My love for adventure and travelling took me to Ssese Islands, last month. After hours on a ferry looking at water and vegetation, I was welcomed to the enthralling world of island dwellers, birdwatching and breathtaking beaches.
For a moment, I forgot about the endless Kampala traffic, the boda bodas, floods and the hustle. I was experiencing a different world.
Hidden in the middle of Lake Victoria, about 51 kilometres from the mainland, in Entebbe, Ssese islands is a place you should add to you bucket list.
On my way to Ssese Islands, I was curious to know what the word Ssese means. A quick Google search took me to www.matoketours.com, where I discovered that during the 20th century, sleeping sickness hit the islands, forcing original inhabitants to flee.
History of Ssese
Information on the same site reveals that people slowly drifted back in the 1980s. It is said that few Bassese people speaking Lussese language are almost extinct.
Years later, more than 80 islands that constitute Kalangala District, are a top tourist destination for sport fishing, birdwatching, exotic beaches and stunning sunsets.
Richard Maniraguha, the director of Island Ventures and Festival in Ssese, says the birth of Ssese Island festival will enable the local communities to appreciate tourism.
He says for tourism to thrive, stakeholders ought to identify unique ways of attracting Ugandans into the sector and facilitate them to tap into available opportunities.
Maniraguha says it is difficult to convince a Ugandan to embrace tourism activities when they are not directly benefiting from the industry.
“Organising such festivals means that neighbouring communities will sell crafts, provide accommodation facilities and labour,” Maniraguha adds. He also believes the festival will rally communities to join conservation initiatives.
Tourism enthusiast and Ssese Museum chief executive officer, John Ssempeebwa, says the objective of festival is to make communities appreciate the significance of tourism.
Ruth Kavuma, the former Member of Parliament for Kalangala District, says the festival will create business opportunities for communities living around the lake and market the islands as a tourism destination.
Kavuma says facilities such hotels, lodges and boats are all available on the lake to promote business.
Prof John Kabogoza, the proprietor of Mirembe Beach in Kalangala, says initially tourism in Kalangala used to be for the Whites, but Ugandans are beginning to appreciate tourism.
Maniraguha says the Ssese Islands Festival will bring people together to appreciate nature and make money
The Masiinya delicacy
Unlike the usual festivals that treat revellers to music and nature sites, Maniraguha says there will be bird watching, boat cruises on the fresh waters of Lake Victoria, nature walks, cultural gala, continental dishes, and music, among other activities.
He adds that revellers will be treated to two historical Ssese Island delicacies that include the palm weevil insects dubbed (Amasiinya) and Ekitobeero, where several fish types are prepared in the same pan. Ssempeebwa revealed that during the festival, people will also visit various historic sites that harbour Bassese and Buganda heritage.
Facts about Ssese Islands
Found on Lake Victoria, the 84 Ssese Islands constitute the present day Kalangala District.
The islands are one of the tourism destinations with beaches, heritage sites, bird species, palms, fish and biodiversity.
Maniraguha says the archipelago of Ssese island has two sections; south western- which has Bugala islands and the north eastern part, known as the Koome Islands.
The two are separated by the Koome channel. Islands on Ssese include Damba Island, Bugaba Island, Bufumira Island, Serinya Island, Buyova Island, Bubeke Island, Funye Island Luwaji Island, and Koome Island, among others.
According to Wikipedia, Sesse Islands are inhabited by the Bantu speaking Bassese tribe, closely related to the Baganda and the Basoga, speaking a similar, although distinct language.
The size of the islands vary in size from less than 10,000 square metres (2.5acres), to more than 40 kilometres for the largest island, Bugala Island.
What to see while in Ssese
For those interested in bio-diversity, the Island harbours tropical forests which are home to monkeys, birds, butterflies, flora and fauna, giving you an opportunity to enjoy nature walks.
The Islands have vast leisure gardens that provide perfect spots for bird watching and oberving tropical monkeys. The island also has beaches such as Victoria Forest Resort, about 1.5 kilometres from where the ferry drops you off, Kalangala Pearl Beach Resort, Ssese Islands Resort in Lutoboka bay, among others.
Sport fishing on the lake
Sport fishing is a growing activity on Ssese Islands. Besides looking at various fish types, the Island gives tourists an opportunity to enjoy sport fishing.
It is inexcusable for anyone to visit Ssese Island and miss out on photo moments, especially photos of nature, water and the sunset.
How to access Ssese Islands
Many routes, one destination. The most popular route is via Entebbe at Nakiwogo landing site. While at Nakiwogo, one can use a private boat or the famous MV Kalangala public transport to the main gateway to the Island, which is Bugala Island. You can also opt to use the Bukakata mainland in Masaka, on a ferry that works six days a week, and it docks at Luku on Bugala Island.
Another access point is at Kasenyi landing site near Entebbe. This comprises of wooden motor boats that link you to Banda Island in Ssese.
From Nakiwogo to Bugala Island, you use three and half hours depending of the boat used. The most used means of transport is the MV Kalangala ferry which travels to and from Kalangala. Prices range from Shs10,000 in economy class and Shs 15,000 for those travelling first class on MV Kalangala respectively.
Sesse Islands- more than 80 islands on Lake Victoria are inhabited by the Bantu speaking Bassese tribe, closely related to the Baganda and the Basoga, speaking a similar, although distinct language.
The size of the islands vary in size from less than 10,000 square metres (2.5acres), to more than 40 kilometres for the largest island, Bugala Island. The islands are destinations with beaches, heritage sites, bird species, palms, fish and biodiversity.