The Lakes of Uganda

In the western part of Uganda you will find an area that looks more te belong in Vietnam, Birma or Cambodia. It gives off a totally different feeling than we are used to in Africa. It makes you realize how large this continent is and how many hidden treasures of nature is has. The land around us looks like a wild frozen sea of nature with giant waves, the green icebergs pointing up towards the clouds and the mist, especially in the morning, makes it look like a fairytale. A lot of the native forest is cut down and is replaced by farmland or other trees like eucalyptus, which grows faster and will therefor supply more wood in time. The mountains around us are like big checkerboards, all divided into different crops like vegetables, maize, grain, tea, bananas and potatoes. Traveling through this area we first visit Lake Bunyoni, which got its name because of the variety of bird species around. The name literally means “Place of many little birds” and is located in South Western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale close to the border with Rwanda. Located at 1962 m above sea level, it is about 25 km long and 7 km wide. Someone told us that the dept of the lake can go up to 900 m which if true that would make the lake the second deepest in Africa.It’s a beautiful area, but als also commonly visited by locals throwing a party, overland trucks hosting the young travelers and people coming down for the weekend driving from Kampala. This doesn’t make it less pretty but makes us decide to keep on driving to Lake Mutanda. Lake Mutanda is located between a two and four hour trip (63Km) from Lake Bunyonyi depending on your driving. It lies hidden in the mountainous landscape of southwestern Uganda, in the Kisoro district. We can say that we find it the most scenic and postcard pretty lake of what we have seen of Africa. The Lake is nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Mountain Range, at an altitude of 1800 m. The three volcanoes within the range, that are partly located in Uganda (Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga), can be seen in the background.

Mutanda Lake Resort

It is a warm day, the wind blows through our open windows which we rolled down halfway. I can feel sweat drip from my neck down my back. Even with the windows open and the wind blowing in it is hot. A large cloud of dust from a passing car minimizes our visibility and covers the car in a blanket of fine red dust. While I am trying to look through this cloud, we both try to close our windows as soon as possible to prevent us from being covered in it as well. We follow a narrow road on the mountain, the road is like a long thread woven through a green tapestry. The threads from the weaving loom are pulled apart and different colors of yarn are woven in. Left, right, left, right, uninterrupted we drive from one direction into the other. It is not a cheap tapestry. The colors are deep and endless, but everything ends in green: dark green, light green, bright green and mint. I close my eyes and think myself on top of that carpet, flying over a fairytale landscape. Over deep valleys, along blue lakes, misty mountaintops and active volcanos. The beauty of Uganda that takes my breath away. Taking the backroads from Lake Bunyoni to Lake Mutanda certainly makes for a very interesting drive with stunning scenery all around. When I see the first glimpses of Lake Mutanda, it’s the stillness that makes the first impression. A quiet lake, a few ripples in the water and little islands scattered in the middle. We follow the road on the edge of the lake and after a few corners I think I am able to see Mutanda Lake Resort, perched on one of the peninsulas in the lake.

A simple, but very cozy, partly canvas house/tent with a verandah that looks out over the lake will be our new home for the next couple of days. Opposite from our room, on the other side of the little bay, I can spot the road we just drove on and after a while I realize that apart from the occasional boda boda, not many cars drive in this part of Uganda. An older guy moors his dug out canoe and starts cleaning it. Birds enjoy the nectar in the red blossom on the tree in front of me and in between the banana trees I can see some children walking their goats to the best grazing spot. Sitting on the verandah I wish I was more of a birder. In ten minutes I see more variety in birds, than I have seen in the past 2 days. They come and go, dive in the water for fresh meal and chirp in different songs.Dinner is a three course meal with a vegetarian and non vegetarian option. Set in a cozy lit restaurant, looking out over the volcanos, we have a wonderful dinner while the sky changes colour for the night. By the time we walk back to our room, the Bell Frogs have come out and their characteristic sound fills the air for a few more hours. In the early morning we are very lucky to see the volcanos in the distance since the sky is clear and we decide to take the boat out after breakfast. Together with Gerald, the guide, we cruise around on the lake and see a multitude of different birds flying and nesting near the water. We pass a few fishermen with their homemade rods trying to catch the little fish which they put on a stick before frying them over a fire. On some of the bigger islands in the lake we can see women working on potato fields where they get dropped in the morning and picked up at the end of the day. Since most of the local people are not really good swimmers, to me, this seems like the perfect way of getting your wife out of the way for a certain period of time.We turn back when the sun gets too bright and relax the rest of the day.

Even though Lake Mutanda is in a far corner of Uganda it is a perfect stopover coming from Rwanda, or as a basis for a gorilla tracking. It’s definitely one of the best places we’ve visited in Uganda!

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