Kabarole is one of the most picturesque districts in Uganda and the declaration of Fort Portal as a tourism city was long overdue. The district is known for its breathtaking natural attractions such as crater lakes, Amabere ga Nyinam Mwiru and national parks.
The scenic crater lakes are on top of several hills and according to local tour literature, they are more than 50. For this trip, I started with nearby Ssaka crater lake in the North Division of the city, which is about nine kilometres. We were there in 15 minutes.
Before getting to the lake, you first hike up a hill and for about half kilometre, you cannot help but notice the change in temperature because the higher one goes, the cooler it becomes. The first lake was dry and it looked intimidatingly deep. It is surrounded by green pasture and shrubs, which attracts cows and goats that graze nonchalantly, ignoring tourists.
These four lakes are separated by hills giving the area a picturesque look. Next, my tour took me to the beautiful lake in Nyabikere which is still preserved in its wild natural state. The expanses of surrounding land are green and untamed. Some fishermen can be seen fishing in the lake.
A few metres away is Kigere and Ssaka bordering the Mountains of the Moon University. Here, the piece of unspoiled countryside gives way to modern developments with a number of cottages built along their shores. There are also camping sites for tourists. As we leave the site, we bump into Julius Musinguzi, a resident who gushes about the beauty and tranquility of the area. He wonders out loud why people would live in this country and never come to see such beauty.
“I hear people go abroad to tour. How can you leave such things in your own country unseen and pay to see things in other areas? I feel blessed here, I do not have to leave my village to see great sites,” Musinguzi says.
Then, Kifuruka and Nyinambuga crater lakes are close to each other but are separated by a road between them that puts one in Kasenda and the other in Ruteete sub-counties.
Meanwhile, Nkuruba crater lake in Kasenda has a cool and fresh air that is almost dizzying. Majestic trees surrounding the lake are said to be more than 70 years old. They are home to a variety of birds and families of monkeys.
To wind up my tour, I was advised to first visit Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru, a popular cultural tourist site found in Nyakasura, now in the North Division of Fort Portal City. I used a boda boda from Fort Portal City to go to Nyakasura to see Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru which cost Shs 3,000. At the site, I was asked to pay an entrance fee of Shs5,000. Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru translates as “Breasts of Nyina Mwiru”. Legend goes that Nyina Mwiru was a beautiful daughter of Bukuku, who reportedly had her breasts cut off to make her less attractive to men, on advice of a seer.
This rather drastic plan failed and the king, Bukuku of Toro, then hid her in the cave. However, with her allure still strong, she became pregnant to the Batembuzi King Isaza and later gave birth to their son, Ndahura. Unable to breastfeed the child, she used what looked like milk dripping from the stalactites, which appeared milky because of its calcium content. Ndahura went on to fulfil a prophecy that he would become king and take over Bukuku’s throne, a throne that was rightfully Isaza’s. Ndahura went on to form one of the great empires of the Great Lakes area of Africa. Apart from the amazing folklore, there is a waterfall and a small pool in which you can swim if you can stand the icy cold water.