Ssese Islands are a chain of eighty-four (84) islands found in the western part of Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria where the islands are found is the world’s largest tropical lake in Africa covering an area of 23,146 square miles stretching in three east Africa countries of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania with the largest part in Uganda. Lake Victoria as a vast freshwater lake contains 985 islands including Ssese islands. Ssese islands are coterminous with Kalangala district found in the south-central region of Uganda and Kalangala town as a prominent town on these islands. Kalangala district is approximately 51 kilometers across water southwest of Entebbe in Wakiso district on the Ugandan mainland.
Ssese islands occupy the northwest section of the great Lake Victoria with Bugala islands as the largest extensive group of islands. Ssese Islands stretch into two main groups those are southwest islands referred to as the Bugala group after Bugala island the largest in the group and the northeastern group of islands is referred to as Koome group named after Koome island which is the largest island in this group. The two main groups of islands are divided into two groups by Koome channel. Ssese islands experience climatic conditions conducive for the tourists and touring with annual average rainfall from 1,125 to 2,250mm, months of March to May and October-November experience more rainfall, December- February, and June to September receive less rainfall and a bit drier making them the perfect months to visit the islands. The islands receive mean annual maximum temperature from 25.00C – 27.50C and mean minimum temperature ranges from 17.50C – 18.00.
Ssese islands are majorly inhabited by the Bassese the Bantu speaking people who share close relations to Baganda and Basonga tribes, they speak a strikingly similar language though there is a certain distinct in their language. Before the coming of the Europeans, the islands were significant spiritual places in the region. Ssese Islands are magical places surrounded by beaches, clear waters of Lake Victoria and covered by numerous forests which are of interest to tourists most especially honeymoon tourists, the islands vary in sizes from less than 2.5 acres to 25 miles with 50% of them inhabited by people who carry out numerous activities in this islands like fishing and farming.
South western islands/ Bugala chain of islands consists of
Bugala Island. Bugala Island is the largest island in the Bugala chain of islands and on Lake Victoria, it is the most developed tourist-oriented island receiving quite a number of tourists. Bugala Island hosts numerous wildlife including primates such as vervet monkey, bushbuck, black and white colobus which are seen playing on trees in the dense forests and both water and forest birds such as turacos, barbets, flycatchers, robin-chats. On this island, there is Lutoboka Bay hosting resort beaches offering activities like Swimming, sport fishing, camping, beach Activities like beach soccer for the entertainment of a tourist.
Bubembe Island. Bubembe Island in Bugala chain of islands lieing in the north-western region is an ancestral island to the Baganda group of people, it is believed that the island is a home of the temple of mukasa. Bubembe Island surrounded by forests and swamps is a home to wildlife including birds such as herons, geese, parrots, animals such as crocodiles, hippopotamus, and primates of varying types for example chimpanzees, monkeys, Vervet monkey, and colobus monkey. On a ferry from Port bell sailing takes approximately 9 hours to reach the island and from Bukakata it is a 45 minutes sail.
Bukasa Island. Bukasa Island the second largest island in Lake Victoria is a mysterious destination with many attractions to explore, the island is made up of plunging water pools, a waterfall and dense forest cover which is home to monkeys and birds. Bukasa Island has trails that have been developed by locals which enables tourists to tour it on foot.
Other islands in the south western chain of islands include Buyova Island, Funve Island, Serinya Island Bufumira Island, Bugaba Island and Bubeke Island
Northeastern islands/ Koome chain of islands consists of
Koome Island. Koome Island is the largest island in the northeastern chain of islands found in the northwestern region of Lake Victoria in Mukono district, by water Koome Island lies approximately 35 kilometers south east of Entebbe and approximately 63 kilometers northeast of Kalangala. On Koome Island Bugombe town is the largest urban town on the island and activities like fishing, agriculture, rearing of animals and touring are carried out on the island. Beautiful views of the sunset through the lake waters is a sight never to miss while on Koome Island.
Damba Island. Like Koome Island, Damba Island belongs to the Koome chain of islands with some of its park located in Mukono district. For a tourist looking for an exotic tropical retreat, Damba island is the perfect destination where you can get to enjoy a boat cruise, breathtaking sights and the unpolluted fresh air on the island.
Other islands belonging to Koome chain of islands are Luwaji Islands, Bulago Island, and Kayaga Island
Activities at Ssese Islands
Ssese islands offer numerous memorable tourist activities such as
- Bird watching. Ssese islands are a haven for numerous bird species both water and land birds which are seen in swamps and forests found in the island, birds spotted while on these islands include Crested Crane, shoebill Stork, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Great Blue Turaco, marabou Stork, African Green Broadbill, Doherty’s Bushshrike which are enjoyed by bird lovers. These make the bird watching safari incredible.
- Swimming. Ssese Islands are full of adventures and swimming in the fresh waters of Lake Victoria is so fulfilling, for water lovers the islands are the perfect destination.
- Fishing sports. Fishing sports on Ssese islands takes place in the waters of Lake Victoria, on this activities fish species such as tilapia, lungfish, tiger fish are caught. The delight of fishing sports is barbecue grilling off the fish caught from the expedition.
- Beach Activities. Beach games like beach soccer are intensively enjoyed by tourists as a way of relaxation from boat rides and nature walks
- Palm oil plantations. There can never be any great view than the palm oil plantations on ssese islands, touring the plantations you encounter very welcoming farmers who take you through the farming and harvesting process of the palm fruits which are used to make oil.
- Tradition tour to Kalaya caves. Amusements on mystical ssese islands never seem to seize, touring the great ancient Kalaya caves of Jjaja Kiwumulo or Semuggala is very exhilarating, these caves are an important site for Nkima clan one of the 52 clans of Buganda kingdom. The caves houses traditional items like spears, calabashes, barkcloth and afire place which is always burning.
- Boat cruising. The calm waters, refreshing breeze and beautiful scenery of Lake Victoria while on boat cruise can melt any coldest heart on the earth. On boat cruise, you also get to witnesses a wonderful sight of the sun setting.
Other activities are camping, canoe rides, quad biking, village walks and nature walks.
Accommodation on the Islands
While on a safari in Ssese Island accommodation can be got from:
- Ngamba Island Tented Camp. Ngamba Island Tented Camp is found in Ngamba Island offering room service, restaurant and bar, lounge, laundry facilities, and a fire place
- Mirembe Resort Beach Hotel. Mirembe Resort Beach Hotel is located on the countryside 800 meters from the landing site offering bar, rooms, internet, fishing trips and sailing activities on the lake.
- Pearl Gardens Beach Resort. Pearl Gardens Beach Resort stretches on the attractive white sand beach offering accommodation and food services.
- Ssese Habitat Resort. Ssese habitant resort offers accommodation and camping sites
- Ssese Islands Beach Hotel. Ssese island beach hotel is located in Bugala Island offering services like dining, accommodation, conference facilities