Thrill of deep water, mountain ranges and human skeletons

There is a history written in some of the famous death caves. Photos / Bash Fahad Mutumba.

What you need to know:

  • After travelling about 22 bumpy kilometers from Kisoro Town via Mutolere Road, we arrived at Ndere Tala Resort; a safari lodge adorned by a huge, dome-structured reception building, on the shores of Lake Mutanda.

Uganda is blessed with tourism sites, but one intriguing site among them, that unfortunately gets little attention is Lake Mutanda. On a  trip with friends, I witnessed the thrill that comes with exploring the lake and its surroundings.

After travelling about 22 bumpy kilometers from Kisoro Town via Mutolere Road, we arrived at Ndere Tala Resort; a safari lodge adorned by a huge, dome-structured reception building, on the shores of Lake Mutanda. The chilly weather Kisoro is famous for, proved too strong for my jumper; as it often went below 12 degrees Celsius throughout the evening. With the red flame of sunset sinking into the lake in the horizon, we had our dinner, eager for the exploration that awaited us the following day.

The lodge had various accommodation options of up to Shs350,000 per room on the upper side.

Jungle feel

For me that wanted a more jungle-like experience, I opted for the Huntsman wing of the lodge, which has a rustic feel in the middle of the bushes; built entirely from logs and bamboo, and just a few metres from the water. I could hear weaver birds tweetering, as if trying to sing me lullabies.

In the morning, we embarked on our escape. A  canoe measuring about three metrespropelled by an engine in the rear was our means of navigation, around the lava-dammed lake. In a bid to calm his own anxiety, my hydrophobic friend joked about how small the water body looked compared to Lake Victoria, to which our captain argued that what it lacks in size, the small lake compensates for in depth. He argued — just  like many other locals do — that since it was never measured, it must be deeper than the neighbouring Lake Bunyonyi, which is the known deepest lake in Uganda, and the second deepest in Africa. This piece of information was not what my friend — who was now gripping tightly onto the wood benches in the canoe — wanted to hear.

Riding Lake Mutanda gives one a view of the great scenery. 

In the distance was a young woman, in a canoe much smaller than ours, which she manned with an oar.  She did it with such dexterity that we were all left in awe, but our skipper was rather unamused. He told us about how this is a normal occurrence on this lake. Pointing at the small hoe in the woman’s boat:

“Many people sleep in Uganda but have their gardens in Congo and/or Rwanda. The same is the case the other way round. It is  far and hectic to travel between those places by road, yet via the lake it takes just a few minutes, so people commute by  canoe  every single day…”, he revealed.

His story was interrupted by a loud blast in the distance, which he attributed to the rebel groups that are active around these border areas. In the horizon, we could see the three highest ranges of Mountain Mufumbiro from our boat: Mounts Muhabura, Sabinyo and Gahinga; which are shared between Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Lake Mutanda itself lies within the Virunga ranges.

Grim 

As we sailed on, we saw multiple bird species, and small islands within the lake, but the most intriguing were the famous death caves; littered with a plethora of human skeletons. As legend goes by the natives; many years ago, girls who got pregnant before marriage were brought to the island by boat, tied inside the caves with no food, and abandoned to die. Those who were lucky enough to escape the caves, could not go past the deep lake surrounding the island with no boat, so they always drowned.

Ndere Tala Resort in Kisoro District.

The beautiful and spooky sights and sounds of Lake Mutanda did not leave me the same, or rather I did not leave them the same; and I will definitely go back someday.

Quick Notes

After travelling about 22 kilometres from Kisoro town via Mutolere road, we  went to Ndere Tala Resort; a safari lodge on the shores of Lake Mutanda. The lodge has accommodation options of up to Shs350,000 per room on the upper side.

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