Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
October 28, 2014 – October 30, 2014
After our stay in Rwanda we decided to head north to Uganda for some relaxation time on an island in the middle of a lake. Southern Uganda, like Rwanda, is largely covered in lush green rolling hills, but with wider valleys in between, many large enough for larger lakes to form. It was to one of these beautiful lakes that we were headed next, Lake Bunyonyi, and the island retreat of Byoona Amagara.
First we needed to get to Uganda from the shores of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda, and that meant another 3 hour windy racing bus ride back to Kigali, where at least one woman in front of us was leaning out the window half the time. Once in Kigali we enjoyed our last few hours of big city life. Taking in some much needed gourmet coffee and wifi to take care of a few chores, as well as a stop by the Qatar Airways office to confirm our upcoming flights which we had some difficulty booking online. All of this was easily done via the many motorcycle “moto” taxis available throughout Rwanda. Riding on the backseat of these motorcycles can be a hair-raising or great experience depending on your point of view. Passengers are provided a blurry helmet which is difficult to see through while the motos weave in and out of honking traffic. Then we were off to Uganda in a shared car for the two and half hours to Kabale in southern Uganda. A bit of advice, make sure you agree with the driver of the car on the price. We spoke with the guy flagging down customers to get in the car and agreed on a price with him, as he seemed to be in charge. The driver however decided once we got to the border that we owed him more. Though he may have just been banking on the fact that we hadn’t talked to him and thought he could skim a little more. We told him we would only pay him half because the border was only part of the way and after some disagreement he finally agreed to take us the full distance at the originally agreed upon price.
Once in Kabale it is a simple half hour ride to the lake shore where the lodge we were staying at, Byoona Amagara, has a free traditional dug out paddle canoe guests can take across the lake to Itambira Island. The canoe trip takes about 50 minutes and could be miserable if it is raining so there is also a speed boat you can take. The weather was great when we arrived so we took the canoe.
Itambira is a small privately owned island with small tiki style huts arranged so they all have spectacular views of the lake. Most of the huts are surprisingly well furnished open air reed huts with lake views. Nothing between you and the view while relaxing in your room, and yes they do have mosquito nets for the beds.
There were only a few tourists at the lodge and it felt like we had most of the island to ourselves, however it was humorous we ran into the same guy from Norway for the third time. We first met John on our bus ride from Mwanza, Tanzania to the Rwandan border. We traveled together as far as Kigali and parted ways. Next we saw John at our hotel in Kibuye, Rwanda. He left a day before us, went a different route and arrived on the Ugandan island only hours after we did. Next he would be heading north to Kampala, while we would be heading south again, so this was our final encounter with John.
Guests of Byoona Amagara can relax and take in the views or go hiking or swimming or take the canoe out to exhaust yourself trying not to canoe in circles if you wish.
Lake Bunyonyi is dotted with small lodges, though it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap at all, everything is spaced out far enough that we hardly saw anyone at all. It was a great place to relax for a few days and if we didn’t have plane tickets purchased we would have stayed longer.