All the Ssese islands have beautiful white sand beaches, palm trees, flowers, rare plants, lush forests and blue waters. The Ssese Islands are amazing for photography and offer visitors the perfect atmospheres for relaxation away from the busy life in Kampala city. One could spend the whole day lying at the beach or playing different games with other island revelers. The Ssese Islands are a favorite for honeymooners who love the privacy and romantic atmosphere they offer. Fishing is the main economic activity in the Ssese Islands. Visitors can also pay a visit to one of the fishing villages and watch the fishermen throw their nets from their small canoes or motorboats. Birders will find the island perfect for spotting some rare resident and migratory birds. Everything moves slow in the islands which is a sharp contrast to Kampala and towns like Mpigi and Entebbe. There is no traffic jam to deal with and the nature is just so beautiful.
Activities in the Ssese Islands
Bird Watching: The Ssese islands are sanctuaries to countless birds. These birds thrive on the lush forests and unreachable swamps found in many of the islands. While in Buggala island, expect to spot the African fish eagle, barbets, brown-throated wattle-eye, hornbills, Palm nut vultures, paradise flycatcher, pygmy kingfisher, robin-chats, turacos and weaver birds
Swimming: Swimming is arguably one of the most popular activities while in any of the Ssese Islands. The most popular swimming area in Bugala is the beach in Mutumbala. Some of the Ssese islands receive crocodiles occasionally from other parts of the lake but these shouldn’t trouble you so much especially when visiting the larger islands. The greatest risk of swimming in Lake Victoria is getting Bilharzia but this is very rare these days and it can be treated with a few shots. If you are afraid of Bilharzia or croccodiles, then you can swim by in the hotels swimming pool and only go to the beach to relax and enjoy the cool breeze.
The Major Ssese Islands
The Ssese Islands are dived into two main groups – the Bugala Group and the Koome Group. The Bugala group is found in the South west of the Bugala island (the largest in the group). They include Bukasa, Serinya, Bubeke, Funve, Bufumira, Buyova and Bugaba. The Koome Group islands are found after Koome Island (the largest in the group). They include Luwaji, Damba and Koome. Let’s discuss the large Islands in detail:
Bugala island has got several hills which all offer amazing views of the lake, approaching boats/ferries and human activities within the island. The island has arguably the largest palm oil plantation in Uganda offering employment opportunities to island dwellers. Bugala island is perfect for birdwatching and primates viewing. The most common primate is the Vervet Monkey but there are a few Colobus monkeys, bushbucks and snakes. The southern end of the Island is home to a few hippos. Bugala Island is a sanctuary to three endemic species – a rat and three types of butterflies.
Ngamba Island covers an area of about 100 acres. Most of it is rain forest. In 1998, the island was turned into a sanctuary for rescued and orphaned chimps. Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary draws hundreds of visitors to the island each month to see the chimps or volunteer as care takers. Apart from the chimps, Ngamba island is home to over 119 species of birds and creatures like monitor lizards. Hippos and crocodiles also visit the island occasionally.
This island is owned by an individual but open to tourists and other travelers. It retains its serenity unlike the noisier Bugala island. To reach the island, you need to go to the Kasenyi landing site from where you hire a boat or canoe to the island. The more expensive option is to hire a speed boat. Banda island is perfect for camping. You can go with your own camping equipment or hire one once you reach the island. Banda island also has standard cottages at a good rate for those who may not be comfortable with the tents.
Bulago Island is one of the largest of the Ssese islands. It covers an area of over 510 acres (About 2 miles long). The sandy beaches are surrounded by several cliffs and protruding rocks which all combine to give it a unique look. Given its remarkable terrain and naturel beauty, Bulago island is perfect for nature walks and escaping away from the noisy city. From one of the hills on the island, one will be rewarded with amazing views of the lake and distant islands. Bulago island is a birders paradise with both resident and migratory birds convening to feast on the abundant fish and inland insects. Getting to Bulago island by speedboat from Munyonyo takes 45 minutes. Those visiting Bulago Island stay at Pineapple Bay Lodge.