Christmas on Lake Bunyonyi


The hollowed out tree we took from the mainland to Byoona Amagara on Itambira Island.

I’m writing this from the main lodge at Byoona Amaraga, a lovely spot on Itambira Island, in southwestern Uganda. We travelled here by bus from Kabale yesterday morning. What was supposed to be a six-hour journey ended up being more like eight, which isn’t too bad by Ugandan standards. The scenery was gorgeous along the way, and we took the bus with a couple of Australian travellers that Kristen met on her shuttle ride back from Jinja. We arrived in Kabale just before the last canoe to the island was supposed to depart, so we called the staff on the island to make sure they arranged for one to stay for us. We took a taxi along an incredibly bumpy road to Rutindo Market and met up with our canoe guide, Justice. It was about a 50 minute trip to the island, in a hollowed-out tree canoe. We had a great time helping with the paddling and chatting with Justice, who was mainly fixated on wanting to meet a Mzungu girl that he could marry.

We arrived on Itambira just after 7pm, and immediately ordered food – garlic cheese toast bruschetta, different pastas for each of us, and the long awaited chocolate rumballs. Everything was delicious, and it was a lovely spot to spend Christmas Eve. We had a crazy “small world moment” when the people at the next table overheard us talking about neighbourhoods in Victoria, and came over to say that that’s where they were all from as well. We did a bit of the “who do you know” game and figured out that one of the women is actually an OB nurse that works in the hospital where many of Mom’s clients deliver their babies, and recognized her name. After dinner and phone calls with family, Kristen and I settled into our bunk bed accommodations in the “big dorm” (12 beds versus the 4 in the other dorm building). Christmas morning was beautiful, and I ended up sitting by the canoe dock chatting with all of the family members spending Christmas at Mom and Dad’s – really a delightful way to kick off the day. When it warmed up a little, and I was able to take off the first sweater I’d worn since my arrival in Uganda in early October, Kristen and I headed down to the swimming dock. The water was colder than some of the other spots we’ve swam in Uganda, but considering it’s Christmas, that seemed only fitting.


Looking out through the trees on Itambira Island, towards the direction we paddled from.

After another delicious meal, we decided to hike around the island a little. There were some paths that we followed most of the way, except for the portion of the trek where we seemed to have veered off into the bush. Since it was an island, it was pretty easy to get back on course, and we ended up coming across a completely adorable wooden swingset at the end of our hike. We hung out there for quite awhile, chatting about our plans for the Rwandan portion of our trip, and enjoying the gorgeous view. We’ll stay at Byoona another night, and then take a canoe back to Kabale tomorrow around midday. From there it’ll be a 3 hour taxi ride to Kisoro, through winding roads and scenic countryside. We’re staying at a little hotel right next to the Mt Mgahinga National Park Office, so with any luck we’ll be there in enough time to book in to do the Mt Sabyinyo hike on Monday. We met another traveller here who had just come from doing the same hike, and agreed with Vanessa that it is definitely a tough slog, but well worth it. The Rwandan Immigration Department granted my visa request (a nice Christmas gift), so it looks like we’re all set for when we head to Kigali on Tuesday. We’ll split our time between there and Gisenyi, and head to one of the clubs in Kigali for New Years. On Sunday we’ll have quite a long bus ride to Kampala, and then it’s back to work at the centre. Hard to believe that I’ll only be in Africa for another month after our return, though the fact that I’ll be heading from Zanzibar to Hawaii to see Mom, Dad, and Kelly is softening the blow considerably.

I’ve posted a Flickr album of photos from our trip to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi, which you can check out here. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more from the rest of our journey as well.

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  • Darryl

    Hi Jaime,
    Wow, another beautiful adventure. Your pictures are fantastic. Together with your words, it’s (almost) like being there with you. It’s hard to believe you only have a month, or so, to go. We can’t wait to hear more about your adventures when you return.
    Merry Christmas!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Darryl. It was great getting to chat with Kate and Niall and Karen the other day – hope you all enjoyed your Christmas. I can’t wait to see you all in February when I’m back!

  • Merry Christmas Jaime – What a neat way to spend it. It was a delight to chat with you on Christmas Eve. We are all thinking of you here and having a great time charting your travels on our various electronic toys. Google Earth seems to know approximately where you are, but it hasn’t quite figured out which Island you’re staying on.

    As I write this on Boxing Day morning, we’re enjoying a few minutes of brilliant sunshine, as the sun rises, bathing everything in a wonderful gold glow. But it’s only going to last a few minutes, as we appear to be fairly locked in with an overcast sky. But the weather is warm and we’ve only had intermittent rain lately, so it’s been a great Christmas season here on the Island. Kelly and Cory are settling in – they’re in the suite now, and Jackie and Blair are back in Regina. We all miss you but we’re also enjoying your adventures and looking forward to February.

    Stay safe and keep the notes coming.