Lake Bunyonyi


Lake Bunyonyi translated ‘the place of many little birds’ is a lake found in the south-western region between Kabale and Kisoro and is close to Uganda’s border with Rwanda. The famous lake features on the five thousand Uganda shilling note under the title ‘Lake Bunyonyi and terraces’.

Lake Bunyonyi is a fresh water lake with a surface area of 46 square kilometers, stretching to a length of 25 square kilometers and a width of 7 square kilometers. The lake has an average depth of 39 meters (128ft) and a maximum depth of 40 meters (130ft). It’s shore length is 196km and its surface elevation is 1962 meters.


The lake is the location of 29 islands and two towns found on its shores – Kyevu and Muko. The lake’s Islands include the infamous Akampene (punishment) Island and Bushara Island. Kyahugye, Bwama, Njuyeera (Sharp’s island), and Bucuranuka (Upside down island), are among the lake’s main island.


Each of the islands has an intriguing story behind it – the Akampene is where the Bakiga used to abandon girls who got pregnant before marriage. The unfortunate girls would normally die from hunger or as they attempted to swim back to the mainland. Swimming skills among women were very rare in those days. This barbaric practice was aimed at intimidating other girls from engaging in fornication, and challenging them to maintain high moral standards. The practice was abandoned in the first half of the twentieth century.

A legend has it that Bucuranuka (Upside down) island got its name from a tragic incident that occurred there. It is believed that many years back, there was an old woman who is said to have visited the island and found a group of local men brewing sorghum beer. When she asked them to give her a drink, they refused and scoffed at her instead. They thought she was a useless drunkard and asked one of the young men to escort her to the mainland. The group was eager to be rid of her. Once at the mainland, the island turned upside down and swallowed all its inhabitants. The young man who had escorted the mysterious old woman was the only survivor.

Best time to visit

Lake Bunyonyi can be visited throughout the year. Heaviest rains fall between the months of March – May and October – December, January and February are the hottest months, and the dry season last through June – September. The evenings are normally cold and chilly.

Getting there

By road it takes 6 hours to reach Kabale town from Kampala, about 410km, and another 8km to arrive at Lake Bunyonyi. The lake is situated in the south-western Uganda on the outskirts of Kabale district, on your way to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.