What would you expect on an island owned by the Governor Bank of Uganda ? That question crossed my mind as I packed my travel bag. All I could imagine were tight security checks, strict regulations on photography, foreign management of the resort and an exotic menu. Surprisingly, my wife looked forward to the visit with a lot of enthusiasm.
Flora and fauna
It is 9km from Kabale town to the resort’s parking yard. Then, we embarked on a five minute ride in the facility’s speed boat across Lake Bunyonyi to our final destination.
Kahugye Island is a 35-acre unique landscape, the second largest in the 29 Lake Bunyonyi Island chain after Bwama. It supports a diversity of unique flora and fauna. It has an exclusive ‘Garden of Eden’ charm.
Kahugye is an Ankole adjective implying madness. Centuries before missionaries came to Uganda, there lived a man on this island with his 12 wives. He diligently worshipped the ancestral spirits in a big shrine and appeased them by sacrificing a cow and serving them finest local brew, omuramba, every year.
Each of his wives, also had a shrine.
One year, the man ran out of cattle, and he failed to meet the demands of the spirits. They got angry and made him mad. During his state of insanity, visitors to this island always referred to it as the Crazy Man’s place, hence the name Kyahugye.
Activities and attractions
We enjoyed a one hour sundowner boat ride on Lake Bunyonyi. The ride extended to the neighbouring Bushara Island for a clear view of the sunset. For Shs20,000, one enjoys a 2-3 hour canoe ride.
Earlier in the morning, we had woken to the chirping of birds. The noisiest was a Robin-chat. The manager had warned us about the diverse bird list of 60 species such as, tropical boubou, olive thrush, among others.
After breakfast, we walked along the trails to discover the outstanding vegetation cover and to admire the wild animals. Papyrus occupies the boundary strips while the interior of the Island is cloaked in figs, black wattles, eucalyptus, and a beautiful botanical garden.
Along the muddy trails, we could not resist taking selfies with brightly coloured plants. Two zebras stood in plain sight but quickly disappeared into a thicket. We trekked around the island confident of our safety because it is not inhabited by members of the outside community or carnivores.
Kyahugye is the only Island on Lake Bunyonyi with wild animals. Local visitors are charged Shs5,000 for game viewing, whereas international guests part with Shs10,000. Only residents are exempted from the fee.
For visitors interested in the nearby major attractions, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is 80km away, and the volcanic Muhavura Mountain is 78km away.
Besides the craft shop whose sales are entirely given back to the community, 90 per cent of the employees at the resort are residents of the neighbouring islands. “We offer equal opportunities to both men and women,” Okecha adds.
The resort provides boat and vehicle services to the community in case of emergency rescues and supports the local soccer team with logistics.
Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort
In 2011, an eco-resort opened its doors to offer hospitality services to the ever increasing numbers of visitors to the island. The restaurant serves a range of traditional and intercontinental dishes and the bar has a large selection of drinks.
The comfort of our wooden cottage, Bushara, is quite unforgettable. The resort has ten secluded ensuite cottages consisting of five double, three single and two twin rooms. The manager, Hamid Okecha, is hopeful that a family cottage will soon be established.
Facilities offered at the resort include the dining area, a lounge that doubles as a great spot for private dinner, camp fire area, kitchen and community craft shop.
The island boasts of clear telecom signals and 24-hour electricity supply. A complimentary Wi-FI internet service is also available at the main building.