Musambwa Island on Lake Victoria : Within an area of five acres and a population of less than 100 people, there are more than 2000 snakes that inhabit the island; it’s a ratio of over 20 snakes per person. Is the Musambwa Island that is one of the most rest respected island in Uganda and on a Uganda safari one should not miss out to have a stopover at this island.
Musambwa Island is a superstitious island in the interior of Lake Victoria in Rakai district which is approximately 5 km from Kasensero landing site on Lake Victoria. This Island derives its name from a local dialect Musambwa which literally means gods/ spirits in Luganda and appears in form of snakes. This name came about due to the overwhelming number of snakes in the area which are believed to be spirits rather than normal snakes.
Musambwa Island is occupied by approximately 100 men who peacefully reside with different species of reptiles especially snakes that are commonly seen in people’s houses as well as sharing beds with the men.
Musambwa residents believe their island is full of spirits which must appear in form of snakes. So in Luganda, Musambwa means spirits. Musambwa island boosts one of the highest morality rates in the world given that no one can have sex there or else the spirits will humiliate him/ her and the entire population. This has saved the inhabitants from the deadly sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS that is common on other islands on the lake.
Attractions at Musambwa Island
Besides over 2000 snakes residing on the island, there are reptiles and a very large number of bird species, it is also a breeding site for long tailed cormorant, greater cormorants and little egret. The different bird species include black crake, spur winged plover, grey heron, yellow billed duck, African fish eagle, pied king fisher, Squaco heron and many more that can be viewed with ease than other birding sites where one has to use binoculars. The Musambwa Island is also known for rock pythons, cobras, vipers, and monitor lizards. The vegetation on this island is mainly shrubby and stunted trees mainly ficus and the shore lines are rocky.
Myths about Musambwa Island
In the old days, fishermen lived in harmony with snakes and birds. They earned a living out of fishing while conserving nature by fear of superstitions, taboos and customs.
One of the first people to settle on the island is Mzee Emmanuel Kaberenge. He came to the island in 1964, found many taboos and passed them on to subsequent fishermen. By then, only four people lived on the islands. Women and sex are prohibited on this island in order to please the gods/spirits. Therefore, no woman will be allowed on this island and a man who wants to have sex, goes to the mainland which is about 10 km away, taking approximately 1 hour by motorized boat or have to travel to neighboring islands if they need sex. Anyone who annoys the spirits will attract punishment on the whole community on the island and must be chased away from Musambwa Island. That initially kept the population small and minimized thefts. The second myth prevents people from killing snakes as they are believed to be gods. Consequently, Musambwa is the only location on earth where people live with cobras of all sizes, with mutual respect for one another.
The third commandment, which has now collapsed, prohibited fishermen from eating or selling eggs of the thousands of birds that live and breed on the Island because of compensate for loss of income and food from fish, the fishermen have turned to birds for survival. They eat and sell eggs of the thousands of birds which have lived and bred on the islands for centuries.
Fun activities at Musambwa Island
Musambwa Island is one place; a tourist needs not to miss to discover the superstitious island because of its lovely and lots of fun activities it carries that fascinate most travellers to see and to enjoy, and some of these include:
Nature walks: there are thousands of activities to see while you have a nature walk on Musambwa Island such as viewing fishermen drying their fish and cleaning their fishing nets and even better your self can get the chance to involve in the activities.
Bird watching: Musambwa Islands are known to be the largest breeding site for the African race of the grey-headed gulls in Africa, whose eggs the fishermen eat and sell. And other thousands of birds that bred and nest on the island so expect to see a number of them while on your tour to the island.
Seeing reptiles: as stated first there are over 2000 snakes and different kinds of reptiles on the island moving freely with no harm for you to see and even get to know men and snakes get to have a great connection while you are explained to the nature and ways of hoe to a associate with them
Sport fishing: have the chance to sport fish with the local fisher men and catch large fresh water fish from Lake Victoria and also learn the fishing techniques from them.
Plus lots other more fun activates that you can do and even forget that your residing with snakes so near you get the chance to leave when u have made a snake a friend.
What to pack to Musambwa Island
As it’s an island and one would love to have a free movement with out and disturbance below are the things may consider carrying along with you on you Uganda safari to Musambwa Island.
- Khaki, green, beige and neutral colors (dark blue and black clothing should be avoided, as it attracts Tsetse flies)
- Shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, as protection from the sun, mosquitoes and Tsetse flies)
- Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
- A jacket and sweater are recommended for early morning and evening game drives
- Lightweight water-proof jacket
- Sturdy trousers
- Rain hat
- Swim and beachwear while at camp
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Strong waterproof walking boots
- Pants should be tucked into socks and boots while trekking.
- Sun block, sunglasses, hat, moisturizer and lip-salve are all essentials
- Strong insect repellent
- Binoculars and camera equipment
- Small backpack to carry water and a packed lunch
Come discover the unique culture of Uganda” the Pearl of Africa” on your Uganda safari.