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Jumping into a dugout canoe was a wonderful way to experience Lake Bunyonyi, meaning ‘place of many little birds’. With its terraced hillsides and secret coves, Uganda’s deepest lake provides the perfect place to relax and unwind in a serene setting.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Sightseeing among the many small islands on the most beautiful lake in southwestern Uganda © Marcus Westberg

Canoe trekking with Edirisa took us into the remoter parts of the Bunyonyi valley, home to the Bakiga and the Batwa pygmies. Edirisa is a community and cultural initiative and all of the profits go towards funding community development projects. We explored the unforgettably scenic forest, lakeside and hilltops by a combination of dugout canoeing and hiking.

We went island-hopping across the lake, landing our canoe on various shores that each told their own story. The steep, terraced hillsides plunged into the still water as we paddled slowly between the islands. Without having to worry about hippos or crocodiles lurking in the water, we soaked up the stunning scenery while our Bakiga guide Owen told us the legends of the lake.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Kate takes a break from paddling to enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful views across Lake Bunyonyi © Marcus Westberg

Hill hiking gave us breathtaking views across Lake Bunyonyi and the surrounding farms and villages on its steep slopes. We strolled through forest groves, cultivated fields and gardens, hiked up Karembe Hill for some outstanding volcano views and trekked along a panoramic ridge trail on the Kyabahinga peninsula, where we met a traditional healer and local craftmaker who shared with us the secrets of their trades.

We stayed with local Bakiga families on lovely little farms with cows, goats, chickens, fruit orchards and banana plantations. We were treated to hearty home-cooked meals of beef stew served with fresh vegetables gathered from the garden. As darkness fell, we sat around the campfire swapping stories under the stars before snuggling into our tent for the night.

Lady from lake bunyonyi community, uganda
The lines and wrinkles on the lovely face of this old woman tell a story of living on the lakeshore © Marcus Westberg

Leaving the lake behind us, we delved into the mystical depths of Echuya Forest where our Batwa guide Kanusu brought the forest to life with his vast knowledge of the flora and fauna found beneath the cool canopy. We camped on the shores of Lake Kayumbu, crossing it by canoe early the next morning before walking out of the Mulindi river valley.

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More information about canoe trekking with Edirisa:

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Read Sean Messham’s article on his trip to Lake Bunyonyi in issue 7 of Safari interactive magazine: Overlanding East Africa

Africa Geographic Travel
Marcus & Kate

Marcus and Kate are a freelance writer/photographer team, contributing stories on travel, conservation and human interest from across east and southern Africa. They just completed a year in Kenya's Masai Mara where they conducted a research project on wildlife tourism and community-based conservation, including working on projects such as Elephant Voices and Living with Lions. They are a Swedish-Australian couple with itchy feet and a love for Africa, adventure and discovery. To see more photos from Marcus and Kate, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.