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Bugala island

Bugala island. When you choose to travel to Africa, Uganda (the Pearl of Africa) should be the number one choice destiny. The country’s natural beauty is spectacular and one of the spots is Lake Victoria, the biggest freshwater lake in Africa and 2nd in the world. Uganda occupies 45% of it’s total area including the Sesse Islands, a group of 84 islands of which only 64 are having settlement areas. Sesse islands make up Kalangala district situated 57 km (3-hour ferry ride) south west off Entebbe town, Uganda’s main point of entry.

Bugala is the biggest among Sesse islands and covers 106 sq.Miles (almost the same size as Ometepe island, Nicaragua). Bugala is currently the 10th largest lake island in the world and one of Uganda’s best kept secret tourist destinations. It has friendly rural fishing villages, tropical forest beaches including Brovad Sands Lodge and it’s shady palms.

Bugala island offers a wide range of accommodations of which most are on the shorelines. Kalangala Town council is the chief town for business on Bugala island. There’s reliable hydro-electricity, clean water and improved health facilities. Business on Bugala island has been improving since the launch of the Kalangala Infrastructure Service Project (KIS) in 2012. Other small trading centers are developing including Kasekula town. You hope to find items for your shopping while visiting Bugala islands.

How to get to Kalangala town

Transportation to Bugala island is through two main routes: either through Entebbe or through Masaka district. Though the Masaka route is normally used by the locals but for the tourists and one who is not conversant with the place, it’s preferable to use the Entebbe route.

When in Entebbe town, you can use a motorcycle or a taxi to Kitoro town. The small town has a taxi park and an African street market with organic food grown by small-scale local independent farmers. The boda boda ride cost ranges from (ugx.3,000shs – 5,000 shs) depending on your location, you can even order safe boda or Uber to pick you up. With the friendly nature of the Ugandans, you can always ask “I need directions to the area.”

From Kitoro town, one can take a motorcycle at a cost of (Ugx.1,500 -2,000shs) to Nakiwogo landing site. From the landing site, we use the MV Kalangala large ship which carries both vehicles and passengers to Lutoboka Landing site at Ssese Islands. It takes only one return trip. Lutoboka ferry terminal is 2.5 km to the Kalangala Town council.

Ferry services

Visitors should keep time and arrive earlier. MV Kalangala is the most reliable ferry for transportation of goods and services between Kalangala Islands and Entebbe.

On its daily voyage schedule, the vessel will depart from Lutoboka in Kalangala at 8:00am to arrive in Nakiwogo (Entebbe side) at 11:30am then depart from Nakiwogo at 2:00pm to arrive in Kalangala at 5:30pm. Boarding and loading goods starts normally one hours before departure.

Image MV Kalangala Ferry
MV Kalangala, Ferry (c) Kalangala Ferry Services

MV Kalangala rates for passengers cost is for a one way ticket goes for Ugx. 10,000 (approx. 3,00 USD) for the economy team that sits in the lower deck then Ugx.15,000 for the first class that sits in the upper deck. Those intending to take their vehicles need to book earlier by calling +256 752784617. The prices for taking the vehicle range from Ugx. 50,000 depending on the type, size and weight.

Luxury passenger only ferries

In case someone needs a faster ship, they can use the MV Vanessa or MV Natalia. Weekly trips from Entebbe are available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. And from the Ssese Islands towards Entebbe on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. From Monday to Thursday MV Vanessa rates per person cost is Ugx 350,000 one way Kalangala to Entebbe and Ugx 70,000 Entebbe to Kalangala. Friday to Sunday is Ugx55,000 and Ugx 100,000 return. Alternatively, speed boat transfers can be arranged anytime of the day and take 45 min. Check with your local travel agent about the schedule and ticket rates. See the Kalangala Ferry Services Website

Things to do in Bugala island

Bugala island offers a wide range of things to see and do. Visitors can explore beyond the beach and that will definitely create more memories with the island. The activities are available for booking through the lodge of stay, tour operator or one of the guides from the Sesse Islands Tour Guides Association (SITA).

Lutoboka forest nature walks

You can go for nature walks in Lutoboka forest to spot velvet monkeys, birds, and butterflies. Aim to reach the ruins of a stone fort said to have been built by John Speke, the first European to reach Lake Victoria in July 1857. The gentle hike can last 40 min to 1 hour. Closed shoes and long sleeves are highly recommended. A morning or evening walk in Kalangala forest or jog is a captivating experience with the bird sounds. Do it in company with someone.

IMG Bugala island
Lutoboka Forest Reserve (c) Courtesy

The Lutoboka forest reserve is a moist-ever green forest and it’s edges are delineated by grasslands. There are 8 tree species endemic to the Sesse islands including Lasianthus sesseensis, piptadeniastrum africanum and sugar plum (Uapca).

Some of the wildlife existing there include the Issel’s groove-toothed swamp rat, Sitatunga, velvet and monkeys. There are 3 afro-tropical butterfly species such as thermoniphas togalla bugalla, acraea stimulata and the common bemastistes. Bird watching in the forest is usually much better in the morning or evening hours.

Boda boda tour (motorcycle)

A boda boda ride tour is a perfect option to tour Kalangala town and Bugala island. You can visit as many sites as possible in the shortest time possible. The Ssesse islands museum has a good collection of history books and traditional instruments such as spears. The tour guide will inform you about all that’s not mentioned here.

Boat rides offer an opportunity to appreciate nature and view of Lake Victoria. During boat tours, you must wear a life jacket. Entering the waters without it is prohibited by the Marine police.

Camping is available at the hotel beach or in the gardens overlooking the lake.

Guided fishing excursions can be either done for sport or locally. You can catch and dissect or release the fish in this area of Lake Victoria because it is not a protected area.

Hotels in Bugala island

Bugala island provides a wide range of hotels including Mirembe Resort Beach Hotel, offering tranquility for those in search of an authentic escape with uncrowded beaches. With access to the lake, cool gardens, fitness center, free Wi-Fi, dining and bar, family rooms and children’s play, it is ideal for family vacation or to have your honeymoon in Kalangala islands.

IMG Poolside Bovad Hotel
Poolside at Bovad Hotel (c) Courtesy

Quality service is their passion and majority of the customers dearly appreciate. During your stay, the lodges provide fresh fruits (jack fruit, papaya, mangoes and avocado) and the delicious Ugandan local foods; luwombo, matooke, G-nut source, millet bread, katogo, posho, to crown it all (the kings of the lake: the tilapia and Nile perch) prepared with love by the locals. 

Bugala island is one of the destinations one shouldn’t miss for Uganda honeymoon out when they visit the Pearl of Africa. We dare you to visit these islands; your memory will never be the same. Because there lies a reason why it was named the world’s best secrets. Come and unveil the secret personally!!

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