Lake Mutanda is a little known jewel, hidden in the mountainous landscape of southwestern Uganda, in Kisoro District. It is one of the most scenic lakes in Africa, located in a dramatic landscape of lush and verdant sprawling highlands.
Its fresh clear water is dotted by at least 15 islands lush trees & shrubs, and the lake is ringed by beautiful scenery of sprawling highlands clad with green vegetation, plantations, and terraces of crops along the slopes. This amazing scenery is set against a stunning backdrop of cloudy peaks of the Virunga Mountain Volcanoes. The chain of volcanoes of the Virunga Mountain Range spans the boarders of Uganda, Rwanda & Congo, and Uganda shares 3 of its prominent 8 Volcanoes. The 3 are Mts. Muhavira, Gahinga & Mt. Sabyinyo which make up Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These are very visible, rising in the background over Lake Mutanda & the sprawling highlands, with white fluffy clouds floating across their peaks. In the morning, thick clouds of mist shroud the lush highlands, and create mystic scenery over Lake Mutanda and such an awe-inspiring view!
The 15 islands of Lake Mutanda are barely touched, with only one inhabited by a local community and few have been tiled to grow crops & tree plantations. A number of the other islands are virgin with only overgrown vegetation that’s rich with wildlife.
The biggest island, named after the lake, is Mutanda Island. This is inhibited by a local community of the “Abagesera” clan. These grow crops, such as peas, bananas, and sugar canes. A good portion of this island is covered by trees and shrubs. There is a church built on top of the island and local worshipers from the mainland canoe to this island to attend service at this church.
There are two islands that earned the name Punishment Islands for being the places where criminals & misfits of the society were taken and dumped as a punishment. Unmarried pregnant girls, the elderly with no one to care for them, criminals such as thieves, and unwanted people from the region would be tied & taken to the island and left to die there. Others would be killed and dumped at these islands. Caves with skeletal remains are found at the islands. These two islands are feared by the locals & actually no one walks on them because of the belief that they are haunted by the dead.
Another intriguing island is the Python Island, which is home to pythons. The pythons are however rarely seen.
Wildlife to find in Lake Mutanda and on the Islands
There are few bird found here, and this is because of the high elevation and cold weather that’s unfavorable to many species. Some of the common birds include Pin-tailed Whydah, Great Cormorant, Pied & Malachite Kingfisher, & sunbirds. Otters are common in the lake; meanwhile there are few fish species, about 3, including Cat & Mad Fish. Pythons inhabit some of the islands, and the Python Island is said to harbor many.
Tours and activities to do at Lake Mutanda
This is the best experience on Lake Mutanda. To ride on the calm waters feeling the cold breeze and tranquility, go around the islands & enjoy beautiful views of the landscape and the amazing scenery while observing some wildlife such as birds and otters.
Visit the Python Island for a chance to view these enormous snakes. A good time to catch them is on a hot day. The pythons normally eat fish & other water creatures in Lake Mutanda. Also, visit the punishment islands and checkout the caves with skeletal remains of the punished. Trek on Mutanda Island and visit the local community and church, and you can take some donations for the locals. The island also offers vantage point for beautiful views over the lake.
Hike to and around the lake and access great vantage points for wonderful views of Mutanda and the volcanoes.
With good mountain bikes, biking the mountain landscape around Lake Mutanda is quite exhilarating.
Lake Mutanda is also within reach of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where you can go do the famous gorilla trekking adventure and other trekking adventures with the lake providing soothing and relaxing base. It is only 45 minutes drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park about 1.5 hours drive to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.