Ssese Islands Kalangala, Tours, Hotels, Things To Do

A complete guide to Ssese Islands in Uganda. This portal helps you plan for your tour with information about the Islands, how to get there and when, attractions and things to do, a sample 3 day tour to Kalangala, where to stay and top recommended hotels, tour operators and contact information.

ssese island tours
Ssese Islands General Introduction

Located in the Northwestern part of the Lake Victoria, the Ssese Islands are an archipelago of 84 Islands 43 of which are inhabited. The Island was named Ssese after the Tsetse flies that are found on the different parts of the Island. Clouds of the tsetse flies can still be seen and it is better you avoid them while there due to the irritating noise that the make.

The Ssese Islands categorized into two islands that is the Koome Islands which are found in the North Eastern part of Lake victoria and the Bugala Islands in the south western part of Lake victoria and these are separated by the Koome channel.

Some of the Islands that make up the Ssese Islands include the Bugala, Banda, Koome and the Ngamba Islands among others. The Islands differ in size from about 10, 000 square kilometers to over 40 kilometers in length with the largest being the Bugala Island and the most visited. The Islands in Ssese that are filled with locals are not so many but you will find a welcoming atmosphere from the locals however you will need a translator since the largest population speaks Luganda and not English.

Why Visit Ssese Islands

Imagine untouched natural beauty, a quiet place where you can enjoy your peace, the good food both local and international cuisines and then add on the numerous activities that you can engage in while in one place, now this is what Ssese Islands has to offer to all tourists. Ssese is the right place for anyone who wants to slow down, kick back and relax without the interruption of urban life.

The Island is a home to a lot of things that will keep you on your feet from the bonfires and parties at night, the pristine rain forests where you can have nature walks, different bird species and wildlife and exploration of the Kalaya caves which are believed to be the place where the first people in Kalangala lived.

Banda Island

Banda Island is surrounded by rain forests and the large Lake Victoria which makes it more secluded and the perfect place for tourists to go for a quiet getaway from the busy Center. 10 hectares of the Island were leased to Dominic Symes who opened up a resort adding on to the beautiful scenery of the Island and after his death in 2o11, many of his friends have made sure that the Island keeps its untouched beauty.

Banda Island is a budget friendly place to visit and there are many ways that you can get there. You can connect from Bugala to Banda Island on a hired boat or get a boat ride from Kasenyi landing site in Entebbe straight to Banda.

There is a campsite that you can enjoy, the yummy meals that are served throughout your stay, the numerous activities that you can engage in like kayaking, swimming, relaxing at the beach, beach volleyball, hiking through the heavy rainforest and stargazing when the sunsets among others.

Bugala Island

Bugala is the largest inhabited Islands in Ssese and it is the most visited as well. It is the only Island which is accessible from the mainland by use of a ferry and it is also where the main town known as Ssese is found. Surrounded by beaches and the pristine rainforests, Bugala Island is the best destination for tourists and locals who come from the City Centre on weekends to enjoy more partying, although in a laid back version.

Bulago Island

Bulago Island is an extremely small Island which is just 45 minutes away from Entebbe using a speedboat or less if you charter a plane. The Island lies along the equator and has only one resort known as the Pineapple Bay. The Pineapple Bay offers all the accommodation facilities that you need to inform of villas scattered along the beach and meals all throughout your stay. The few activities that you can enjoy while here include swimming, lounging on the beach and taking a nature walk around the 2500m island.

Ngamba Island

Ngamba Island is one of the many Islands that make up the archipelago of Ssese and an interesting spot for tourists who are into primates. It is a home to about 50 chimpanzees which were rescued at the Entebbe International airport from poachers who were smuggling them out of the country. A centre has been set up so that these are catered for through donations from well-wishers and tourists who visit the Island get to care for the primates with the help of the caretakers.

Koome Island

Koome Island is found in the North-eastern part of Lake Victoria and it is also the largest in the North-eastern Islands which are separated by the Koome Channel. The Island is approximately 63 kilometres away from Kalangala which is found in Bugala and the largest town on Koome Island is known as Bugombe. Some of the activities that you can carry out while here include fishing, beach volleyball, shopping and nature walks among others. The main activities that are carried out by the locals here are fishing, animal rearing and agriculture.

ssese islands

How To Get There To Ssese Islands

Getting to Ssese is extremely easy and there are two main routes that you can use and these are the Masaka route and the Entebbe route.

  • The Entebbe route

The Entebbe route begins at Nakiwogo which is between 10 to 15 minutes away from Entebbe town. When you get to Nakiwogo, you can either use the MV Kalangala or the Nyanza Evergreen waterways company vessels which plough this route.

  • The MV Kalangala

This is one of the largest ships used to travel to Ssese Islands from Nakiwogo in Entebbe and it transports both vehicles and people. The ride from Nakiwogo to Lutoboka Bay which is found in Bugala island will take about 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Bookings for vehicles are done earlier on so that the numbers do not exceed the limit that is allowed on the MV Kalangala and the charge fee on the vehicles depends on the model of the car and their weight.

Passengers in the first class pay Ushs14, 000 for a one way ticket and those in the economy pay Ushs10, 000. The only difference between the first and economy class is that the economy class is more crowded as compared to the first class.

The MV Kalangala has daily trips to Ssese Islands and it sets off at 2:00pm with boarding beginning as early as 1:00pm.

  • The Nyanza Evergreen waterways company vessels

The Nyanza Evergreen waterways company vessels have two luxurious boats that are worked interchangeably depending on the number of passengers available and these are the MV Nathalie and MV Vanessa.

The MV Nathalie and MV Vanessa are luxurious boats that dock at the Nakiwogo landing site. It takes roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes while using these MVs to get to Bugala at the Lutoboka bay. The boats are pre-booked for those who would want to use them and they have trips to and from Ssese from Monday to Sunday. The transport fares for the boats keeps on changing depending on the day and they range from USH 35, 000 to Ushs100, 000.

  • The Masaka route

There are two MVs that run the Masaka route and these are the MV Ssese and the MV pearl. The two MVs dock at the Bukakata landing site. The two MVs make several trips during the day since the ride from Bukakata to Bugala Island in Ssese is just 30 minutes. They transport both passengers and vehicles and unlike the MV Kalangala, no pre-booking is needed along the Masaka route and the tickets can be bought just before boarding.

To get to Bukakata, you will board a taxi or drive from Kampala heading to Masaka and after reaching Total garage in Masaka, turn left and head towards Nyendo trading Centre where you will find Petro filling station. At Petro till turn left or ask around at the stage and you will have to drive for about 32km before you get to Bukakata.

Things to Do , Ssese Islands Kalangala

Ssese Island generally has a lot to offer when it comes to activities and these can be carried out at the different Islands. These activities are easily arranged and it does not matter whether you are going to spend a short or long time at the Island because there is a chance that you will participate in most of them.  The most participated in activities in Ssese include quad biking, village walks, sport fishing, traveling from one Island to the next, shopping, birding, swimming, cycling, enjoy boda rides, check out the wildlife in the area like bush bucks, situngas, and many more others.

Sport Fishing

This one of the ways in which you can entertain yourself while in Ssese. You will however need to first obtain a fishing permit from the authorities before engaging in this activity. There are a lot of species that you will find but the most famous one is the Nile Perch. Note that you will need to come with fishing gear and in case you do not have, you can still hire from the locals at a considerably affordable price.

Swimming

The best place to go for swimming while in Ssese is along the numerous beaches along the shores of Lake Victoria. You get to enjoy a dip in the largest water body in East Africa and if you are not into swimming, you can ass well enjoy the view that the beaches and the Lake have to offer. And if you are not so sure about swimming in such waters due to fear of contracting diseases, there are several swimming pools where you can enjoy this activity.

Ngamba Island

Ngamba Island is one of the many Islands that make up the archipelago of Ssese and an interesting spot for tourists who are into primates. It is a home to about 50 chimpanzees which were rescued at the Entebbe International airport from poachers who were smuggling them out of the country. A centre has been set up so that these are catered for through donations from well-wishers and tourists who visit the Island get to care for the primates with the help of the caretakers.

Bird watching

Ssese Island is a home to quite a large number of bird species which can easily be seen in the swamps, the forests and along the Lake Victoria. Some of the bird species that you should look out for while in Ssese include Doherty’s Bushrike, the Shelley’s crimsonwing, yellow weaverbirds, shoebill stork, crested crane, the Great Blue Turaco and the African Green Broadbill among others. You will need binoculars in order to be able to see the birds clearly in their natural habitat.

Boat Rides

Boat rides in Ssese are carried out all throughout the day and you will find many locally made boats ready to take you around Lake Victoria while visiting the different landing sites. The boat rides can also take you from one Island to another for those that are adventurous but remember to put on a life jacket before boarding one. A boat ride in Ssese approximately costs Ushs50, 000 per hour although the price can easily change due to different circumstances.

Ssese Island Animals & Wildlife

Ssese is a home to quite a wide range of wildlife and these can be seen in different areas around the Island. Some of the animals that you should look out for are the vervet monkeys which can be seen jumping from one tree to the next, Situnga antelopes, chimpanzees in Ngamba Island and hippos which are best seen near Mulabana in a swamp on Bugala Island.

The Island is also a good place for birding due to the numerous bird species here and not forgetting the butterflies which are part of the 7% total population of butterflies in the whole world. Grab those binoculars and go enjoy some birding and butterfly watching in Ssese.

Walks & Hikes (Trails)

There are two types of walks that you can engage in while in Ssese that is the Nature walk through the forests and the village walks. The Island has welcoming people and it will not be a surprise to them when you take on walk through the different villages on the Island where you get to meet and engage with the locals.

The nature walks through the forests is another experience all together as you get to see the different types of trees, species of butterflies, insects and birds and not forgetting the animals.

Enjoy The Local Fruits

This is not an activity as per say but the Island has a large number of fruits that you ought to try out while here. The different fruits that are found on the Island are a delicacy that everyone should taste at any time of the day. You will find fruits like the Jack fruits, mangoes, oranges, pineapples, Papayas and watermelons among others. these can easily be provided at the accommodation facility of your choice or you can head out into the town and shop for the tropical fruits of your choice.

Island Hopping

With all the 84 islands making up Ssese, Island hopping is one of the most participated in activities. Island hopping is when you move from one island to another exploring what each has to offer.  All the islands have different scenery that they offer form the untouched beauty of the inhabited islands, the wildlife and the pristine beaches that add to their beauty. When you get to Bugala, it will be easy for you to travel from one Island to the next and this can easily be arranged by the staff at the accommodation facility where you are staying or you can make your own arrangements with the local tour guides.

Eat Traditional Food

Uganda is generally known as the food basket in East Africa with lots of traditional foods grown locally in the different parts of the country. The resorts in Ssese have quite a large menu when it comes to preparing the local foods but the one you should not miss out on is the Fish! Enjoy chicken Luwombo (local chicken steamed in banana leaves), kalo (millet flour) and other interesting foods that will be presented to you. And since you are staying along the beach, look out for the fish that is prepared in all kinds of manner from deep frying to smoking.

ssese tours

Beach Volley Ball

Since many people come to the Island to relax, this is one of the activities that is offered to tourists at the different resorts like Mirembe, the Ssese Island beach hotel offer volleyball as one of the activities for tourists and it is best done in the mornings and evenings as you watch the sunset. Beach volleyball along the various beaches in Ssese does not require for you to be a professional since it is a game many use as a way of relaxing and having fun.

Primates viewing (monkeys)

Primates viewing in Ssese especially monkeys can be done in the rain forests that cover a larger part of the island. The vervet monkeys are the most popular ones ad they can be seen jumping form one tree to the nest. The chimpanzees are found in Ngamba Island where they are catered for and a short trip there will give you chance to feed and cater for the now 50 chimpanzees on the Island.

Quad Biking

Quad biking through the Ssese Island is an exciting activity that will see you drive through the forests, the villages, fishing sites and into the Kalangala town. This is considered to be the best way to explore the Island and the bikes are always available at an affordable price. You can hire a bike and drive through Bugala while doing some sightseeing of the animals in the forest. Free training is carried out before the session begins and if you want to enjoy the bike rides, look for tracks that have mud or water puddles.

Kalaya Caves

The Kalaya caves are of great importance to the Baganda especially the Nkima (monkey) clan of the many totems in the central part of Uganda. The Kalaya caves of Semuggala or Jjaja Kiwumulo are a home to a lot of traditional regalia like spears, bark cloth, calabashes and some locals believe they can be healed once they visit the caves. There are two openings to the cave, a small one used as an exit and the big one as entrance into the caves. The caves also have a fire that is always burning all throughout the day and night.

Sightseeing (Palm trees)

 A relaxed a guided walk through the palm tree plantations is what you need to wind down the long day while in Ssese.  The Island has numerous palm tree plantations that are found in the different parts of the Island and a walk through these trees will be worth your time. You will be welcomed by the owners of these plantations and they will take you around while explaining how they are grown, the harvesting process of the palm fruits and how the palm is made locally.

 

 Ssese Island  Hotel & Accommodation

When planning for a trip, the first question that is asked is whether you will get somewhere to sleep comfortably and the same applies to Ssese Islands. It does not matter whether you want the most luxurious hotels or the low budget friendly lodges because you will find everything in Ssese.

Many of the islands here have accommodation scattered along the pristine beaches giving off a serene look to whoever stays there. The islands offer accommodation that gives you all the privacy and quiet that you need, those that are always throwing beach parties  and others that are halfway between partying and quiet and the choice lays in your hands.

Brovad Sands Lodge

Brovad sands lodge is found on the Bugala Island which is one of the many Islands that make up Ssese. The Broad lodge is the perfect getaway from the busy city Centre surrounded by lush green vegetation and the white sand beach. The lodge has diplomatic suites, family villas and cottages and you get to choose what will work for you best. The lodge is quite affordable and they also offer services like internet, catering and bonfires along the beach.

Pearl Gardens Beach

The Gardens pearl beach resort is found in Kalangala on the Bugala island along the Lutoboka Bay. The acre resort was opened in 2002 and it offers tourists the perfect place to unwind and relax with its attractive scenery of the gardens, the surrounding white sand beaches and the rainforest. The resort is a home away from home and it has a lot to offer ranging from accommodation to the numerous activities carried out around the Island.

Ssese Island Beach Hotel

Ssese island beach hotel offers tourists what they want at an extremely affordable price. It is a good destination for those that are looking for a place to relax, have meetings, enjoy their honeymoon and also have as much fun as they want.  Located along the Lutoboka road, the hotel offers activities like golf, exploration of the animals on the Island, nature walks, beach volley ball and it has the most beautiful view of the white sand beaches and the Lake victoria which can be viewed from the comfort of your room.

Mirembe Resort Beach

Mirembe Resort Beach is located within Kalangala town just about 800 metres away from the landing sites and it offers accommodation, all meals from breakfast, lunch and supper, internet and various activities to tourists visiting the island. The rooms are comfortable and the food ranges from international to local foods and there is aloe bar where you can unwind after the day’s activities. Some of the activities offered here include banana sailing, nature walks, quad biking, sport fishing and boat rides.