When they called it the Great Lakes region, they really weren’t kidding. Uganda appears to have got more than its fair share of those great lakes and Lake Bunyonyi may be its most spectacular. When they called Bunyonyi the ‘place of many little birds’ they weren’t kidding either. The lake is a veritable bird-watchers paradise with over 200 different species calling Bunyonyi home.
Nestled in the foothills of the might Virungas mountain range, Lake Bunyonyi is a great stop on the way to, or from, gorilla tracking in Bwindi. Located 20 kilometres from Kabale town, it is also a convenient place to break the journey to Rwanda. As expected, the lake area is well set up for tourists. Thanks to the breathtaking scenery and the feat of engineering which is the newly rehabilitated Mbarara-Kabale-Katuna road, it’s a pleasure to drive all the way to Uganda’s southwest corner.
Accommodation is largely clustered around the lake’s shores, but for an authentic Bunyonyi experience, there is no other way to do it than to stay on one of the lake’s 29 islands. Heritage Lodge is the pick of the island accommodation on offer, located on its own island. Ha’buharo Island is 25 minutes by speedboat from Rotindo landing site. On Mondays and Fridays, the landing site comes alive with a vibrant market, largely held on wooden canoes impossibly laden with local produce. There is secure, guarded parking at Rotindo for those driving to Bunyonyi.
Being island-based, accommodation is naturally all-inclusive. This is just as well since after one meal in Heritage’s superb restaurant there is nowhere else you could want to eat, especially after sampling the freshly baked bread. For those on a post-Christmas diet, Heritage may not be the spot to keep you on the dieting straight and narrow…portions are sizeable, to say the least. An absolute menu highlight is the crayfish masala. Crayfish are something of a Lake Bunyonyi delicacy, and it would be a shame to travel all that way and not try it. In fact, it’s the farming of crayfish in the lake which makes it Uganda’s only truly bilharzia-free lake. If this is not enough to tempt you into the crystal clear (if a little chilly) waters, then nothing will.
Aside from trying to spot all of Ha’buharo’s 36 recorded bird species, there are a number of other activities on the island to keep you occupied between meals. It’s a safe and engaging environment for kids, and there are plenty of open spaces for games. Boat trips around the lake are available on request, and a local dugout canoe can be hired. Almost as fun as trying to row the dugout canoe yourself is watching other people try to do it, and being overtaken by small children en route to school or the market. The ‘mzungu corkscrew’ manoeuvre in a dugout (as it’s known by the locals) is much more entertaining to watch with a cold drink in hand than experienced in person.
The staff are very accommodating in making your stay at Heritage a perfect one. The safari tents are surprisingly luxurious, and staff will sneak a hot water bottle into your bed on particularly cold evenings. The two-room family cottage sleeps 4 (or a couple more on request) and is spacious and tastefully decorated, and all accommodation has en-suite facilities, hot water and flushing toilets. A double safari tent is $160 per night for two sharing, and the family cottage $300. All prices are inclusive of meals and transfers to/from the island. Unsurprisingly, Heritage is a popular choice for couples on honeymoon. It doesn’t get much more romantic than an idyllic island haven in the middle of Uganda’s most stunning lake.