary walk. Around this park, you have options of visiting the creator lakes or taking the Tooro kingdom cultural tours. This destination is located 117km from Rwenzori gate way, your previous destination. Kibale forest is located close to Semliki National park where you have a chance to explore one of the oldest forest extending from the Congo basin that survived the ice age. The forest in Semiliki national park is an extension of the Ituri forest from Congo. Here you can also tour the Sembaya hot springs, other wildlife and culture of the indigenous forest tribes.

After Kibale forest or Semuliki national park, you can choose to end your journey by heading to Kampala via fort portal – Mubende road 335km. Alternatively, you will be heading north to Murchison falls national park (around 393km), with an option of spending some time at Kabwoya wildlife reserve near Lake Albert. In Murchison falls, you will be taking more wildlife safaris and witnessing the mighty Murchison falls then taking a boat cruise on the river Nile. River Nile is the second longest river of the world that starts from Lake Victoria in Uganda on its long journey to the Mediterranean, a distance of around 6650km that takes about three Months for the water to reach the Mediterranean Sea.

From Murchison falls, you will be heading to Kampala or Entebbe in a 3 to 4 hours’ drive, to end the trip with an option of stopping in Ziwa Rhino ranch for an overnight or day tour while tracking the rhinos and other wildlife. After reaching Entebbe, some people find it worth to spend some time relaxing near the waters, either in Jinja source of the Nile doing some water adventures such as rafting, bungee jumping or going to the beaches on Lake Victoria Ssese islands.  Jinja town is located 81 km from Kampala on the eastern Uganda route. While here, it is the best time to start your journey to Mount Elgon or crossing to Kenya if you will go by road.

Lake Bunyonyi, the wonder of nature and culture in Uganda

“Bunyonyi” is a term meaning small birds in the local language of southwestern Uganda. No wonder, lake Bunyonyi is a wonderful birding point. This lake has sparked amazement to many travelers during their trip to this area, making it a highlight of most travelers who reach this location.  Lake Bunyonyi holds a total of 29 islands some of which are settled making it a hub for human settlement as well.

Lake Bunyonyi can be reached within one day from different directions including, from Kampala, from mid-western uganda via queen elizabeth national park or from Rwanda. It is located on the southern tourist route, 486 km from Kampala, 262 km from Queen Elizabeth national park or 148 km from Kigali. This makes the lake a suitable base for exploring the southwestern attractions. It is possible to stay at Lake Bunyonyi and track the gorillas in Bwindi forest the next morning then return to the lake for your overnight stay after tracking.

Lake Bunyonyi probably holds the most beautiful scenery of the region. It is a beautiful setting surrounded by many cultural wonders.  Personally, I found the story about the smallest island very touching. To give you a hint, the smallest of the 29 islands is called “Kampene” in the local language. It used to be the punishment island of the historical moments where people were taken to face slow death. However, some of the society members, especially the men, would collect the women from this island without the knowledge of the local chiefs.  The lake neighborhood is the home to the Bakiga people, a people known in the country for their high fertility and determination of life. It is believed that no life is hard enough to defeat a mukinga person. you have got to meet these people on your trip.

Besides the culture, the lake is naturally endowed. Though not proven scientifically, the local stories say that this is the deepest lake in the region. As the local guide will tell you during your canoe tour over the lake. Lake Bunyonyi is one of the few places that are home to Cray fish in Uganda. In most hotels around the lake, you will be treated to a Cray fish meal of your choice.

With accommodations of all classes around this part of the country, you have a big selection to choose from where you stay during the visit. You can camp, stay in budget or take a high-end luxury accommodation. In whichever option, you can be sure you won’t miss on the breath taking scenery, the wonderful cultural encounters, the freshly harvested food or the welcoming people.

In our next post, we shall share the different travel routes of Uganda that are well suited for exploring Lake Bunyonyi.