Reasons to go
Located in the far southwest of Uganda, close to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you will find a place of unbelievable natural beauty.
Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi form the core of what has been called’ the Switzerland of Africa’. Formed by river valleys long-dammed by volcanic eruptions, the lakes form an ever-changing waterscape punctuated by small wooded islands. The shoreline rises through terraced farmland into forested hillsides and up onto the slopes of the seven volcanoes.
On a still day, the light of an aging day is reflected from the surface of the water in exquisite detail, making the lakes the perfect relaxation destination after the exertions of gorilla tracking or a long exploration of Uganda.
Whilst the views are spectacular, they are not the only reason to visit. The lakes are increasingly also a place to visit for those who want to discover more about the life of local rural communities or to just be more active after days spent mainly on the road.
Exploring the waters in traditional dug out canoes or moto boats can be combined with community treks and bicycle rides.
The lakes are also close enough to the forests to act as a single base for gorilla and golden monkey treks as well as rest and relaxation. Bwindi’s southern sections of Nkuringo and Rushaga are under 2 hours away when the road is good.
Places to stay
Bunyonyi has the greatest number of accommodation options. The two most popular and most reliable are Birdnest and Arcadia Cottages.
Birdsnest is an established favourite first established in the mid ‘60s. Now a four storey hotel, it has a unique style throughout and a wonderful dining room leading out to a decking area with beautiful views of the lake.
Arcadia Cottages are located further away from the shore but in a spectacular ridge-top position. It is difficult to overstate the impact of the view! Each of its 25 guest cottages share in the beautiful view.
On Lake Mutanda, Chameleon Hill Lodge is a distinctively designed, colourful, small lodge made up of 10 chalets and a cosy communal area. Set in an elevated position above the lake, the lodge has wonderful views of Virunga Volcanoes. The food is excellent and the wood fire in the communal living area really makes for a cosy evening when the temperature drops.
Closer to the water, Mutanda Lake Resort is another quality destination. More conservatively designed than Chameleon Hill Lodge, it has a simple but stylish design, with a combination of single, double and family chalets, plus a dining area and bar.
Things to do
Bunyonyi and Mutanda can be used both as relaxation venues - great for painters and more active visitors alike - and as a base for more traditional safari activities like gorilla trekking.
Boat excursions, by canoe or larger vessels, community walks, market tours, craft making, longer walking trails are all possible when staying at both Bunyonyi and Mutanda. They are all currently quite low-key experiences, but the quality is ever increasing as the number of visitors to the lakes also grows.
Geography & Geology
Lakes Bunyonyi and Mutanda are both formed by flooded river valleys, Bunyonyi extending northwards for 25km but never more than 5km wide. Set at an altitude of 1,950 metres, estimates of its depth vary greatly (with some outlandish claims), but it is probably not more than 45metres deep. Steep terraced hills rising to 2,500 metres surround Bunyonyi, while Mutanda, although smaller than Bunyonyi, has the dramatic back-drop of the Virunga Mountains.
Flora & Fauna
Bunyonyi translates as ‘the place of the little birds’ and so unsurprisingly it is a great place to see weaver colonies. The surrounding marshlands also support a good variety of aquatic species. Larger favourites are the crowned crane, herons and egrets.
The lakes are most easily accessed by flying into Kisoro using the scheduled light aircraft service from Entebbe. It is then a just a drive of an hour or so to the lakes. More adventurous visitors can also chose to trek from the airstrip to the lake for a canoe trip followed by a second trek up into the Nkuringo sector of southern Bwindi where the gorillas can be accessed. Done also in reverse, this is a great way to begin or end a trip. Alternatively, the lakes are accessed by a 5 to 6 hour drive from Buhoma in northern Bwindi or a 1.5 hour drive from southern Bwindi (depending on the condition of the roads).
When to visit
Uganda’s usual, but increasingly unpredictable weather patterns apply. Rainfall is heaviest in late March, April and into May, peaking again in late October/ November. Late December, January and February tend to be generally hot and dry, while June, July, August and September are cooler and generally dry.
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