After a week of intensive teacher training and their first week teaching in schools volunteers deserve a relaxing weekend. And that is exactly what Lake Bunyonyi offers.
Lake Bunyonyi, meaning “The place of many little birds”, is a paradise only a half hour drive from the Rwandan border. Set at 11,000ft above sea level, the lake was formed as a result of volcanic ash blocking the flow of a river, flooding a deep valley.
The depth of the lake is a matter of dispute, and while the sign which claims Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda plunging to a depth of 6500ft may be a little optimistic, what is for sure is the depth of the lake means it is safe for swimming, free from bilharzia and other waterborne parasites.
Volunteers stay on their own private island, one of twenty-nine on the lake, called Nature’s Prime. There are hot showers – another treat after two weeks of getting used, if that is possible, to cold showers at the VU lodge – meals caught straight from the lake and a 20ft diving platform set, rather precariously, atop an old tree. It is a place to sit back, relax and take in the lake’s natural charm and beauty.
Not all the islands on the lake were always so idyllic. Akampene Island, the smallest island, was once a place of punishment, a place where young girls who had fallen pregnant out of wedlock were sent to starve and die. This practice only ended in the 1960s, but fifty years is long enough for the memory of that past to fade – it is something rarely spoken about by locals looking to portray a less frightening picture of Bunyonyi.
It is a story far from the minds of volunteers who paddle on the lake in a canoe carved from a single wooden log or choose to swim between the islands. All worries, all stress, all thoughts of the sheer drops on the three hour drive to the lake melt away.
The poor young girls of Akampene Island could not leave Bunyonyi. The lake has changed so much in character and conduct that our volunteers never want to.