Ssese islands are located in north western Lake Victoria and consist of a group of 84 islands. The islands are among the little known and less visited tourist destinations in Uganda except for one island of the entire 84-Buggala island.
These are a collection of 84 islands in the northwest of Uganda and around 43 of these are populated. However, there are only two islands of Bugala and Bukasa that are developed as far as tourism goes and receive tourists regularly. These islands are ideally treated as retreats after long hikes and safaris and offer relaxation and bird watching opportunities.
Ssesse islands are located about 60 km off the shore of Entebbe town central Uganda in the North West part of Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world. They consist of a group of 84 islands in Kalangala district. Bugala, the largest of these islands is notable for white sand beaches, blue waters of Lake Victoria, wonderful scenery of cliffs, lush vegetation; palm and tropical forests home to birds, monkeys, lizards and butterflies. Bugala is ideal for an island gateway because the ferry service is located close to Entebbe international airport, the main entry point to Uganda.
Bugala islands are one of the least visited places in Uganda. Travelers, who make it to Ssesse islands, will enjoy the most pleasant weather in Uganda. The islands are located close enough to the equator and are always warm and cool breeze.
Bugala is still a developing island destination but you will find pretty of lovely luxury resorts and hotels, budget lodges and reasonably priced gardens and guest houses. Most of them are located close to the beach, some have outdoor swimming pools, fire place, restaurants, castles and clubs for children, There are no large supermarkets and shops so you may not find what you want to shop, it’s best to shop in Entebbe town or Kampala and bring cash local currency to cover your stay in Ssesse islands.
Things to See
The islands receive reasonable amounts of rainfall and have vast equatorial rain forests with various primates especially monkeys; the Vervet monkey is the commonly viewed monkey in Buggala Island. African fish eagles, hornbills, little egrets, Turaco, barbets, weavers, pygmy king fishers among other island endemic bird species are the major forest and water birds that can be seen in the rain forests and in the lake.
What to do
Ssese islands are one of the best tourist destinations in Uganda for any one interested in forest and nature walks mainly because the give tourist’s chances to listen to the sounds of nature and experience the cool breezes from the lake and forests. There are also long sand beaches with palm trees providing suitable environments for sunbathing, swimming and riding. Some bird species can even be seen along the island beaches. Other major tourist activities may include boat rides especially to the neighboring islands and community walks.
White sand beaches make ideal place to sit back, relax and enjoy the sunsets and sunrises. It is also perfect place to escape for your honeymoon vacation. Private boats can be hired to tour around Kalangala fishing villages.
Swimming can be done at the lodge pools, beach or deep in the waters at the equator crossing on the waters of Lake Victoria.
Boat tours around fishing villages and other small islands is a great way to explore Lake Victoria.
Forest walks and hikes around the palm trees for bird watching and spotting primates.
What to eat
The common cuisine consists of fish, and tropical fruits such as paw paws, passion fruit, pineapple, and jack fruit. Juices or sliced fruits are served in addition to a variety of international dishes.
Where to stay
This is located on Buggala island- the largest island; the beach has good accommodation facilities that can fit most people’s budgets with executive tents and bandas. The sand beaches here favor sun bathing and the water is good for swimming as well.
This has beautiful views of the biggest bays of the islands with a wide range of accommodation facilities. Facilities are basic but hot water can be provided when needed.
PTA Andronicos lodge
This also provides basic accommodation plus meals and drinks that fit all travelers’ budgets. There are also provisions for camping with great views of the beautiful landscapes around the island.
Mirembe beach resort
This has comfortable single and double rooms with possibilities of camping. The resort has a bar and restaurant with great views of the lake.
Ssese habitat resort
This is located on Buggala Island and has well and fully furnished self contained rooms with a satellite television. The resort offers standard meals and also has provisions for camping.
Getting to the islands
Ssese islands can mainly be accessed by water transport from the mainland. There are two departure points; one at Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe the Kalangala MV operates ferry service every day to Ssesse islands. The other is Bukakaa landing site off Masaka-Kampala high way where there are motorized boats.
You can use ferry from Bukakata near Masaka and a catamaran from Nakiwogo landing site located south of Entebbe.
These however have strict travelling timetables and who intend to use them must make proper timings.
The ferry at Entebbe will departs at 09am in the morning and returns for the second shift at 2pm. The ferry is double decked with first and second class seats and a mini bar onboard. It has space for vehicles. The ferry takes 3.5 hours and will dock at Kalangala bay from where you can get a taxi, boda boda to your accommodation.
The catamaran from Nakiwogo landing sites departs from the islands (Kalangala) at 8:00 am for Nakiwogo and then leaves Nakiwogo for Kalangala at 2:00 pm daily. This catamaran has the first and economy classes with different fares due to the difference in seating arrangements in the two classes. This is very comfortable and the journey may take around 2 hours.
The ferry from Bukakata departs at 8:00 am, 11:30am, 1:30 pm and 4:00 pm for Bugoma Island and returns to Bukakata at 9:00 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 5 pm. This ferry is however not as comfortable as the catamaran at Nakiwogo.
You can also use motorised boats to reach the islans. The motorized boats at Bukakata landing site take few people per route.
From Kampala you can take a taxi or bus and get off in Masaka town. Then take another transfer to get to Bukakata for the morning schedule at 09am or 2 and 3pm departures.
Hiring a Speed Boat
One can also hire a speed boat or use wooden local boats from nearby landing sites.
Connecting from one island to another is by use of lake taxis which are large boats of about 10 meters long and 3 meters wide that transport passengers and some goods.
These mainly leave Kasenyi landing site which has no dock. Passengers instead pay potters to carry them so that they do not get wet. These lake taxis do not provide life jackets and are often hit hard by the water waves; this can be a good experience for tourists interested on thrilling adventurous experiences but can be a night mare to those who are not used to such conditions.
Would you like to relax at these tropical islands? Why not book an all inclusive Uganda safari and get to holiday in these relaxing tropical islands and discover one of Africa’s best secret and exclusive destination.