People are always relieved on finally reaching Akampene Island, after paddling for long. These days when people reach Akampene Island, they feel so relieved. It wasn’t like that before. The lake is now in tranquil, only disturbed intermittently by the ripples of the odd kingfisher diving for an early lunch.
Akampene Island is better known as a Punishment Island. It is very deserted and only has two trees. One of the trees looks long dead, one has lasted longer than usual that its flora is breathing its last. The islands next to Akampene Island are quite busy. They have several houses and tourism resorts.
In the old days up until 900s, a trip to Akampene Island was not something to rejoice. Its strange history claims this was the island where all girls that would be found pregnant before getting married officially, would be taken, and abandoned there to die.
We are told that they would not arrive using a single canoe like people who visit the island these days do. There would be a whole flock of taunting people to dump the unfortunate woman on the punishment island. The judges made it certain to ensure that the display was a warning to other girls, the process that led her there would be just the first phase of the punishment.
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The story about the Island tells us that the girl would be taken and left there all on her on and nothing else to survive on but rather to die. But that is not the gospel truth; the abandonment at Akampene Island was the beginning of an excommunication from the family.
After listening to the grimy tale, your first steps on the Island’s muddy floor will be gingerly with eyes fixed on the ground in expectation of skeletal remains of those whom were starved to death on the Island.
Things however turned out not like you would have expected. Not everyone left on Akampene was meant to and would die there! Death is not always what took place; any boy or man that for long had interest in such a girl or long wished to get married but with no resources to pay for her bride price, would cease the opportunity to get himself a “free wife”!
Whoever would peddle to the Island and rescue the abandoned girl would take her home for a wife and would live together for life! There are women that still live as testimonies to this around Lake Bunyonyi. What a story!
ESCAPING FROM AKAMPENE / PUNISHMENT ISLAND; The common route would be escaping to Nju yeera Island and then continue to join the mainland at Bulimba and begin a new life. That doesn’t mean that single motherhood was easier then than it is today and one disturbing fact in this story is that nothing would happen to the father to the unborn baby!
Even the pregnant girl would not mention him because there was a belief that if she did, she would die at the Island but I guess there was logic in that this same father to be would come and rescue the abandoned girl to go and start their family!
Getting to the Akampene Island is easy from all around Bunyonyi so it depends on which lodge / resort you are staying at. You can rent a canoe or boat and a guide to visit the Island