Monday, 28 April 2014

Lake hopping in Uganda

Encounter the Crater lakes of Uganda 



Uganda can easily be called the “land of lakes” as almost a third of this microcosm of Africa is covered by water. For the water lovers amongst you, this destination in East Africa is pure bliss.

Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, dominates the southern border of the country while Lakes Edward and Albert lie to the west but it doesn't end there.  Other lakes and more spectacularly the crater lakes are dotted around Uganda like the pearls in its spectacular necklace.

A great adventure awaits the traveller to its waters, from white water rafting, which has caught on as a popular tourist activity, especially on the River Nile to boat Safaris and river cruises. One can also try your hand at bungee jumping into the waters of the Nile below. Other popular activities include sport fishing safaris and sailing.

I decided to provide a glimpse into some of these spectacular “pearls”, and went for my favourites the lesser known crater lakes.

These crater lakes are large holes in the ground or a surface caused by an explosion/volcanic eruption.  Lakes located in dormant or extinct volcanoes tend to have fresh water, and the water clarity in such lakes can be exceptional due to the lack of in-flowing streams and sediment.
Several extinct volcanoes of a specifically violent type called the ‘explosion craters’ are found within western Uganda.





 Photo from National Geographic - Queen Elizabeth Crater lakes 

Most of these crater lakes are located in the Western Rift, also called the Albertine Rift, edged by some of the highest mountains in Africa, including the beautiful Rwenzori mountain chain in Uganda,  the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and Mitumba Mountains in Eastern Congo (DRC), west of lake Tanganyika.
Personally I prefer to head straight for Queen Elizabeth national park that hosts 5 crater lakes amongst its incredible varied biomes. (Visit Mweya Safari lodge – www.marasa.net

Some of my favourite crater Lakes in Uganda.

Lake Bunyonyi
Or also called  “lake of many little birds", is located about 13 kilometres away from Kabale town. This bilharzia free lake, is great for swimming and makes a popular day trip from Kabale. Its also the second deepest lake in Africa at around 900 m deep. The lake is dotted by lots of small islands (29 of them) that gives it a magical almost fairy-tale like feel.


The setting sun painting lake Bunyonyi's waters red in between a myriad of tiny islands Photo Credit Luis Azoy 

Lake Katwe   
This one is a salt lake in Queen Elizabeth national park on route to Mweya Safari lodge. The lake is known throughout Uganda as an area of salt production and indeed has been producing high-quality salt for many years. The first written reports of salt production on Lake Katwe came from first European explorers to Uganda - John Speke in 1863 and Grant James in 1864, who described the product as perfectly pure in colour and state.

More importantly for the tourist visiting Uganda, it’s also known for the flamingos that visit during their migration.

Photo credit:  Evaporation fields, Katwe Salt Lake, Queen Elizabeth NP /Photo Credit: Joshua Wiese

Lake Nkuruba
Lake Nkuruba offers the perfect base to indulge in chimp trekking in the nearby Kibale National Park or to explore one of the world's densest concentrations of volcanic crater lakes. Or for those looking for a few nights rest away from it all. This is a great spot for swimming or for those wanting to spot red tailed monkeys or black and white colobus monkeys that are known to run around the lawns in a very surprising laid back manner.


Photo Credit- Crater Lake, Nkuruba. Photo Credit Shanidov

Lake Kyaninga
Set against a stunning backdrop of the legendary Mountains of the Moon is Kyaninga, or as I refer to it the peaceful lake. For accommodation and plenty of great hikes around the area, you can always book in at the upmarket Kyaninga lodge.

When Englishman Steve Williams first saw the lake on his way to visit the gorillas, there was nothing there aside from unspoilt natural beauty and breath-taking vistas. There aren’t many people who could stand on the rim of an ancient crater lake thousands of miles from home, and have the vision to imagine building a luxury lodge entirely out of timber on that very spot. www.kyaningalodge.com




 Photo credit - Rose & Fitzgerald dairy - also see website link at the end.

Lake Nyinambuga
Situated South of Lake Nkuruba, Lake Nyinambuga is a crater lake and is located in Kabarole District, Western Region, Uganda. The estimate terrain elevation above sea level is 1389 metres
The comfortable and luxurious Ndali Lodge is set on a narrow ridge overlooking this aquamarine coloured lake a 100 metres below. The lodge has stunning all-round views of the mountains to the west, the Rift Valley lakes to the south and the crater lakes to the east and north. www.ndalilodge.com
Lake Nyamusingire




 View from Ndali lodge over Lake Nyinambuga/Photo Credit: Safari-Partners

Lake Nyamusigire
Also commonly written as “Nyamusingiri” is Uganda’s largest crater lake. The lake is situated on the edge of Maramagambo Forest south of Queen Elizabeth National Park. 
Whimsical black-and-white colobus monkeys play in the trees around Jacana Lodge, and baboons are never far away. You can also arrange trails and boat rides with the lodge.


Photo Credit - Sunset over Nyamusigire by Mike Gadd




Photo credit - Jacana-lodge-lake-view

Lake Nyabikere
Lake Nyabikere, which means “LAKE OF FROGS”, is only 13km from Fort Portal on Kamwenge Road, and just 100m off the main road at the edge of Kibale Forest National Park. Swimming is possible. Boat trips on the lake can be organized with local fishermen.



A fisherman on a reed float at Lake Nyabikere/Photo Credit: Rebecca Genevive

Lake Nkugute
This mysterious lake shrouded in myth is located along Mbarara-Kasese highway within the newly-created Rubirizi District, Bunyarugu County. Nkugute which means “swallow” is believed to have been formed 12,000 years. This is evidenced by the existence of hot springs. Much talk about the myth that the lake used to swallow children every year…..as the story goes it would be one boy and one girl every year.

Why head for Queen Elisabeth national park?
If you are interested in water Safaris and crater lakes it’s an ideal spot to include game drives as part of your lake exploration. One of the best spots to use as a home base within the national park is Mweya Safari lodge one of the Marasa Africa properties in Uganda. (www.marasa.net )

The lodge overlooks the Kazinga Channel that links lake Edward with Lake George and it has the greatest density of hippos in Africa, not to mention plentiful crocodile, elephants and water birds.
Queen Elizabeth Park is renowned for its variety of big game and plains wildlife such as buffalo, warthog, leopard and lion. Antelope abound, too, including Ugandan kob, defassa, waterbuck and bushbuck. This park is also fantastic for birding and butterfly viewing. Hardy adventurers can make the 10-mile trek into Kyambura Gorge to see chimpanzees and red-tailed monkeys.




 For more information on Uganda national parks as well as package tours to Uganda and Rwanda contact Premier Safaris at reservations@premiersafaris.com or visit their website at www.premiersafaris.com 

Map of Uganda lakes 

Marasa Africa Lodges in Uganda and Kenya including Mweya Safari lodge featured here - www.marasa.net