Situated in the northwest of Lake Victoria, the Ssese Archipelago comprises of 84 separate islands, some large and densely inhabited while others are small and deserted. The Island lies into two categories or groups i.e. Bulaga group in the southwest and the Koome group in the northeast and the two are separated by the Koome channel. The largest island in the Ssese group is Bugala and it comprises of the following islands; the Bugaba Island, Bufumira Island, Serinya Island, Buyova Island, Bubeke Island, Funye Island and on another hand Koome Island consists of Luwaji, Damba and Koome (the largest in the group). The Ssese Islands are under the administration of Kalangala district. The Baganda traditionally revere Ssese as the Islands of the Gods. In pre-colonial times it was customary for the kings of Buganda to visit the islands and pay tribute to the several balubaale whose main shrines are situated there. These include the shrines to Musisi (spirit of earthquakes) and Wanema (physical handicaps) on Bukasa Island as well as the shrine of Mukasa (spirit of the lake) on Bubembe. Some Baganda historical sources romanticize this relationship claiming that in pre-colonial times Ssese because of its exalted status was never attacked by Buganda nor was it formally incorporated into the mainland kingdom.
The archipelago supports a cover of mid-altitude rainforest, similar in composition to the forest that once swathed to the facing mainland, but far less affected by agriculture and other forms of encroachment. The most common large terrestrial mammal is the vervet monkey, bushbuck and black and white colobus. Water and forest birds are prolific and here expect to bird species like barbets, hornbills, robin-chats, turacos, and weavers. African fish eagles and palm nut vultures are often seen near the lake, while immense breeding colonies of little egret and great cormorant occur on Lutoboka and other bays. Ssese islands have lovely white sand-beaches where you’ll chill as you watch the sunset. The main activity that exist in the area is fishing that is carried out on Lake Victoria and the major fish caught in the area is Nile perch and Tilapia accompanied by other tourism attractions, agriculture, boat riding either paddling yourself on the Nile or you would prefer to be with a guide.
WHAT TO DO AT SSESE ISLAND
There various things that you can engage in while at the Island spot fishing, bird watching, swimming, visiting Ngamba Island, wildlife viewing, Village and nature walks, quad biking, canoeing, bot cruise, beach games, cycling and much more as detailed below;
Ssese Island is a birders paradise for both water birds and those that live on land which thrive in the forests and swamps on the Island. While at the island you can spot various bird species like the paradise flycatcher, great blue Turaco, shoebill stock, African fish eagle, Palm nut vulture, marabou stock, horn bills, barbets, robin chats, crested crane, weaver birds, African green broadbill, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Doherty’s, pygmy kingfisher among others. Visit Ssese Islands to explore various bird species.
Spot fishing is one of the top things that you can enjoy and it’s done on the waters of Lake Victoria. Your reward here during your fishing activity can be a Tilapia, Lung fish, Nile perch and the tiger fish are also caught in the area with the help of a guide. On addition one to engage in the activity must have a permit for international visitors. You can decide to hire a fishing gear from the Island at affordable prices but it’s advisable to come with your equipments and if you don’t prefer entering the water you can still watch the fisher men in the area.
The tropical forests at the Island is filled with Vervet and Colobus monkeys and other mammals like sitatunga antelopes. Crocodiles sometimes come to the Island from smaller Islands and Hippos can be viewed from the southwestern flings of Bulaga. The Forest is also filled with various flora and fauna that can only be found on the Island.
Swimming in the waters of Lake Victoria is a very exciting on Ssese Islands. Bulaga is the most noted swimming area of all Islands. Due to the outbreak of Bilharzia, many people enjoy their swimming activities in swimming pools and also due to the presence of crocodiles. Sun bathing at any of the Ssese Islands is interesting as you just sit and observe the fresh waters of the second largest Lake in the world.
Quad biking is the best way to explore the Ssese Islands. While on the bike you can visit fishing villages, forests, beaches as well as brightening your day. There is a simple training organized for the starters though the activity doesn’t require much experience. The activity is open for all years and it takes only one hour.
After relaxing your mind and your body without the bustle and hustle of the city, you can engage in beach games like volleyball, beach soccer and football among others.
WHERE TO STAY
- Brovad Sands Lodge
- Ssese Habitant Resort
- Ssese Islands Beach Hotel
- Victoria Forest Resort
- Mirembe Resort Beach
- Panorama Cottages
HOW TO GET THERE
By ferry from Entebbe
The MV Kalangala is a daily passenger/vehicle ferry service that connects Lutoboka Port on Buggala Island to Nakiwogo Port. The ferry leaves Nakiwogo at 14:00 daily and starts the return trip from Lutoboka at 08:00 the next morning, taking 4 hours in either direction. One way fares are US$3/5 while vehicles are charged US$23 for a one way crossing but can also be parked in a compound at Nakiwogo for a small fee.
By ferry via Bukataka
A free vehicle ferry service connects the mainland port of Bukakata 40km east of Masaka to Luko 30km west of Kalangala several times daily. Two different ferries cross back and forth regularly between 08:00 and 18:00, taking 30 minutes in either direction.