My first trip to Kalangala islands in the last week of April this year was marked by anxiety and huge expectations. Kalangala is Uganda’s only district that is located in Lake Victoria. I felt anxious because I am always averse to traveling on water because Uganda’s water transport facilities are not that fully developed. Nevertheless, I was duty-bound to make a first to Kalangala. But, at the end of it all the trip turned out exciting and loaded with several surprises.
Days before the trip, I had heard several stories about Kalangala and the island communities. Getting to Kalangala is mainly by water through Entebbe or Masaka. There are two ferries (ships) and speed boats that are ready to transport people to Kalangala. It was a great moment sitting down in MV Kalangala ship for 3hours from Entebbe to Kalangala catching a glimpse of beautiful scenery of forested lake shores. There are also boats connecting Kalangala’s main island of Bugala to other 76 inhabited islands. Fishing is the main economic activity in this area although people are diversifying to oil palm farming.
After sailing across Lake Victoria, Africa's largest fresh water lake, for at least 3 hours, finally MV Kalangala ship landed at the stunning Bugala island, Kalangala. The sight of the evergreen forested shores of Lake Victoria gives Kalangala a beautiful, serene, natural and evergreen look. And, if you are looking for quiet and freshness from the bustle and irritation of dusty Kampala city, Kalangala is the place to be.
In here, lies a huge tourism potential which Ugandans should market so well. The peace you find in Kalangala especially contributed by beautiful views of the shores of Lake Victoria is unbelievable. It’s a perfect get away for personal reflection. The pretty white sand beaches are an epitome of Uganda’s beauty at its peak. Kalangala is a gem of sorts that should protected by all Ugandans.
Undulating forested lake shores make an eye catching sight. The scenic view of the gently sloping hills bordering Lake Victoria provides a tip of the beauty that lies within Uganda. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest fresh water lake. It is also a home of a delicious fish species called Nile perch. Most beaches and resorts in Kalangala can’t afford to miss this fresh fish on their menu.
It was my first time to eat roasted tilapia fished from Lake Victoria. But the bad news from this lake is the rapidly dwindling fish stocks and threat of pollution from mushrooming factories in towns surrounding Lake Victoria. Already the fisheries department has recorded a drastic drop in fish catches. The leading reason for declined fish stock in the lake is overfishing fueled by use of illegal gear that indiscriminately catches both big and young fish. This indiscriminate fishing denies the lake resources to replenish for sustainable future use.
Also the massive oil palm growing venture between government and private investor, BIDCO, in Kalangala district can’t hide from a probing eye. Much as the oil palm investment is reported to be improving household incomes of out growers, it continues to draw divided opinion because it pits development against conservation. Already, an estimated 10,000 hectares of natural vegetation (grasslands and trees) on the main Bugala Island have been cleared to give way for palm oil growing. The conservationists are very worried about the impact this cutting down of lake shore natural forest will have on the future of Lake Victoria.
Indeed, several environmental studies have widely blamed Lake Victoria’s increased water pollution on the use of agrochemicals that BIDCO sprays on oil palms to enhance growth on the plantation.
Environmental activists argue that although oil palms have boosted some people’s finances, Lake Victoria, its ecosystem and the promising tourism industry are the biggest losers.
Activists say the beauty of Bugala has been battered and the lake is getting silted because some oil palm farmers cultivate up to the shoreline. There is an urgent need to balance environmental and development concerns in order to save the gems of Kalangala islands.
Mubatsi Asinja Habati