On my recent East Africa trip, the biggest surprise for me was Lake Bunyonyi, a stunning part of Africa that I never knew existed.
Sprawling across the Rwandan border in southern Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi was a breathe of fresh air after the dry, dusty savannas of Kenya: Emerald hills rose vertically from the shores of the lake, with beautiful terraces cut into the slopes, almost as though they were the stairway to heaven. Amidst the ochre red earth were an abundance of wet rainforests and colorful agricultural lands. Because of the high altitude and wet climate, the lake and the surroundings were constantly shrouded in an air of mystery.
To explore the Bufuka area, I headed out on a free walking tour run by Little Angels, a non-profit orphan project. From the beautiful Bunyonyi Overland Campsite, we hiked up the steep and slippery slopes that surrounded the area, weaving our way past banana groves and sugar cane plantations. The higher we climbed, the more impressive the view got. Little islands rose from the water surface while patchworks of farm land peppered the landscape. Clusters of thatch-roofed huts dotted the shore, where fishing communities and farmers live. The lake appeared massive from above, seemingly stretching into the far distance, well beyond the horizon.
Located at 1,962 m above sea level, the depth of the lake is rumored to vary between 44 m and 900 m, which if true would make the lake the second deepest in Africa. Bunyonyi means “place of many little birds” in the local Bakinga language and this is an excellent spot for bird-watching enthusiasts. With birds chirping in the background, we clambered higher up the slopes to an elevated spot with a house and a million-dollar view.
The Ugandan Spirit
We had come this way to meet an interesting character named Frida, whom many call “the crazy lady”. Despite being in her early seventies, the woman was bursting with energy. She gave each of us a big hug, and welcomed us with a song and dance. We took a look around her house and plantation and she eagerly taught us how to weave baskets using banana leaves.
As translated by our guide Dias, she wanted to find out which of us was his girlfriend — and this somehow led to her groping us, squeezing our boobs and rubbing our tushies. I broke out into fits of laughter and was completely bowled over by Frida’s humor and love for life. Even though there was a language barrier, it was easy to feel and appreciate Frida’s beautiful spirit.
Meeting Little Angels
Navigating through the muddy trails of the village, we finally reached the Little Angels orphanage. Perched on a slope overlooking the lake, the orphanage had a beautiful setting and an even more meaningful purpose. Here, we met the founder, 24-year-old Duncan Musinguzi, who spoke passionately about the project. “We just want children to have somewhere to play and learn. There are many orphans in the area, and hopefully some day, we can accommodate all of them.”
Duncan had set up the Little Angels Needy Children and Orphan Project in 2010, in a bid to improve the lives of the children and offer them better education. Having grown up in a poor family, Duncan was a sponsored child himself and he graduated high school thanks to his sponsor. With this project, he hopes to give back to his local community and help children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. There are currently 200 registered needy children between the ages of three and eight under their care, but the numbers will increase once the new classrooms are built.
During our visit, we had the chance to sit in one of the classrooms and watch the children learn — we even got to teach them an English song, speak to them, and ask them about life in school. After classes, the children all gathered in the assembly ground and we took the opportunity to play with them and join in the singing and dancing. It was an incredible experience for me — having volunteered in Tanzania five years ago, I love interacting with children and I know how important education is especially in this part of the world.
Taking to the Water
At the end of our visit, we headed back to camp on a wooden dugout canoe. From the water, the lake took on new perspectives. The mountains looked even more impressive from sea level and the verdant greenery more vibrant than ever. As we glided through the calm water surface, I took time to reflect on what we’d just experienced.
Lake Bunyonyi didn’t just blow me away with its beauty – but it also gave me a chance to get to know Ugandans on a whole new level.
Little Angels Uganda accepts donations and sponsorship. If you’d like to sponsor a child, head to the website to find out more details here or email them at [email protected]. Sponsorship is used to meet education costs and is just $50 US per month. Little Angels also offers volunteering opportunities without any volunteer fee — you just need to pay for your accommodation (in nice, comfortable volunteer quarter) and food. I highly recommend it!
Disclaimer: My trip was made possible by Africa Travel Co, but all opinions expressed above are our own.