Lake Bunyonyi; Lake of many small birds.
Leaving Mbarara, we were on the road by 10am,being in that neck of the woods, the usual Kampala radio stations didn’t come through so we listened to Cruise or is it Crooze FM ,very good station, good music, coherent presenters. Color me pleasantly surprised.
I’d forgotten how magnificent the countryside is, the rolling Ntungamo hills are a sight! We arrived in Kabale town 3 hours later. My father hailed from here, his village is about 10 minutes away from the town. I haven’t been back there in about a decade, frankly it’s not a place I’ve ever called home, I plan on going out into the world and starting my own clan. Sam asked if I wanted to swing by, I declined, I hadn’t called ahead and didn’t want to disorganize people, is that an excuse? Definitely.i just didn’t want to go.With trusted Google maps, we turned into a winding dirt road looking for the Byoona Amagara dock and Bird’s Nest Hotel, potential accommodation for our stay. These roads are pretty tricky particularly if you are deathly afraid of heights, the views however are priceless.
We made it to Bird’s Nest and what do you know it’s pretty fancy, we took a look around inquiring about the rates, very steep about 100$ a night. We figured we could hang out here but stick to Byoona Amagara as originally planned. We left for the Amagara parking yard and “dock”, the boat came through about 10 minutes later. After securing the car, loading our things into the car, we were off!
Lake Bunyonyi is very daunting, 900 meters deep; it’s the deepest in Uganda, second deepest in Africa and third in the world! The water is an all round murky shade of green. My butt was clenched onto that boat like you wouldn’t believe, the lake has 29 islands, the most famous being Punishment island, I’ll get to that later. Our destination was Itamba Island. The boat ride takes about 25 minutes priced at 25,000ugx per trip. When Amagara came into view, I was pretty excited; I was looking forward to some fresh air, peace and quiet and world class view! We docked and went straight up to the reception, it’s a bit of a climb, saying I was out of breath is an understatement; I think I need a bigger set of lungs.
A friendly gentleman welcomed us and had one of the workers show us to our Dome. These things are amazing, they are vast, usually accommodating 3-5 people open plan spaces right by the lake, a compost toilet and solar powered shower a few feet away. The domes have no doors so you can sit on the balcony and star gaze or watch the sunrise by the lake! Life doesn’t get better than this. He took us down a path, it was familiar as the dome I’d stayed in on my first visit here was around this area, we walked further down passed it into this isolated bush area, we turned left and there was our accommodation for the weekend!
These people! They’d literally dumped us in the darkest corner of the place, no lake in sight ,our view was an enormous collection of weeds, after all the anticipation….Naturally I was having none of it, I WANTED the view we’d driven hours to have. He claimed all the others were booked but I wasn’t buying it, I asked him to please go to the reception and see what he could because I was not, I repeat, not settling for that. He then took us up to the upper section of the place to the ‘Ebimooli’ dome, I’m convinced this is the best dome they’ve got, granted I’ve only seen three others, he left us for a few minutes to go confirm what he’d been repeating the whole time, you know, ‘the whole place is booked’. Sam finally saw what I’d been going on about and jumped on my bandwagon, better late than never I guess.
He came back and what do you know, the booking in question for that particular dome had been cancelled and it was now ours for the taking, yeah right! I smelt the bullshit from miles away, I know what was going on here, I was not about to died in this movie .I’ve said it once, I’ll say again, don’t settle!
The unpleasantness squared away, I whipped out my camera and went about the place with my amateur self, while I was at it, I discovered a swing set and together with Sam, we spent about 30 minutes regressing back to being 12!It was the most unadulterated fun I’d had in a minute. We then decided to get some drinks and go to the swimming dock. I had no intentions of swimming, I need to see the bottom of whatever medium I’m swimming in, and lakes are a definite no for me. The sun was shining, the drinks were cold, I could definitely get used to this.
Just before I settled to get good and sloshed, main man Sam sauntered forward to take a dive, he told me to pay attention as he’d only be doing it once, what an accurate statement that turned out to be! 1, 2, 3, splash! I truly wish you could have seen the look on this man’s face when he surfaced! The shock, the horror! He did eventually get his bearings and stumbled out, I just sat there laughing my ass off, I’m supportive like that. The last time I was here, there was a sign informing people 2 tourists had drowned mysteriously and urged people to take extra precautions. I didn’t bother mentioning this as he was traumatized enough by how cold and dark that shit was, like me, he would be messing with that lake no more. We were joined by some tourists who after exchanging pleasantries, joined us in enjoying that amazing view, that was until the most epic rain clouds started gathering, we called it quits and ran back to the dome barely making it. It rained so hard, have you ever watched heavy rain and fog descend upon a lake; you should, just once before you croak.
With the night came the cold, biting cold, hi, my name is pneumonia type cold! They don’t call Kabale the Switzerland of Uganda for nothing. We bundled up and went to the restaurant bit for dinner. If there is one thing I can’t stand about Byoona Amagara, it’s the food. They have a vegetarian menu going on. I do appreciate the Cray fish, it’s something different and the abundance of cheese doesn’t hurt as well, I swear I must have been a mouse in a passed life. After a day, I just couldn’t do the food anymore. It’s freshly prepared and the portion sizes can feed 3 of me but personally, it’s just not that good, I’m sorry.
I had a fish and bean burrito, the tortilla a potato pancake, didn’t know that was a thing, it was of mammoth proportions, Sam ate some of mine along with his meal, don’t remember what it was, that burrito had my full attention. Once I was done, I sat back and let the food coma sink in, that coupled with all the travelling and excitement of the day I just sort of crashed! Gin in hand, I called it a night.
Walking back to the dome, I looked up at the moon, I’ve never seen it so bright, it looked closer than normal! L.Bunyonyi is one of the best places to star gaze thanks to the vast expanse of dark lake and virtually nonexistent electricity, it’s all so vivid and clear, quiet as well, only bugs chirping away along with croaking frogs, I love that sound. Sam reckons people here have never been harassed by the sound of blaring car horns, what a lovely thought.