On Sunday we traveled from Kampala (In the Central Region) to Mbarara (In the Southwest region). We are staying at the Lake View Resort Hotel here in Mbarara. This morning we all met for breakfast at the hotel and then loaded "Big Blue," the bus we travel on. We headed further into the southwest region to visit Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Bunyonyi Land Resort, located on the shore. The southwest region of the country is hilly and mountainous. These mountains are more similar to the Appalachian mountains than the Rocky Mountains. Due to the steep terrain the local people use terraces in order to preserve the land and prevent mud slides
On the way to the lake we took a short hike to see the farming plots and terraces closer up. James, is originally from this area and explained what we were seeing. On the hike we passed right next to a cell phone tower. I have noticed that there seem to be more of these than in the United States and the residents seem to have pretty good service every where we go. After talking to some of the Ugandan students about this I also learned that some of their cell phones have two cards built into them allowing them to receive service from two different networks/carriers. That would be like our cell phones in the U.S. being able to use Verizon and U.S. Cellular with the same phone. Wouldn't that be nice!
After our short hike we re-boarded "Big Blue" and continued to Lake Bunyonyi. Lake Buyonyi is close to the city of Kabale. Uganda is one of the only places in the world you can see wild gorillas. (They are in the mountain region intersecting Uganda/Rwanda/Congo). Kabale is the last major city before heading into "Gorilla Country" and offers a more upscale place for visitors to stay before they begin their gorilla tracking adventures. We drove through Kabale and turned onto a winding, narrow rode that would lead us to the lake/resort. This part of the journey was an adventure as there were steep drop offs next to the road and lets just say "Big Blue" wasn't built to drive on a narrow, winding, dirt rode.
Once we arrived at the lake it was beautiful and we were all very excited to take pictures. Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Africa and 3rd deepest lake in the world, reaching depths up to 6500 feet! We walked through the dining area of the resort down to the lake, where there were boats waiting to take us for a ride around the lake. We were split into four different motorized boats for our tour. There are several islands in the lake and one is called "Punishment Island". This island is very small and made up of just marshy grasses. It used to be used as a punishment for young women who became pregnant out of wedlock. They would be taken to this island and left to die. (There is no food on the island.) This was thought to make an example for other young women who were thinking of being promiscuous. Except the women didn't starve to death, as men who couldn't afford to give a woman's family money to ask for the daughter's hand in marriage (dowry) would rescue the women and marry them. The local people believed the girls were dying, but they were actually living in other villages.
The tour around the lake lasted about 1.5-2 hours and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous! The weather was also nearly perfect, about 80 degrees and partly cloudy. Many of us, including myself, discovered first hand the sun at the equator is definitely more powerful than it is back home;) Seeing all of the beauty around the lake and lack of visitors led me to think about the possibilities for the area. The lake is quite large, and would be great for recreational boating/skiing/swimming. If more nice resorts were built next to the lake I think it would be a wonderful vacation destination. I especially think it would be a nice place to stay and relax either before or after several days of gorilla tracking. What do the rest of you think? Do you think more tourist development in this area would be good? Do you see any potential negatives? Would you be will to stay here? Why/Why not? Is it sustainable? Of course there are many obstacles that need overcome before developing this location into a tourism hotspot can occur, but the possibilities are nearly endless! What are some of the obstacles you think have to be overcome in order to develop this area as a tourist destination?
Upon returning to shore after our boat tour, we were treated to tea/coffee and some sweet rolls. We then had a chance to further explore the Lake Bunyonyi Land Resort. They had several docks, both attached to land, and floating in the lake for sunbathing/swimming access. As I stated previously the scenery is absolutely gorgeous and the plant/flower life in the area is spectacular! This resort offers cabins which are kind of like tree houses for the guests to stay in. They are right off the lake and of course offer amazing views.
After exploring for a while we had lunch at the resort. Lunch had many of the usual options including, salad (similar to coleslaw), Matoke (banana used for cooking, similar to potatoes), mashed potatoes, rice, cooked vegetables, beef, and chicken. There was also a small craft store adjacent to the dining room which many of us had to hit up. Several students honed their pool skills on the pool table and others sat around and discussed our adventures.
Once we were all finished eating we loaded "Big Blue" and headed back for Lake View Resort Hotel at Mbarara. Once we arrived home, we all met up again for supper at the hotel. We head out at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) for Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we will have a water cruise where we should see Hippos/Waterbuffalo/Crocodile and a land game drive later in the afternoon. We are all very excited!
Hope everyone is doing well back home, we'll update you again soon!