Uganda Islands: 5 Best Islands for Vacation Near Kampala

Ngamba Chimpanzees

Looking to taking a nature retreat to one of the islands? There are several islands near Kampala where you can enjoy an amazing holiday. Get away from the bustle and hustle of Kampala and enjoy a weekend escape to any of these islands.

Ngamba island

The Island is located in the peaceful waters of Lake Victoria and it is the only Island, a home to 48 orphaned chimpanzees. Ngamba Island seats on only 100 acres of which 98 acres are occupied by a rain forest. Ngamba Island is approximately 23 km south-east of Entebbe. The northern part of the island is generally flat, rising gently to an altitude of approximately 3800 feet above sea level to the south. The island is largely forested with gaps of grassland covering approximately 10% of the island.

Apart from other Islands being habitats of different living things, Ngamba Island was established to become a home to homeless chimpanzees rescued by Uganda wildlife Authority. Therefore, the uniqueness of this Island means that visitors in order to visit this place, they have to pay an entrance fee to view one or both of the chimpanzee feedings which happen twice a day.

The Island facilities offer day trips and overnight trips which provide exceptional opportunity to closely observe and interact with these fascinating great apes in their unique setting. There are about three sets of home facilities for the chimps with two gazetted for the younger, stubborn and abnormal chimpanzees and the other home is for the integrated set. The home for the integrated set is diverse and more of a forest with the Apes living on a much bigger space compared to the other two homes. Ngamba has some of the best and most fascinating tales about chimpanzees. It also provides an excellent secondary forest habitat for other wildlife species including fruit bats, spiders, fish eagles, otters, and monitor lizards.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, a Non-Government Organization, is responsible for all aspects of the sanctuary at Ngamba Island. Deeply committed to and involved in the conservation education of local communities. It also works with the Ugandan government and wildlife authorities in their rescue operations of orphaned and confiscated chimps.

Have a close up primate safari experience and make a change in their lives. Experience a rare and unforgettable experience to view and interact with Chimpanzees in a near wild like setting while helping to preserve their precious habitat thereby contributing to conservation of their species. Entrance fees go directly to funding the costs of the sanctuary.

Buggala island

In the waters of Lake Victoria, Buggala is the largest Island.  It is well developed for tourism and regularly receives visitors. It’s also heavily forested but with time, the local trees have slowly become replaced with palm trees. Therefore, palm tree viewing is one of the attractions that will capture your attention. There are also some animals on the island such as; the vervet monkey. Bushbuck, and black and white colobus monkeys. Like at Musambwa, Buggala’s trees also have a cultural affiliation with the natives because they believe spirits live in the trees and while at the island, make sure you capture some interesting stories from the local people.

It is linked to the mainland by a regular motor ferry and dotted with accommodation to suit most tastes and budgets. Kalangala, the administrative centre for the Islands, is a small town situated on a ridge at the eastern end of Bugala, while the nearby Lutoboka Bay hosts the Island’s main cluster of beach resorts. Another important landmark on Bugala is Luku, the small village on the western extreme of the Island where the motor ferry from mainland docks. A good dirt road connects Luku to Kalangala, and several minor roads run to other villages lying further south on the Island.

Musambwa Island.

‘Musambwa’ is a Luganda local word in the meaning ‘spirit’ or ‘demon’. The Island received its name due to the large numbers of different snakes that are assumed to be ‘spirits’ which lived there. The Island is believed to be having the best morals in the world since no one is allowed to have sexual intercourse there or else the spirits will embarrass them and the entire human population living there. This belief is one of the reasons that has protected the residents of the island against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDs which is a prevalent epidemic on most other islands in Lake Victoria.

More so, the Island is only inhabited by men and women are not allowed to reach it since they may lead the men into sexual temptation. It’s a great place worth a visit on Uganda safaris. The people living there believe that the true land owners are the ‘spirits’ in form of snakes while the people are simply visitors. Mzei Emmanuel Kaberenge who is among the first settlers on the island (who arrived in 1964) says that he found just four people living on the island who told him about the dos and don’ts of the island which he passed on to the those who came after him.

On top of all, Musambwa islands is known for its rich cultural diversity by the fact that its occupied by only men. The island has reptiles like the African rock pythons, cobras, vipers and monitor lizards but one unique thing about these reptiles is that they have a great bond with the people in that most of the community members are not scared being near these reptiles and look at them as the owners of the island. Men live harmoniously with snakes and several birds, and have a population of about 100 people. They are 3 rocky-islands approximately 5km from the Kasensero Landing site on Lake Victoria. Residents of the island, located in Rakai district, have learnt to live with snakes, especially cobras. They do not kill snakes and the reptiles do not bite them.

The Island is also a breeding ground to several bird species including the Grey Headed Gull (this is the biggest breeding colony on the African continent), Long-Tailed Cormorant, Little Egret and the Greater Cormorant. Other species include Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, White-winged Black Tern, Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Flamingo, Sacred Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Egyptian Goose, Common Moorhen, African Marsh Harrier, Spur-winged Plover, Hamerkop, Black Crake, Green-backed Heron, Cattle Egret, African Fish Eagle, Herring Gull, Common Sandpiper, Water Thick-knee, Open-Billed Stork, Yellow-billed Duck and Pink-backed Pelican.

Musambwa islands are three rocky islands about five kilo meters offshore from Kasensero Landing site in Rakai District off the shores of Sango Bay region in Lake Victoria. There is basically tented accommodation at Musambwa Eco Tourism Site. The Island derived its name from the overwhelming number of snakes in the area which are believed to be spirits rather than normal snakes. Within an area of five acres and a population of less than 100 people, Musambwa Island on Lake Victoria has more than 2,000 snakes, a ratio of over 20 snakes per person.

Bukasa Island

This is the second largest on Lake Victoria with an elevation of 1,134 meters and it is very attractive. From Bugala Island it is a 3-hour boat ride to Bukasa Island. Its treasures may include; birds, monkeys, forests with forest games and activities plus a plunge pool and waterfall. The island has some cozy housing facilities that will cost you about $20 or more for a night.

This is the second largest on Lake Victoria and it is very attractive. It is mostly forested and monkeys and birds are in plenty. Points of interest are a plunge pool surrounded by forest and a waterfall. The island can be explored on foot.

Ssese Islands

Uganda almost 1,200 kilometers from the India Ocean makes Lonely Planet’s List of the top ten Hidden Islands in the World.  The Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria, a lake as large as a sea, with its golden beaches, whispering Palm Trees, its wildlife, birds, and forests, culture, affordability were some of the reasons that they made Lonely Planet’s list of the world’s best Hidden Islands. Tropical Islands which abound with lush vegetation, including many Palm Trees, wildlife, monkeys, birds, friendly and welcoming inhabitants, away from the crowds off of the beaten Tourist path.

The Ssese Islands are the perfect place for relaxation after spending days on safari in trekking gorillas and chimpanzees, golden monkeys, climbing volcanoes, or trekking the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Islands are simply one of the best places close to Entebbe International airport and convenient departure for your home country. The reality is that the Ssese Islands Uganda’s Secret Tropical Islands are already a well-known destination for Ugandans for its beauty, affordability and ease of access.

The Ssese Islands are listed amongst the world’s best secret islands in the Landlocked country (Uganda) thus making it the top ten list of the World’s best secret Island located in Lake Victoria. What makes them different from many other island destinations is that they are not developed for tourism, there are no much beach hotels instead there is only one fivestar Resort on Bulago Island. It is most visited by tourists, most hotels are located along the lake giving you beachfront views of the lake and access to the lake. The private Bulago Island is a 45-minute speed boat ride from Munyonyo.

Here on the Ssese Islands, you can visit local Fishing Villages and meet Ugandans, learn their culture and ways of living. You can go boating, paddling yourself or with a guide, motorboat to various islands, fish for the super-sized Nile Perch, or tasty Tilapia, feast on local fruit including, bananas, mangoes, papaya, watermelons, jackfruit and pineapples with a taste and flavor, sweetness not found elsewhere in the world.


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