General Wamala Katumba, a person I respect a lot has been on my case for quite a long time about setting a side time to accompany him to Bugala Island which is one of the 84 islands that form Ssese islands. Gen. Katumba happens to have been born on Ssese Islands many many years ago and he feels Ssese islands have lots of unexploited tourism potential.
He wanted me to meet up with the local leadership on the island alongside accommodation investors.
I got to meet the LC5 of Kalangala district, a young man with lots of interest in seeing Ssese islands grow alongside the investors who I exchanged ideas with for more 2 hours at Brovad sands resort.
Taking pictures while traveling to Ssese islands especially while using MV Kalangala (ferry) is one of the hardest things for me overtime because of its amazing beauty along the way. MV Kalangala travels to and from Bugala island everyday departing Entebbe at 1400hrs arriving 3 hours later and spends a night on the island and leaves as early 0800hrs. The transport cost on this ferry is a low as ushs 14000 for the upper class and transport a car one way is a low as ushs 70,000 each way. The ferry has a good restaurant serving food and I must say I enjoyed the whole fish and chips and yes, I was very hungry.
The Ssese Islands are an archipelago of 84 islands like I wrote above in the Northwestern part of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The Ssese islands were once named amongst the top 10 hidden Islands of the World by the lonely planet as called the travel Bible of the world. The Islands are coterminous with the kalangala District in southern Central part of Uganda , which doesn’t have any territory on the mainland. The Ssese islands vary in sizes from less 10,000 square metres, to over 40 kilometers in length for the largest of the island in Uganda, Bugala. The largest island on Lake Victoria is actually found on the Tanzania side called Ukerewe island just north of Mwanza town.
Anyway, during my visit, I visited a very good community clinic that was built by Gen. Katumba and Rotary club and I got to learn that, it serves about 500 people every single Month. The clinic is located about 15kms from Kalangala district headquarters and serving a very poor community. Gen. Katumba and his neighbor have also allocated a big piece of land where a school is to be built or is being built because I saw some buildings coming up. I was definitely inspired by his work alongside the Kalangala rotary club. The kalangala rotary club happened to be on the island ovffering free medical consultation, legal consultation etc because they had both doctors and lawyers. Its so good observing Ugandans taking volunteering seriously, something I have benefitted a lot of from as a human being.
During our travel to Bugala island, I saw lots of Ugandans and none Ugandans heading to the islands for the weekend and the Captains said, they experience that every weekend. I think the numbers heading out every weekend is more than what MV kalangala can handle and I think if someone invested a very comfortable big boat with proper seats, charging say Ushs 100,000, many Kampala dwellers would flock to the islands. I stood for 3 hours just because the ferry was so full and having money in my pocket to pay for a seat wasn’t enough. A good comfortable big boat would reduce travel time to Bugala by half and would also give travellers enough time to enjoy the islands. MV Kalangala arrives Bugala island 5pm everyday and most people have only 3 days away from work which means they have only 1 complete day on the island since they have to wake up 6am on Sunday to prepare for departure at 8am. A flexible boat would leave Entebbe say 9am Friday arriving the island before none and returning to the mainland Sunday about 5pm.
I know of many saving groupings in Uganda with lots of money on the accounts but don’t know where that money should be invested and yes, investing in a beautiful big boat would make some good profits. I hear a Chinese company wants to build one but why can’t we Ugandans take on such challenges? Bugala islands badly needs a very high end supermarket or a shopping center to serve interests of Kampala dwellers who go enjoying weekends on the island . The island needs new activities to keep clients engaged like quad biking on the island, birding needs to be developed, Sundowners on a beautiful boat would earn someone some good morning alongside doing day trips to other many Ssese Islands. Others can organize weekend activities like kalangala marathons, biking along the islands plus visitations to the palm gardens etc.
The island needs a group of young educated people who will be tour guides with knowledge about the island, birds, butterflies , tree species, etc and this will need patience because learning will take time….
I want to thank Kiyimba Rashid owner of Brovad Sands resort for hosting me at his accommodation.
Wekesa is the Proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris and Uganda Lodges