Lake Bunyonyi: A Natural Wonder of the World?
It’s a destination bewilderingly absent on every BuzzFeed and Mashable “Places to See Before You Die” list.
And that omission makes no sense at all.
Lake Bunyonyi ought to be considered one of the natural wonders of the world and, now that I’ve seen it before my own eyes, it’s joined the ranks of my most beloved travel destinations.
This place deserves to be on your African travel radar because, with beauty like this, shouldn’t it be?
Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi is a body of water in southwestern Uganda near the Rwandan border, and one of the country’s top natural treasures. And, at 1,962m above sea level, the lake enjoys moderate temperatures year round, cool in both the mornings and evenings. Most visitors make it an R&R stop after gorilla trekking in nearby Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. My friend Jill and I visited the mountain gorillas in neighbouring Rwanda instead but, after reading about Lake Bunyonyi, I was hellbent on making my way there, even from Kibale National Park on the other side of Uganda where we spent the day trekking chimpanzees.
Lake Bunyonyi is framed by lush, green-terraced hills that reach a height of 2,200-2,478m, but it’s the 29 islands of various shapes and sizes scattered across the water that make it most magical — we could’ve admired them all day. It’s a sight that reinvents itself every hour or two with the ever-changing climate and direction of the sun. In the early morning, the islands weave through cotton candy-like streams of mist and, in the afternoon, they’re bathed in the warm glow of the sun. Later, they’re silhouetted against a dim sky as evening approaches. One day the islands vanished from sight completely, hidden under a blanket of clouds, but it only took an hour to see them emerge once more.
There’s nothing like that powerful moment when the mystical scene opened up to us for the first time after arriving at Arcadia Lodge, a cottage high up on a hill that claims to have the most breathtaking panorama of Lake Bunyonyi. If you don’t stay as a guest, be sure to at least visit for a drink or meal on the terrace to enjoy the view (I recommend any dish with crayfish, the local specialty). So overwhelmed Jill was by the lake’s sheer beauty that I found her in tearful meditation, silently absorbing what was before her eyes. What fantasy did we step into to find such natural splendour?
Things to Do
Apart from worshipping the scenic landscapes from a hilltop, there’s plenty to do here, so I recommend spending at least a night or two on its shores or one of the islands.
Lake Bunyonyi is known as one of the few lakes in Uganda free of bilharzia (a common parasite found in southern Africa), making its waters safe for swimming. I didn’t find the weather warm enough so refrained from taking a dip. It’s also free of dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles. The only warning for visitors is the depth — inexperienced swimmers should take caution.
Ride a Canoe:
The most common mode of transportation on these waters is the dugout canoe, which offers a completely different perspective of the lake. You can rent your own to explore the islands or select a guided tour.
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The Mighty Lake Bunyonyi