Lake Bunyonyi

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Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi (8146148093).jpg
Location South-western Uganda
Coordinates 1°17′S 29°55′E / 1.283°S 29.917°E / -1.283; 29.917Coordinates: 1°17′S 29°55′E / 1.283°S 29.917°E / -1.283; 29.917
Type Freshwater
Basin countries Uganda
Max. length 25 km (15.5 mi)
Max. width 7 km (4.35 mi)
Max. depth 44 - 900 m ?
Surface elevation 1,962 m (6,437 ft)
Rivers and lakes of Uganda. Bunyonyi is the relatively small lake in the far south-western corner of the country, just opposite the (on this map) similar-sized Lake Burera in Rwanda.

Lake Bunyonyi ("Place of many little birds") is in south-western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale close to the border with Rwanda. Located at 1,962 metres (6,437 ft) above sea level, it is about 25 kilometres (16 mi) long and 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) wide.[citation needed] The depth of the lake is rumored to vary between 44 metres (144 ft) and 900 metres (3,000 ft),[citation needed] which if true would make the lake the second deepest in Africa. It is one of the few lakes in the region that is rumored to be free of bilharzia and safe for swimming;[citation needed] however, this claim is not verifiable and patrons of the lake have tested positive as recently as 2012.[citation needed] The lake appears on the 5,000 Ugandan shilling note under the title "Lake Bunyonyi and terraces".

Towns on its shores include Kyevu and Muko, while its 29 islands include Punishment Island and Bushara Island.


Lake Bunyonyi is a body of water 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of Kabale town. It covers 61 square kilometres (24 sq mi).[citation needed] The lake is surrounded by hills that are 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) to 2,478 metres (8,130 ft) high and intensely cultivated.[citation needed]

Its 29 islands are concentrated in the central part. These islands have few settlements. They are mostly used for tourist facilities and for a secondary and a primary school.[citation needed]

The lake surface temperature is 25 °C (77 °F).[citation needed] In the beginning of the 20th century, fish were introduced to the lake and in the 1930s fishing became profitable.[citation needed] Unfortunately in the 1960s, the fish died massively as a result of a violent shallow mixing, likely caused by wind.[citation needed] Subsistence fishing prevailed in the lake, people mostly caught clarias species - the lake's depth and stratification makes it difficult for the breeding of the common Ugandan species Nile Perch and Tilapia.[citation needed] Nevertheless, 300,000 Nile Tilapias and Clarias fish were released in the lake at the end of 2002.[citation needed] Also present in the lake are Mud fish, Cray fish and Mirrowcarp - and plenty of their predators, otters.[citation needed]

The lake's main centre is Bufuka Village. The area's inhabitants are from the Bakiga and the Batwa tribes.[citation needed]

Main islands[edit]

Akampene = Punishment Island[edit]

Punishment Island in Lake Bunyonyi

The Bakiga used to leave unmarried pregnant girls on this small island with a lone tree - to die of hunger or while trying to swim to the mainland (swimming skills were rare). This was to educate the rest, to show them not to do the same. A man without cows to pay the bridewealth could go to the island and pick up a girl. The practice got abandoned in the first half of the 20th century.

Camp on the shore of Lake Bunyonyi

Bushara Island[edit]

This island is the home of Lake Bunyonyi Development Company, an organisation with strong links to Church of Uganda, the main church of the lake area. They use tourism to generate funds for several development projects around Bunyonyi.

The striking feature of the island is its forest, a demonstration of the most appealing attribute of the eucalyptus tree: an exceptionally fast growth rate. The hills around Bunyonyi used to feature many forests but overpopulation led to them being cut down to create land for agriculture needs. Eucalypti have been imported to improve the situation. But eucalyptus plants may also have a negative effect: they can soak everything useful in the soil, leaving it more or less barren.

Kyahugye Island[edit]

Kyahugye Island is approximately 30ha (74 acres) in size and also the nearest to the mainland. It is surrounded by a strip of reeds interspersed with papyrus. The Island has many tree species including Eucalyptus sp., Pinus sp., Alnus sp., and Cuprssus sp., these forming a wide perimeter around it. The vegetation on the Island falls into four categories namely bush, open fallows, tree plantations and natural vegetation.

Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp's Island)[edit]

In 1921, English missionary Leonard Sharp came to this part of Uganda and in 1931 established a leprosy treatment centre on the then uninhabited Bwama island.[1] A church, patient quarters (model villages), and a medical facility were built, while Sharp settled on Njuyeera Island (probably meaning "white cottage" after the similarity of the doctor's small white house to Sharp's father's house in Shanklin, now The White House Hotel). The rationale of the leprosy colony was that of "voluntary segregation'", where the provision of a happy community to live in would attract leprosy sufferers, so removing them from the communities where they might infect others.[2]

The buildings of the hospital are now used by a boarding secondary school which attracts students from the entire region.[citation needed] There is also a primary school but no village on the island.[citation needed]

Bucuranuka = Upside Down[edit]

The legend says that this island killed many people. About twenty were once brewing local sorghum beer there. An old woman was passing by and she said: "Can you give me some local beer?" They wrongly thought that she was a beggar they knew. They refused her: "Get lost, beggar! Get lost!!!" The old woman asked: "So you will not even give me a sip? Can I at least get somebody to take me to the mainland?" They answered: "Yes, because we are fed up with you!" They chose a young guy to take her over. When they reached the shore and the guy was just beginning to return, the island turned upside down. All died, only a chicken flew away and survived.


  1. ^ Not a gap year but a lifetime. Katherine Makower. 2008. Apologia Publications, Eastbourne, UK.
  2. ^ Island of miracles. Leonard Sharp. 2nd Ed. Battley Brothers Limited, Queensgate Press, Clapham Park, SW4

External links[edit]