The Ssese Islands are an archipelago of eighty-four (84) islands in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The islands are coterminous with the Kalangala District in southern Central Uganda, which does not have any territory on mainland Uganda.
The islands occupy the northwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The largest island in the archipelago is called Bugala Island. Its largest town, called Kalangala serves as the headquarters of the district that carries the same name (Kalangala District). Kalangala is located approximately 51 kilometres (32 mi), across water, southwest of Entebbe, in Wakiso District, on the Ugandan mainland.
The islands lie in two main groups. The south west can be referred to as the Bugala Group, after Bugala Island, the largest in the archipelago. The northeastern group can be referred to as the Koome Group, after Koome Island, the largest in that group. The two groups are separated by the Koome Channel.
Bugala Island can be accessed most easily by ferry from Entebbe and near Masaka. There is the Kalangala Ferry (which also carries vehicles) which was restored to service, the MV Amani which was also restored to service. For safety reasons it is best to stay away from smaller, Ugandan styled boats for safety reasons.
The private Bulago Island is a 45-minute speed boat ride from Munyonyo.
The Ssese Islands – are listed among the world’s best secret Islands by Lonely Planet.
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. And on top of that amazing Sunrises and Sunset and Holiday Weather all-year long, at night you have the Moon and a starlit sky along with the lightning over this vast lake which provides spectacular pyrotechnic like displays at night.
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The Ssese Islands provide the perfect backdrop for many activities of which chilling out is foremost but there is so much more – these hidden and to most secret islands are a paradise largely undiscovered yet treasured by those who visit here as one of Pearls in the Pearl of Africa – Uganda.
Other islands in the Bugala Group include: Bubeke, Bufumira, Bugaba, Bukasa, Buyova, Funve and Serinya. The main islands in the Koome Group include: Damba, Koome and Luwaji.
Henry Morton Stanley described the inhabitants as “the principal canoe builders and the greater number of the sailors of Mutesa’s empire.”
The principal industry in the Ssese Islands is fishing for the huge Nile Perch, with much of the catch being exported. Over-fishing is a huge concern on these and other islands in Lake Victoria. Other industries include agriculture, forestry and tourism.
The islands are also home to a variety of animals including primates, which are not easily accessible on the mainland. This has led to the evolution of a nascent but growing tourism industry on the islands. Infrastructure is still rudimentary but is slowly improving.