Our journey to Ssese Islands started at Nakiwogo landing site at Entebbe where we boarded the MV Kalangala, a state-owned ferry and the largest among all the ferries that operate on Uganda’s side of Lake Victoria.
Sailing with MV Kalangala
Each passenger on the ferry is charged Ushs14,000 to sail with MV Kalangala from Entebbe to the Ssese Islands, a charge so fair considering the 3-4 hours’ journey thanks for the government’s hand to help citizens travel at discounted prices.
The ferry is large enough to take up to about 200 passengers with some sitting in the passengers’ lounge while the more adventure-loving ones decide to sail while standing in the outer part having fun and viewing everything on water and the nearby landing sites.
The ferry has got on-board services like catering and beverages with waiters and waitresses always moving around to receive orders for food, tea, and beverages from the passengers.
The water journey from Entebbe to Ssese Islands took us 3 and a half hours and it was all comfortable and fun with no strong winds on the water to challenge the ferry.
Setting sights on the beautiful Ssese Islands
Before reaching the shores at Bugala Island, one of the 84 Islands that make up Ssese, you see a large beautiful green cover shoreline that surrounds the waters. The shoreline of Bugala Island is covered by a large white sand beach with shallow waters very comfortable for those who love swimming.
There is a warm reception from lodges and resorts managers who stand with placards with names of their facilities ready to take those arriving with the ferry to their accommodation facilities.
We booked our accommodation with Brovad Sands Lodge, arguably the best luxury lodge at the Islands and their driver was ready with the hotel van to take us to their premises.
There is no much activity at this landing site apart from loading and off-loading of passengers and commodities and reception of visitors by their hosting hotel attendants.
From here we headed straight to Brovad Sands Lodge for check in and we were received warmly by their staff who also briefed us about the lodge, the Islands, and the activities to do on the islands.
Accommodation at Brovad Sands Lodge
Having arrived late in the evening, we checked in to our rooms after the briefing and we waited for dinner that was served at 8 pm. Each room is well furnished with nice beds, towels bathrooms, soap, and a closet. All rooms have also got a TV set with a large flat screen.
The meals at the lodge are also very attractive with a fat menu comprised of among others fish, pork, chicken, beef, vegetables, and all the local foodstuffs.
The lodge also offers recreation activities like boat riding and beach volleyball.
Tour activities at the Islands
According to our guide, Mr. Edrine, Ssese is made up of 84 Islands and Bugala, where we visited, is the largest of them all. He added that the Island is generally the second largest on the whole of Lake Victoria after the Ukerewe Island in Tanzania.
The major tour activities on the Island include visiting the largest palm tree farm in Uganda that is located on this island. The palm seeds are used to produce various products that include cooking oil, soap, Vaseline, among others. Palm trees are the chief cash crop grown on the Island.
The forest next to the farm contains a famous tree that is used to provide the traditional stick (Ddamula) which is given to the Prime Minister (Katikiro) of Buganda when he is being enthroned.
On your way to the palm farm, you pass through a forest that has got several mammal species including antelopes, zebras, impalas and several primates dominated by the vervet monkey.
After the palm tree farm, there is a nice elevation where visitors stand and have a beautiful panoramic view of most of the islands that make up Ssese.
There is also a brief visit to a cultural site known as Kiwumulo/Kalaya cave where several traditional practices are performed. The cave is also reportedly regularly visited by the Kabaka of Buganda every time he pays a visit to Ssese Islands.
There is a short trip the busiest Island known as Mweena which is highly populated with several fishing-related activities and trade. The Island reportedly faces a high rate of HIV infection.
According to Mr. Edrine, out of the 84 Islands that make up Ssese, 64 are inhabited by people while the rest are not settled because they are rocky and also inhabits dangerous reptiles like crocodiles.
The return journey with MV Vanessa
After the conclusion of our 2-days Ssese tour, we booked our return journey with MV Vanessa, the newest and modern boat that also runs trips between Entebbe and Ssese Islands.
Sailing with the 54-seater MV Vanessa gives you a unique experience which is so exceptional par the Ugandan standard.
The cruise in this brand new boat which is managed by the Nyanza Water Ways is so smooth and comfortable even during the stubborn waves in the middle of the waters.
Even when we met some strong waves that seemed to shake the boat a little bit, the staff just told us to relax and enjoy the cruise and indeed there was nothing to fear at the end.
MV Vanessa is way faster than the veteran MV Kalangala. The new boat spends only one hour and fifteen minutes for each return journey connecting Entebbe and Ssese Islands.
The boat departs every Friday at 4 pm from Entebbe at Water Front Club to Kalangala and returns to Entebbe on Sunday at 2 pm. Each journey takes just 1 and a quarter hours.
To sail with MV Vanessa, adults are charged Ushs65,000 for a return journey and Ushs35,000 for one way. Children aged between 4-10 years pay Ushs55,000 for a return journey and Ushs30,000 for one way while those aged 3 and below travel for free. The maximum weight of luggage allowed per client is 15kg.