The Ssese islands have always been known for fishing until recently when people started appreciating its geographical location and the serene beauty that it offers. Located in the middle of the source of the Nile the Victoria Lake, it got the name Ssese due to the numerous Tsetse flies that were found in the area. When one person commented about the Tsetse flies in the area, the local people started calling it Ssese. The Island has not been a destination for many due to the vast infestation of tsetse flies that was in the area and to the fact that it was famously known for being one of the poorest districts in Uganda and it had a high HIV rate compared to other districts in the country.
The archipelago is divided into two parts hat is the south western part which is known as the Bugala group and the North eastern part which is known as the Koome group. These two groups are separated by the Koome channel. The Bugala group consists of the following islands the Bugaba island, Bufumira island, Serinya island, Buyova island, Bubeke island, Funye Island and many more others. The main islands that are located on the Koome group include the Luwaji Island, Koome Island and the Damba Island.
But things have changed and now the Ssese islands that are 84 in number are found in Kalangala district and are now one of the best destinations in the country due to the serene nature that is found in the area. Kalangala district has two banks and these include Finance trust bank and stanbic bank and you will not find any high rise buildings in the area. The island has roughly 65,000 people and these live on the different islands that is 25,000 people live on Bugala Island while the rest live on the other islands.
Economic activities carried out on Ssese Island
The main economic activity that is carried out in Ssese is fishing that is majorly done at the Lake Victoria and the most common fish that is caught in Ssese is the Nile perch and the Tilapia. Of recent there has been over fishing on the different islands around Lake Victoria due to the various illegal methods that are being used and these have greatly reduced the number of fish in the lake depriving most people of the livelihood of fishing and yet it is the main source of income.
Other Economic activities carried out on the Ssese islands include farming, boat riding in form of tourism and charcoal production due to the vast number of trees that is found on the island.
Things to do in Ssese Island
There are several things that you can do when you decide to travel to Ssese Island and some of these include the following:
A visit to the Island club
This is more of a campsite where various people gather around to take part in the evening activities after a very long day.th relaxing nature in the gardens is good for resting and you also get to see the setting sun in its glamour but note that the bar closes roughly by midnight as the bartenders have to rest before they open up the next day.
A visit to the Kihumuro cave
Kihumuro cave is located at Kalaya village and is located on the Bugala Island. It is a thirty to forty meters long cave and when you visit the cave you will notice the small exit and wide entrance. It is still used by very many people who go there to seek blessings from the god Jajja Muwnaga. The cave has a very good cultural and spiritual history that is best explained by the tour guides that you find at the cave as these will take you through the various stories as you tour the cave.
Some locals say that the island got its name from a man who was named Ssebugala who came to the Island many generations ago. He rested at the cave after a long journey and that is how the cave got its name from Kihumuro which when loosely translated means to rest and it is believed that his spirit and the spirits of some of his children visit the cave and that is why you will find many women and men smoking pipes in and outside the cave looking for blessings from the gods.
The cave is known as a local traditional church to many and when you get inside the cave, you will find that the floor is fully covered with grass and you are supposed to remove your shoes before you enter since it is considered to be a holy place. There are different contents that you will see in the cave and these include spears, bark clothes, calabashes, coffee seeds in a basket and many more other local items.
There is a man that is believed to wield all the powers of the gods and he always communicates to the people present the messages that the gods want them to receive.
Spot fishing on the Lake Victoria
A tour to the Ssese Island will give you a chance to enjoy spot fishing. You will be able to catch some of the common fish species like the Tilapia and Nile perch with the help of a tour guide and after enjoy smoking it on a fire that is in most cases provided by the resort where you are staying. This is an experience that you do not want to miss when you visit the Island.
Explore the billionaire’s view
The billionaire’s view is located south of Kalangala town and it is on top of a hill. The road leading to the billionaire’s view is a bit dusty and is mostly accessed by bodas that are found in the area. When you are on top of the hill, you get to see the whole island with a new perspective as you get to see the lake view, beaches, the valleys and different housings on the island perfectly. Very few people know why it is called Billionaire’s view but if you want to see the best of the island then this is the best place for you to be.
Explore the tropical forest
The island has a tropical forest which is a home to some wild animals that are found in the area and some of these animals include the sitatunga antelopes, monkeys, crocodiles lounging in the Lake Victoria and various bird species. The forest is also filled with various flora and fauna that can only be found on the Island and you can get to enjoy birding, game drives through the forest and nature walks. But remember to walk with sunscreen and put on long sleeved clothes to avoid insect bites.
Accommodation in Ssese Islands
There are several accommodation places that you can go to once you visit Ssese Islands and most of these are located on Bugala island which is not that far away from Ssese. The accommodation can be got according to your budget and some of the best accommodations here include the following:
The philo leisure gardens
The philo leisure gardens are located at the boundary of the Lutoboka forest which is located in Kalangala and it is known to be one of the best places for all birders. You get to enjoy the serene peace and quiet of the gardens and the monkeys that can be seen swinging from one tree to the next and some of the exquisite bird species found in the forest. The location of the philo gardens gives you an opportunity to rest as you listen to the sounds of nature especially if you have had a long day.
The Panorama cottages also located in Kalangala is one of the accommodation facilities where one can stay during their trip to Kalangala. The cottages have spacious self-contained rooms that offer privacy to all their guests and not forgetting the wonderful local food that is served from breakfast to supper. You also get to enjoy transportation to the airport, , ample parking space, free Wi-Fi a clear view of the lake, the sunrise and the sunset and enjoy a cool evening without the much noise that is always found in the city Centres.
Victoria forest resort
Victoria forest resort is located in Kalangala and is just 1.5 kilometers from where the ferry drops you off. The accommodation is a three star and almost all the rooms have a great view of the lake and the beaches. There is ample parking space which is private, a spacious bar and lounge, there is a forex bureau, 24 hours front desk services, gardens that you can relax from, self-contained rooms and a private beach area for the guests. Hefty meals are also served in the area and you get to enjoy the sunset while at your balcony.
Kalangala pearl beach resort
Kalangala pearl beach resort is located on the shores of Lake Victoria. It has a white sandy beach which makes it a perfect place for to spend your safari. It has self-contained rooms although there are some rooms where the facilities are shared and a hefty breakfast is served before you can enjoy the rest of the day lounging on the beach or touring the Island. The meals served are both local and international and there are also a variety of drinks that are served at the resort. The guests also get to enjoy the outdoor swimming pool and other fun activities carried out at the Island.
Ssese habitat lodge
Also known as SSEHAB, it is one of the most entertaining accommodation facilities in Ssese. The resort provides speed boats from Entebbe which helps you get to the Island in just 45 minutes as compared to the ferry that takes three hours. You will find comfortable spacious rooms at the resort and enjoy a bonfire on the evening and the beauty about it is that it caters for children as well.
Ssese islands beach resort
Ssese islands resort is located in Lutoboka bay and is one of the oldest resorts on the island. The resort has one of the finest rooms around and they are all self-contained with privacy to all the guests who spend the night there. There are several activities that you can carry out when you are at the resort like volley ball, an up close experience with some of the wildlife that is found in the area, swimming and many more others.
How to travel to Ssese Island
There are different ferries that travel to Ssese and these come from the different points of the country. Some of the scheduled time for the ferries have been listed below so that you get to know where to board from and at what time.
The different prices of the MV Kalangala which travels to and from Kalangala especially for a one way journey are as follows. Those traveling in the economy class pay 10,000 and first class pay 14,000 Ugandan shillings only.
• A ferry leaves Masaka from Bukakata and this one is always free of charge although it is a tiring and long journey which is why most tourists do not use it.
• A ferry leaves Nakiwogo in Entebbe at 2:00pm every day and reaches Ssese Island at 5:30pm.
• The MV Kalangala which is the main ferry on that route leaves Ssese Island every morning at 8:00am and therefore people leaving the Island should keep time.
Ssese islands is a place that you do not want to miss especially if you have booked for a safari to Uganda. It is one of the country’s hidden treasures that have not yet been tampered with and you get to enjoy nature at its best as you unwind after a long day. And since they are far away from the city, you get to enjoy the peace and quiet at one of the most beautiful islands in the whole world.