Lake Bunyonyi – Gorilla Highlands
There is something authentic about Lake Bunyonyi located in the Gorilla Highlands Region. This is why I did want to visit it once again! When opportunity stuck, I packed my bags and set off to discover what’s new, old with the Island and its communities and it was worth it.
Early morning, we set off for Lake Bunyonyi ‘meaning a place of many birds”. The stopover at Rwenjuru Campsite was a great discovery! The main attraction at the site is the traditional cow watering experience- “Okweshera”- in the local language. We watched the local guide and a cattle keeper build a clay trough and thereafter led cattle to feed from it. If you have not seen the famous Long Horned Cattle, this might be your chance.
We proceeded to Igongo Cultural Museum Centre. The centre depicts a great insight into the traditional home of the Banyankole – cultivators and cattle keepers in south western Uganda. The museum is divided into various 6 sections – Skills, Family and Community, Clans and Social Organization, Legends, Political and Leadership and Famous people of the community.
Next stop is the ‘Home of Edirisa’, where we had a tour of the Bakiga Cultural museum that depicts the way of life of the Bakiga. The Karwemera museum at the home of Edirisa depicts the homesteads of the Batwa (Pygmies) and the Bantus (Bakiga of Kabale and Bafumbira of Kisoro). There is a hostel with a roof top lounge and a local arts centre as well. The local arts centre supports women craft groups across Kabale district via the help of Edirisa UK that has programs that teach tailoring skills, improves product quality and introduces product quality and competitive designs.
We proceed to Lake Bunyonyi that covers an area of 61 kms and depth of 44m comprising of 29 Islands. At this point nerves kicked in, all I could think about was the traditional canoes, let’s say I like walks, road and air just fine! We got into our Canoes heading to the Kyabahinga peninsula. I buried my watch deep down in the bag, didn’t want to know how long this transfer would take!
We did embark on the Culture of the Crest Tour and it took just about 5 hrs. The first stopover was to the Edirisa Nursery School, we didn’t get to see the students as it was holiday time, up ahead was the local brewery where we got to taste local beer. Some locals clearly must have been early birder’s on site! Next was the traditional herbalist (Omugurusi) Jeremiah who taught us about the various medicinal plants offered as treatments to the local community.
As we ascend further, we stopover at Yanika Explorer Cultural Village set up by Yanika a local native who returned from Europe. The fruit Platter served was mouthwatering and delicious. Trust and believe there is something different about these passion fruits, melons and pineapples, a different kind of fresh. Yanika explained what inspired him to start the village, impressed us with stories about Bakiga traditional beliefs and historical facts about Islands. At the explorer village, you will want to take lots of photos because the back drop is breathtaking at 2300m above sea level.
Next up the ridge is the craft centre and our host Anna welcomed us with a bright smile and taught us more about the different ties and dyes local crafts made. Try out your hand at weaving, sewing and preparation of the dyes. Later we descend back, onto the canoes once again proceeding to Habukomi Island at Tom’s Homestead.
Be warned the ascend for about 1 hour on this cultural tour can be strenuous but it’s definitely worth it when you get to the view the scenery! You will want to stay at the village just so you can wake up and appreciate mother nature’s call. It was painful to have a time check to descend, as we had to set up camp elsewhere!
At Tom’s Homestead, we set up camp and relaxed for the evening. I did get a chance to watch the preparation and cleaning of the Cray Fish. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to taste this little red covered fish. At dinner time, it was served with Rice, Chapatti and it was absolutely delicious! This was followed by a camp fire, roasting of maize and Tom’s story telling about the Life on the Island and developments in the area. At this point not even the fire can help with warmth and it was getting cloudy, however the prayers got answered. It didn’t rain overnight phew!
We embarked on the canoe back to mainland heading to Echuya Forest and Batwa Community. This Batwa Today project aims to improve the livelihood of the local community, focuses on cultural self-respect of indigenous peoples and provides authentic experience to visitors. Kanusu the Local Guide at Echuya Forest demonstrated their way of life and we learnt about the medicinal plants.
We had a cultural interaction with the Batwa of Rwamahano who are extremely warm people despite the challenges they face as a community. They did inform us that they still needed land, seeds and materials to aid in farming so it is a continuous effort to help construct houses for their community and educate their children as well as improve their livelihoods.
If you ever get to visit Lake Bunyonyi and Gorilla Highlands, participate in the Batwa Project, your fee helps in community empowerment or carry some school materials. It will sure make someone’s day in the community!
Early morning after breakfast, we set off for Rushaga Area- south western Bwindi arriving in time for lunch. It’s a great feeling to travel, interact with local communities, opening up one’s self to heartfelt emotions as nature speaks out loud. At the end of the day, it’s the everyday stuff that moves us to pack our bags and go discover the world and make a difference.
For more information on tours to Gorilla Highlands and Lake Bunyonyi, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org