Three Upland Lakes (4-Day Hike)

View of Lake Bunyonyi from Kyabahinga peninsula; photo by Georg Schaumberger

Lakes Bunyonyi, Kayumbu and Mutanda are the most beautiful lakes of Uganda’s Gorilla Highlands region, and this trek covers them all. Between a camping homestay on a remote Bunyonyi island and the picturesque Kayumbu shore, you will experience a Batwa “Pygmy”-led crossing of Echuya Forest and finally reach Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Highlights

• all cultures of southwestern Uganda (Bafumbira, Bakiga and Batwa “Pygmies”)
• spectacular views, volcano and island stories
• traditional healer visit
• session with a craftmaker
• Tom’s Homestay island experience
• Echuya Forest crossing led by a Batwa “Pygmy” leader
• night on the shore of Lake Kayumbu
• great lunch at Coffee Pot in Kisoro
• sleeping at Mutanda Island Lodge
• relaxing motorboat ride on Lake Mutanda
• tasty lunch at Chameleon Hill Lodge
• impressive beauty of Bwindi

Facts

duration: 4 days; difficulty: moderate
starting point: Lake Bunyonyi or Rushaga (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park)
area: Lake Bunyonyi – Echuya Forest – Lake Kayumbu – Kisoro – Lake Mutanda – Rushaga
departures: daily at 9am

Price: USD 390 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes everything during the trek (guiding, activities, tented accommodation, meals, snacks and water) and 1 night at Edirisa on Lake Bunyonyi. It does not include transport back from Rushaga or accommodation there.

Lake Bunyonyi – Rushaga Itinerary (can be reversed)

DAY 1

Traditional healer at work; photo by Marcus Westberg
Traditional healer at work; photo by Marcus Westberg

If you have taken up our offer of a free night before the trek, you will wake up at Edirisa on Lake Bunyonyi and be treated to a substantial breakfast at 9am. If you have opted for a less basic accommodation elsewhere, we will collect you by a dugout canoe and bring you to Edirisa in time for breakfast (if you wish to take it with us).

The paddling will begin at 10 in the morning after a detailed briefing session. The first program item on the Kyabahinga peninsula will be a dancing and singing presentation by the pupils of Edirisa Nursery School. At a trading centre above the school you will be invited to a cup of the local brew, obushera. The prize for your next activity, a relatively intense climb of about 30 minutes, will be pretty lake vistas and our guide’s stories about culture and nature.

On the ridge of the peninsula you will meet Mr Barara, a traditional healer, and Mrs Annah, a craftmaker. By 1pm Annah will have prepared lunch for her family — and you. Beans, sweet and Irish potatoes, ground nuts and dodo (local spinach) will make for a filling meal.

Kyabahinga is uniquely located to give you an outlook over most of Lake Bunyonyi, its 29 islands and the distant Muhavura volcano where you are heading. You will hear some of the colourful tales, legends and historical facts related to the islands.

In the afternoon you will descend to the water and enter the dugouts. Our canoe boys will paddle you to Habukomi, the island of pelicans, where you will enjoy Tom’s Homestay.

DAY 2

Echuya Forest moment; photo by Marcus Westberg
Echuya Forest moment; photo by Marcus Westberg

By 8am you will be on the way to the other side of the lake and ascend towards the Echuya Forest Reserve, reaching it at midday. In Echuya you will be part of something unique: a Batwa “Pygmy” guided nature trail. Our experienced partners will tell you how Echuya used to be their home and is now a source of all kinds of natural materials. You will be shown different herbs, plants that make rain, gold digging sites and more.

There is a swamp in the middle of Echuya that calls for rubber boots. Do not worry, our team will pack some for you.

Lake Kayumbu view; photo by Marcus Westberg
Lake Kayumbu view; photo by Marcus Westberg

The crossing of the forest will take about two hours. Your picnic lunch will happen above Lakes Kayumbu and Chahafi. The latter was once a colonial military outpost. In 1914 the English used 100 porters to carry a giant canoe from Chahafi to Lake Bunyonyi to attack the rebel leader Katuregye — probably using the very trail you are taking! But your destination will be the closer lake, Kayumbu, where we always camp on a church cliff overlooking the water surface.

DAY 3

After your lakeshore breakfast you will start hiking towards Kisoro Town, through villages on fertile volcanic soils. Compared to the rest of the itinerary, this section is strikingly flat.

Lake Mutanda from a drone; photo by Josh Hamby
Gahiza Island Retreat on Lake Mutanda from a drone; photo by Josh Hamby

Coffee Pot Cafe in the middle of Kisoro is owned by a German lady who makes excellent food. After lunch you will take about three hours to reach Lake Mutanda, visiting a coffee farming family on the way. Because the coffee tour comes with expert guidance and pretty views you will appreciate it even if you aren’t a coffee drinker!

A short boat ride will bring you to a small island in the south of the lake; pregnant unmarried girls were traditionally left here as a punishment. With loads of rabbits on the island, you won’t be surprised by what comes on the plate. (Vegetarian options available too, of course.)

The main accommodation solution is camping, however, small groups might be able to upgrade to some of the few cottages.

DAY 4

Gahiza Island Retreat is so pleasant that you will love a slow morning after a camping night. By midday the motorboat will start moving towards Chameleon Hill Lodge, your impressive lunch break place. In the afternoon you will do the last few hours of your trek, through Rubuguri Town to Rushaga on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

More info: tours@gorillahighlands.com+250 783 118 421+256 776 558 123