Not far from the border between Rwanda & Uganda, and easily reached on public transports, scenic Lake Bunyonyi is an ideal place to relax while traveling in Western Uganda or upon crossing the border between both countries.
Enjoy The Quietness
If you are tired of traveling and look for a place to crash down and relax for a few days, Lake Bunyonyi is probably the ideal spot:
- The scenic shoreline of Lake Bunyonyi is an invitation for relaxing & daydreaming, or reading a good book, while soaking in the unique beauty of the place
- The laidback and quiet atmosphere of Rutinda is a welcome change to bigger cities, especially in Uganda, congested with traffic
- At 1.840 meters above sea level, Lake Bunyonyi offers pleasant temperatures (nights might be chilly though, especially in the rainy season) and no mosquitoes!
- Lake Bunyonyi offers a decent range of accommodations catering for all budgets, at an overall acceptable price (though higher than in other parts of the country)
- There are many activities available on and around Lake Bunyonyi, and it is actually quite easy to find fellow travelers to share costs for those activities
Cruising Lake Bunyonyi To Meet Batwa Pygmies
During my first visit in Uganda back in 2011, this turned into one of the highlights of the trip, so I wanted to go back. The disappointment was real: soaring tourism turned a really genuine experience into an insipid, standardized dance performance for the tourists before going back to daily business.
Negotiate hard the price of the boat trip and leave as early as possible!
Going Bird Watching In Nyombe Swamp
Lake Bunyonyi offers a unique eco-system and hence great opportunities for bird-watchers or people interested in some bird-watching opportunities.
I could reduce the first announced price of 250k Ugandan Shillings (65 €) to 180k (47 €) for a 6-hour tour, which seemed a fair price, and shared the boat with 2 fellow travelers.
Early morning, our boat plowed the dark waters of Lake Bunyonyi. Not a ripple disfigured the smooth surface, allowing the carefully terraced green hills to be mirrored in the deep lake. Yes, the boat trip alone was worth the tour!
Nyombe Swamp is actually at the other end of Lake Bunyonyi, near the settlement of Batwa Pygmies. Once we reached the swamp, we spent several ours observing various kinds of African & endemic birds: Cinnamon Chested Bee Eaters; Pied King Fisher; Malachite King Fishers; Long Tailed Cormorants; African Jacanas; Great White Pelicans; Swamp Fly Catcher; African Sitrif; … A great experience!
Monday Market In Rutinda
True, this small market is not as colorful and vibrant, and definitely not as overwhelming as other markets in Africa. But it is very relaxed, a place where it is easy to connect with locals and make a few nice pictures, which is not that easy at markets in Africa!
I really enjoyed this half day and spent several hours just hanging around, taking pictures, and observing the locals in their daily lives.
Reaching Rutinda & Lake Bunyonyi
I started the journey in Gisenyi / Rubavu. It’s a 1.5 hour bus drive to Musanze / Ruhengeri, then a 30-40 minute bus drive to the border. Crossing the border was easy and straightforward (I had an Eastern Africa Visa, a 90-day multiple entry visa for Rwanda, Uganda & Kenia), and after the border many moto-taxi offered their services to Kisoro. Expect to pay 1 to 1.5 USD (if you negotiate a little) for the 20 minutes drive. Then a shared cab (yes, one of those Toyotas sitting 5 in Europe but actually with 10 or 11 passengers in Uganda) to Kabale will take 2 hours. From Kabale, you can hop on another motorbike for 10.000 Shillings (less than 3 €) and reach Rutinda, a 30 minutes drive up the hills.