Ssese Islands

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 coordinates of the district are:0° 26′ 0.00″S, 32° 15′ 0.00″E (Latitude:-0.4333; Longitude:32.2500).

” 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. ”

The Ssese Islands are inhabited by the Bantu speaking Bassese tribe, closely related to the Baganda and the Basoga, and speaking a similar, though distinct language. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the islands were one of the most important spiritual centers of the region. About 43 (50%) of the islands are inhabited. The islands vary in size from less than 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres), to over 40 kilometres (25 mi) in length for the largest island, Bugala Island.

Getting there: The most popular route that the islands can be accessed is through Nakiwogo near Entebbe by MV Kalangala as the main gateway to the archipelagos. It departs the mainland at 2pm daily and leaves the Island at 8am. Transfer between Nakiwogo and Bugala Island is usually 3½ hours. First class seating costs Ush.14,000 and second class is USh.10,000. Vehicles cost Ush.50,000. It is recommended that you arrive 2 hours earlier for the ferry in order to get a seat since it is served on a basis of first come – first serve. The ferry at times gets over crowded, so arrive early at Nakiwogo to claim a seat or else you may have to stand on the deck.

From Bukakata: From the western part of Uganda, a free car ferry links Bukakata mainland located 36km east of Masaka with Luku on Bugala Islands about 50 minutes sailing. The ferry sails either directions every few hours from early morning to late afternoon. The morning trips on Sunday are not available. The ferry schedule changes often, so it is recommended that you inquire from Philo management to get accurate and updated travel information.