The magic of the sunset at Victoria Forest Resort can melt even the coldest of hearts. At first, it is the normal blue and grey sky being reflected in the calm waters of Lake Victoria. But as the day wanes, the hand of the master painter goes to work. The colour in the sky warms up with patches of yellow as the sun inversely softens and turns into a fireball.
The aura of affection
Around the fireball, contagious golden rays diverge downward and purify the lake with their colours. As the sun journeys downwards, everything is consumed by a magical orange.
On the white sands, now turned orange, love- stricken beach-goers proclaim their love. They draw heart shapes in the sand and write the names of their lovers in the middle. “Alaidat,” reads one such message.
“It is a combination of comfort and nature,’’ says Christopher Kamukama, a director at Victoria Forest Resort.
As tourism grows, so do the facilities and tourism activities in Ssese Islands. Ssese Islands are an archipelago of 84 islands in the northwest of Lake Victoria in Uganda. About half of them are inhabited. The islands vary in size from less than 10,000 square metres, to over 40 kilometres in length for the largest island, Bugala.
The islands from Kalangala District have their headquarters in Buggala Island which is also easily accessible by ferry from both Bukakata in Masaka and from Nakiwogo in Entebbe.
The islands are a top tourist destination for both local and international tourists because of the white sand-lined beaches and resorts.
Like Victoria Forest Resort, most of the tourist facilities are situated at Lutoboka Bay on Buggala along a white sand beach.
Victoria Resort offers tourism activities that belong in two different worlds – ancient and modern.
Ancient cultural experience
This involves a visit to Kalaya caves of Jjaja Kiwumulo or Semuggala. According to the caretaker Mukasa, the site is important for the Nkima clan one of the 52 in Buganda.
The cave houses a collection of traditional items such as spears, calabashes and bark cloth. Mukasa keeps a fire alive inside the cave. Locals who want to relax and get close to their gods spend their days inside the cave drinking alcohol and smoking pipes.
A short distance away, overlooking the lake, is a rock engraved with a game of mweso, with people to be found playing the game. Legend has it that it was made by gods. The stone artwork is incredible.
Mysterious stone fort ruins
The resort is surrounded by a thick forest on the eastern part where birding and nature walks take place. The trail in the jungle gently snakes upwards through a typical jungle scene of climbers and cannibal trees (tree that strangle and eat other trees). The jungle songs include familiar melodies from the Black and white Casqued Hornbills and African paradise flycatchers. The trail ends as abruptly as it starts at the mysterious ruins of a stone fort.
The builder of the fort is still a subject of debate. At first it was called Speke’s Fort. Now it is called Stanley’s Fort. Considering that Henry Mutton Stanley was an adventurous journalist, who surely had no need for building forts. It remains a mystery.
Sand and comfort
The chanting birds never tire and neither do the visitors in the swimming pool. Up in a tree, a resident hamerkop does not let up in building its nest overlooking the swimming pool. Hamerkops are serial builders that make huge nests, tens of times bigger that what they need.
Victoria Forest Resort is built from local materials and has grass-thatched roofs. Likewise, the hamerkop uses whatever material is available to build its tree castle which unfortunately is sometimes hijacked by snakes. As you enjoy nature, keep your eyes on your handkerchief. The hamerkop loves them.
As darkness sets in, the love literature in the sand is trampled upon by silhouetted couples walking hand in hand along the beach under the dying sun as light rays from Victoria Resort dance on the water.