Kigezi Highlands : The Tourism Hub In Southwest Uganda : The Kigezi highlands, which span several districts including Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, and Rukungiri districts, are situated in southwest Uganda. Rwanda to the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the east encircle the hills. Geographically, the Kigezi highlands also include the national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which are both well-known for being home to mountain gorillas. People frequently refer to these parks as the “gorilla highlands“, since mountain gorillas live there.

The Kigezi Hills range in elevation from 1,500 to 2,700 meters above sea level. Lava-dammed lakes beneath the sheer slopes are home to stunning islands like Bunyonyi, Chahafi, and Mutanda. Because of all of these things, Kigezi is the best place to go hiking, trekking, kayaking, and taking road trips through rural villages and tropical forests.

The Kigezi Highlands are home to some of East Africa’s most breathtaking scenery because of their lakes and terraced hills. Since they resemble the Swiss Alps, they have been dubbed the “Switzerland of Africa.” In order to photograph stunning locations like Muko Town, enthusiastic photographers may need authorization to use a drone.


The Bafumbira, the Bakiga, and the Batwa pygmies are among the people who live in the Kigezi region. Paul Ngologoza’s book “Kigezi and its People” claims that the Bakiga invented the terrace farming technique in order to utilize the steep terrain. The best cultural trips in Uganda are provided by Kigezi, which includes stops at the Echuya Forest and the Batwa Trails in Mgahinga. Tour operators can arrange for canoeing, boat cruises, and walking tours on the islands of Lake Bunyonyi. Because of the topography, earning a living requires labor-intensive tasks like carrying water downhill, which both men and women must accomplish. Supporting the Community Clean-Water Development Project at Bakiga Lodge in Ruhija’s Bwindi Gorilla Sector is another way you may help.

It is possible to grow sorghum, Irish potatoes, fruits, and vegetables on the fertile volcanic soils. Banyankole and Bafumbira, who speak Kinyarwanda, are among the many people who have moved there in search of greener farming pastures. Kigezi is currently one of the most populous areas of Uganda. With more than 300 people living in each square kilometer and an annual growth rate of roughly 2.2%, inhabitants in this area rely on natural resources like firewood, water, and medicinal plants. More trees must be planted in order to stop soil erosion and landslides because people live and work in the Lowlands, on moderate hills, and on steep slopes. Even in densely populated areas like Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Echuya Forest Reserve, ecotourism has long been valued. The financial benefits of gorilla tourism encourage people to protect the environment.


The primary reason for Kigezi’s fame is its gorilla trekking safaris to the national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Nonetheless, Kigezi has a number of attractions, including the Echuya Forest Reserve and lakes Bunyonyi, Mulehe, Chahafi, and Mutanda. A variety of wildlife, such as mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, chimpanzees, and forest elephants, can be found in the two protected zones. There are indigenous bird species found in the Albertine Rift. 23 species, or over 90% of the endemic species found in the Albertine Rift, are known to exist in Bwindi alone.

Echuya Forest Reserve

13 kilometers separate the Echuya forest reserve from Mgahinga, 5 kilometers from Lake Bunyonyi’s east end, and 15 kilometers from Kabale town. The Kabale-Kisoro road winds through the northern part of the forest and provides access to it as well. Eighty percent of the 34 square kilometers of dense forest are made up of medium- to semi-deciduous tree species, including African redwood (Hagenia abyssinica) and Macaranga kilimandscharica. The bamboo and the 7-square-kilometer Muchuya marsh make up the southern portion.

At a high elevation of 2,270–2,570 meters. With 152 bird species, 18 of which are indigenous to the Albertine Rift, such as the Grauer’s swamp warbler, dwarf honeyguide, and Archer’s robin chat, Echuya boasts a high level of biodiversity. Because of this, Echuya is one of Uganda’s greatest places for birdwatching and an Important Bird Area (IBA). Furthermore, Echuya is home to small animals such as African golden and serval cats, side-striped jackals, and servaline genets, as well as primate species like blue monkeys. Together with the National Forestry Authority, the Uganda Wildlife Authority oversees the reserve and has created projects and paths for the nearby community. Echuya provides the chance to wander through a swamp and interact with Batwa pygmies.

Bwindi national park.

With 22 gorilla families habituated for tourism, Bwindi is home to 459 gorillas, or about 50% of the world’s total population of mountain gorillas. In Bwindi, there are four places to undertake gorilla trekking: Buhoma (the park’s headquarters), Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Ruhija. One must carefully consider the topography, hotel options, interest in gorilla families, and other activities before selecting a destination. In contrast to other gorilla viewing locations, Bwindi is the only park that provides both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experiences. Reservations for either of these excursions can be made via a travel agency or the Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters, located in the nation’s capital, Kampala. The terrain in Bwindi can make trekking difficult. Bwindi features steep mountains and thick tropical woods.

 Mgahinga Gorillas National Park

One of the three protected areas in the Virunga massif, a chain of eight volcanic mountains, two of which are active and are Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda are bordered by the Mufumbiro Mountain Range. Mgahinga is connected to both DR Congo’s Virunga Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

There are 603 gorillas in the Virunga Region, with more than 100 of them located in Mgahinga. There is just one gorilla family, Nyakagezi, with nine members, including silverbacks that the Uganda Wildlife Authority has habituated. The park, which is the smallest in Uganda at 34 square kilometers, offers hiking opportunities atop three dormant volcanoes: Muhabura, Sabinyo, and Gahinga. The bamboo flora that covers a large portion of the park serves as a home for golden monkeys, an old-world monkey species native to the Virunga region. In addition to gorillas, Mgahinga offers golden monkeys tracking and habituation chances. Hikes in the park are less strenuous because of the less dense forest. While descending the volcano is much easier, climbing it can be challenging.

Kigezi Highlands
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park

The complex of lava-dammed lakes

Kigezi is made up of more than six lakes: Mulehe, Bunyonyi, Mutanda, Chahafi, Nakasanda, and Kayumba. These are the best places to relax right away following a climb up a volcano or gorilla trekking in Mgahinga. Compared to the others, Lake Bunyonyi offers a greater selection of lodging options and water sports like canoeing and boat rides. In addition to providing a few hotel options, Mulehe, Mutanda, and Chahafi all provide boat trips and paddling. A volcanic explosion that occurred 18,000 years ago caused lava to flow in both lakes, damming them and obstructing streams.

Lake Bunyonyi

With its nineteen islands, Lake Bunyonyi is the most exquisite of them all. Bunyonyi, meaning “a place of many little birds“ in English, is a popular destination for birdwatchers. Among the more than 200 species is the gray-crowned crane, which is endangered. The canoe is the primary means of transportation utilized to cross Africa’s second-deepest river. The lake is too deep, with an average depth of almost 39 meters, as a result of the steep hills. No hippos or crocodiles exist, and there is very little chance of contracting bilharzia. For those with experience swimming, Lake Bunyonyi is a suggested swim area. Dive platforms are available at several hotels, such as Bunyonyo Rock Resort and Bird Nest. To safeguard yourself from typhoid fever and other water-borne diseases, you should exercise vigilance. Lake Bunyonyi‘s islands can be explored most quickly by motorized boats and canoes. Every island has a distinct past.

Kahugye Island

Bunyonyi’s second-largest island, Kahugye, is 35 acres in size. With a variety of tree types like figs, eucalyptus, and black wattles (Acacia mearnsii), it nearly resembles a garden and is home to zebras and more than 60 different species of birds. The guy who previously resided on the island had twelve wives, according to the legend behind the name Kahugye, which translates as “madness“ in English. To appease them, he killed a cow each year as a sacrifice. The name of the island comes from the fact that, after his animals eventually finished, he became mentally disturbed and began acting irrationally.

Punishment Island

Akampene, also referred to as the punishment island, is another island with a fascinating history. Pregnancy before marriage used to be forbidden in Kigezi. A cruel punishment for young girls who rebelled was to bind them, cast them off to an island, and let them starve to death. But many girls did not survive. The fortunate ones would live at the whim of the young men, who desired marriage but could not afford to give large dowries. They would thus regularly patrol the islands to find out who was present. The custom persisted until the arrival of Christian missionaries in the middle of the 20th century, who rejected it as antiquated. The largest island in Lake Bunyonyi, Bwama, is where Leonard Sharp and his spouse made their home. They built a hospital to care for leprosy patients, but it was too remote, so he traveled to Sharp’s island, which was nearby, and built a cottage there.

Lake Mulehe

Lake Mulehe is located 81 km (2 hours by car) south of Ruhija, Bwindi, and 21 km (45 minutes by car) south of Mgahinga Gorilla. While staying at Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge, it is easier to see both golden monkeys and gorillas because it is the halfway point between the two locations. This is a good destination for families planning a trip. Considering that children may get distracted by other activities at the lodge, the lodge provides lodging, a restaurant, and a bar, ensuring a well-rounded stay.

Lake Chahafi

22 km southeast of Kisoro town, Lake Chahafi is a nice place to relax either before or after visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The only lodge on the lake is Chahafi Resort, which has nine cabins that overlook the water. The Kigezi Highlands and Mount Muhabura surround the area, which is breathtaking for photographers.

Lake Mutanda

Five Virunga volcanoes may be seen spectacularly from Lake Mutanda. The 1,800m (5.900 ft) elevation makes the mountains an ideal background for nature photographers. The Chameleon Hill Lodge, located 16 kilometers from Lake Mutanda, provides opulent lodging for individuals planning a gorilla trekking expedition in Rushaga. Among the areas that many Ugandans are proud of is the Kigezi Highlands. Because of the adventure and wildlife trips available there, the area has an advantage over the others.

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