Reasons to go
Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi form the core of what has been dubbed the Switzerland of Africa. Formed by river valleys long-dammed by volcanic eruptions, the lakes form an ever-changing water scape punctuated by small, forested 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 ageing day is reflected from the surface of the water in almost perfect detail. The lakes are the perfect spot for some R&R after a gorilla trek, or a wider safari circuit across Uganda.
Whilst the views are spectacular, there is also plenty of activities to get involved with. Exploring the waters in traditional dug out canoes or motorboats 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. Bwindi’s southern sections of Nkuringo and Rushaga are under 2 hours away when the road is good.
Places to stay
Of the two lakes, it is Bunyonyi has the greatest number of accommodation options, with Birdnest and Arcadia Cottages the most popular.
Birdnest is a traveller favourite first established in the mid ‘60s. Now a four-storey hotel, it has a unique style 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, which is shared by each of its 25 guest cottages.
On Lake Mutanda, Chameleon Hill Lodge is a charming, 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 are popular options for relaxing and light adventuring at the end of a safari circuit in Uganda, or at the transition from west to further explorations in the east.
Boat excursions (by canoe or motorboats), community walks, market tours, craft making, hiking and trekking are all possible here, and the lakes are a great places to learn more about local life.
Geography & Geology
Lakes Bunyonyi and Mutanda are formed by flooded river valleys. Bunyonyi extends northwards for 25km, but is 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 much more than 45 metres 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 there are over 200 species of birds found at the lake. It is a great spot to see weaver colonies, and the surrounding marshlands also support a good variety of aquatic species.
Larger favourites are the crowned crane, herons and egrets.
Along hikes, you'll spot plenty of birdlife, as well as frogs, snakes, and chameleons.
The lakes are most easily accessed by flying into Kisoro using the scheduled light aircraft service from Entebbe. It is then a just an hour's drive 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 to meet the gorillas. Done also in reverse, this is a great way to begin or end a trip.
Alternatively, the lakes can be 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 here.
Rainfall is heaviest in late March, April and into May, peaking again in late October to 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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