The Ssese Islands are an archipelago of eighty-four (84) islands in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The islands are coterminous with the Kalangala District in southern Central Uganda, which does not have any territory on mainland Uganda.
The islands occupy the northwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The largest island in the archipelago is called Bugala Island. Its largest town, called Kalangala serves as the headquarters of the district that carries the same name (Kalangala District). Kalangala is located approximately 51 kilometres (32 mi), across water, southwest of Entebbe, in Wakiso District, on the Ugandan mainland. The coordinates of the district are:0° 26' 0.00"S, 32° 15' 0.00"E (Latitude:-0.4333; Longitude:32.2500).
The islands lie in two main groups. The south west can be referred to as the Bugala Group group, after Bugala Island, the largest in the archipelago. The northeastern group can be referred to as the Koome Group, after Koome Island, the largest in that group. The two groups are separated by the Koome Channel.
The Ssese Islands are inhabited by the Bantu speaking Bassese tribe, closely related to the Baganda and the Basoga, and speaking a similar, though distinct language. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the islands were one of the most important spiritual centers of the region. About forty-three (50%) of the islands are inhabited. The islands vary in size from less than 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres), to over 40 kilometres (25 mi) in length for the largest island, Bugala Island.
The principal industry in the Ssese Islands is fishing for the huge Nile Perch, with much of the catch being exported. Overfishing is a huge concern on these and other islands in Lake Victoria. Other industries include agriculture, forestry and tourism.
BIDCO, a private palm oil processor based in Jinja District, on the mainland, owns a 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) palm oil plantation on the islands. In addition, outgrower farmers grow palm oil on contract with BIDCO and sell their produce to the processor. In 2010, the palm oil plant began generating 1.5MW of electricity through the burning of bagasse and some of the oil. The power supplies the oil processing plant and the excess is sold to Kalangala, the largest town on the islands.
Logging is another economic activity that is practiced on the Ssese Islands.
Flora and fauna
The islands are also home to a variety of animals including primates, which are not easily accessible on the mainland. This has led to the evolution of a nascent but growing tourism industry on the islands. Infrastructure is still rudimentary but is slowly improving.