Uganda is rapidly becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in Africa. People come from all over the world to marvel at the wildlife and plant life, eat incredible food, and take in the breathtaking scenery. The landscapes in Uganda are varied and wonderful. They’re perfect for hiking or taking nature walks.
Visit Ssese Islands in Uganda
Ugandan people are also famously friendly and accommodating. People who visit Uganda regularly report that they had the time of their lives because of the warm local reception!
Uganda also has one natural wonder that is shared by only two other countries in the world – Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world. No trip to Uganda is complete without a trek to this marvelous lake and the islands that border her northern shores.
It might seem strange that some of Africa’s best beaches are located in the middle of a continent, but that’s exactly what this archipelago is! Once a well-kept secret only known to locals, adventurous explorers and lucky backpackers, it’s now accessible to everyone.
Right on the shores of Lake Victoria, you’ll find the Ssese Islands, one of Uganda’s most beautiful destinations. Comprised of 84 islands and stretching across the northern shore of Lake Victoria, these islands boast some wonderful beaches, gorgeous wildlife and accommodations to fit every budget. Whatever your travel style is, you’ll find something to suit your needs on this island archipelago.
Here’s your Complete African Safari Packing List
About the Ssese Islands
The Ssese Islands are located in the northwest of Lake Victoria, Uganda. The islands are an archipelago of 84 islands – 43 of which are inhabited.
The islands range in size from less than 10,000 square meters to more than 40 km in length (Buggala Island).
If relaxing on a Ssese Islands beach isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! The beaches are perfect for chilling out with an engrossing book or taking a romantic stroll. At night, the beaches are aglow with bonfires and beach parties under a vast, starry sky. Nature lovers and sun worshipers alike will adore the beaches, flora, and fauna that this island chain has to offer. If lounging on the beach or taking a brisk nature stroll isn’t up your alley, there are plenty of other things to do at this Lake Victoria hot spot!
Why visit the Ssese Islands? The islands are home to many animals (including primates) that are not easily seen on the mainland. Visitors are just beginning to discover the natural wealth of the archipelago – creating a new and growing tourism industry. The local infrastructure is basic and improving.
Language in the Ssese Islands
The island locals speak Luganda. Outside of the Kalangala Bay area, the locals don’t speak English. Learn more about language in Uganda.
Where the Ssese Islands Get Their Name
The islands are named after the Tsetse Fly – because, on occasion, these lakeflies breed into giant swarms near the shores. While the enormous clouds of flies is impressive to see, the sound can be quite irritating. These swarms generally disperse within a few hours and life returns to normal.
Getting to the Ssese Islands
These islands are very accessible by both small charter plane and daily boat rides from Kalangala, Uganda – so you’ll have no trouble getting there.
You’ll arrive in Bugala Island, the largest of the archipelago, and you can make the decision to stay there or venture on to one of the other beaches. If you decide to spend the night in one spot you can always go to another island the next evening.
Getting around from island to island is easy. Bugala is the most popular island and is full of plenty of activities and great accommodations for every taste and budget. Your perfect Ssese Islands hotel might just be there! If you’re looking for somewhere more private, or want to venture off the beaten path, simply take your pick from any of the other islands!
To get to Buggala Island, you can choose from two large ferries.
One travels from Nakiwogo dock (south of Entebbe and Kalangala Bay) and takes 3.5 hours. It departs at 8am daily. This is a passenger and vehicle ferry. The second ferry travels from Bukakata and has 4 daily departures: 8am, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 4pm.
To get to Bulago Island, you can travel by speedboat. There is an airstrip under construction on this island.
To travel to the other islands, you can travel by lake taxis. These large wooden boats transport both passengers and cargo.
Find a great hotel in Entebbe.
Ssese Island Animals
On Buggala Island, you can find hippos in a swamp near Mulabana. The islands are filled with birds and it’s common to see vervet monkeys. You might even see large snakes.
The crested crane (pictured below) is Uganda’s national bird.
Uganda is the home of the elusive and rare mountain gorilla, a majestic species that has been steadily growing in the country’s jungles, as well as many other primates and species of jungle animals! Here’s how to choose a Uganda gorilla trek.
If you venture into the lush interior jungle of many of these prized islands, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the animals you’ll find there! Many species of monkeys make their homes all over the islands, as well as sitatunga antelopes and over a thousand species of birds. These islands are a favorite destination for bird watching and having a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with exotic, tropical birds that you can’t find anywhere else in the world! Bring your binoculars, camera, and guidebook!
Need help choosing your binoculars? Check out this Buyers Guide to Safari Binoculars.
Also, be prepared to see extraordinary butterflies in every color of the rainbow. Uganda has 6.8 percent of all of the world’s butterfly species so you’re sure to encounter many of these winged beauties. There are plenty of designated treks so you’re unlikely to encounter any dangerous creatures.
Nile crocodiles and hippos do live in Lake Victoria, but it’s rare for a tourist to encounter one. Your stroll through the jungle will be safe and full of wondrous creatures enjoying their natural habitats! If you are an animal lover or conservationist, you must spend some time on the Ssese Islands Uganda.
Many people come to these delightful islands to chill out and recharge! You can easily spend days relaxing on the sandy beaches, but if you’re interested in exploring, these islands were made for you!
All of the islands are full of winding trails for walking or bike riding. Bike riding is especially popular and cycling enthusiasts will love riding on the Ssese Islands beach, specifically the popular circuit to Mutumbula. You’re likely to see exotic creatures like Sitatunga Antelope while on your journey! Some might even join you on your trek!
Prefer something a little more hardcore? See your fill of the islands on an ATV Quad Bike! You’ll ride in style and cover an incredible amount of territory. You can even join a group and go exploring together. Make sure you bring a camera!
For nature lovers, there are plenty of trails and mapped out walks to embark on. You’ll see jungle animals and foliage that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. The islands have an incredible bounty of flowers and plants – you won’t be disappointed! This island chain has remained largely unspoiled and undeveloped, so you’ll get to see nature in its purest form.
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Stargaze To Your Heart’s Content
Far from the light pollution of major cities, the Ssese Islands Uganda archipelago has some breathtaking stargazing. You’ll be able to look over the clear waters of Lake Victoria and take in a panoramic sky spattered with millions of stars. The only light you’ll see are from the bonfires that dot the beaches, lending an otherworldly orange glow to the background. There is nothing more cathartic and enchanting than looking over an unblemished star-filled sky!
This island chain also hosts some amazing pyrotechnic shows that illuminate the sky with spectacular fire. The fire shows are tremendously popular, especially on islands like Bugala known for their beach parties and bonfires. If you’ve never seen a fire show, it’s definitely worth seeing at least once in your life.
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Get Out On The Open Water
Lake Victoria is shared by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. People flock to this incredible place every year to walk its pristine shores, marvel at the wildlife and unplug from the stressors of daily life.
Why not also get out on the water? The lake has so much to offer, from fishing tours to small excursions and all-day trips. You can pick the time and length of your journey, sit back, relax and enjoy the splendor all around you. Whether you want to do some simple island hopping, or really get out into the heart of the lake, there are tours for everyone. Charter a boat or go with a group – it’s your choice!
If you enjoy fishing, Lake Victoria is teeming with Nile Tilapia and Nile Perch as well as many other species of freshwater fish.
When the day winds down, you can partake in a popular activity, sunset cruises. Sunset cruises are especially popular because tourists and visitors can get a unique view of the sun setting over the water! There are plenty of boat tours from any of the popular islands, or you can customize your own private tour. The options are really endless.
Sample The Local Fruits
It’s not an ‘activity’ per se, but trying tropical fruits and delicacies should absolutely be on your list of things to do on the Ssese Archipelago!
You’ll find your favorites like mango, pineapple, and papaya and get a chance to try out a beloved African fruit; jackfruit! This enormous fruit is delicious, creamy and one of a kind. Try some for breakfast, or as a delicious treat after a long bike ride.
Check out our Uganda Food Guide (16 Must-Try Dishes for Your Visit)
Jackfruit is recognizable because of its spiky exterior and giant size. Sometimes it is confused with durian, the famously stinky fruit of Southeast Asia, but it actually has a pleasant smell and even better taste. You’ll absolutely want to try this delicacy. Jackfruit is not readily available outside of Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, so make sure you get your fill while traveling in Uganda and visiting this island archipelago!
Go Whitewater Rafting
Adventurous souls rejoice! Uganda is quickly becoming one of the premier destinations for whitewater rafting in the world and Lake Victoria is the perfect spot to try out your sea (lake?) legs!
Join a tour or venture out on your own on the open water! Every island should have ample whitewater rafting opportunities for every skill level, so whether you’re a novice or an expert, you’re in luck. Whitewater rafting is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget and one you’ll want to have at least once. Whitewater rafting on Lake Victoria is a unique experience also, because of the sheer size of the lake. Why not spend your morning luxuriating on the beach and your afternoon out on the water, testing your skills at whitewater rafting?
One of the most popular things to do in the Ssese Islands Uganda is a little island hopping. With 84 islands in this beautiful archipelago, you’ll be able to go from party heavy Bugala to the most isolated and relaxed islands on the outer parts of the chain.
Once you’ve arrived in Bugala, you can easily get to any other island. Even if you’re staying on one island, there’s no reason you can’t make a day trip out of venturing to different parts of the Ssese Islands. Simply talk to your hotel personnel and ask what the best course of action would be. They’d be happy to help!
Learn more: Uganda Currency: 12 Things to Know
Eat Some Delicious Traditional Food
Uganda’s food is inspired by cuisines such as Asian, English and Arabic fare and has its own unique spin. The must-try dish here is a savory chicken, mushroom or beef stew. It’s sure to warm you up when the sun goes down!
Since you’re right on the banks of the largest freshwater lake in Africa, it would be a sin not to try some of the local fish. Nile Perch and Nile Tilapia are plentiful in Lake Victoria, and the island locals know how to prepare them in mouthwatering ways! Nothing beats sitting on the beach and snacking on fish pulled from the waters just hours before!
The Sesese Island Archipelago in Uganda is one of the most amazing places in the world. With something for everyone; chilled out beaches, heart-pounding whitewater rafting, glorious sunset cruises, incredible wildlife, beautiful scenery, and tasty local fruits. It’s easily accessible and has something for every style and budget. Whether you’re traveling solo, on a romantic trip, or with your family, you’ll find Ssese to be an excellent vacation spot. Make sure you visit this gorgeous island chain while it’s still one of Uganda’s best-kept secrets and experience the splendor of Ssese for yourself!
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Ssese Islands Hotels and Accommodations
Whether your dream Ssese Islands hotel is a luxurious resort or a modest beachside hotel, you can find it on Uganda’s best chain of islands. The islands, especially tourist favorite Bugala, have places to stay to suit every taste and budget. You’ll be able to find something that perfectly suits you.
Many of these places are right on the beach, giving you a glorious view of Lake Victoria. You’ll be able to bask in relaxing views and soak up incredible sunrises and sunsets. Whether relaxing or living it up is your style, the Ssese Islands have got you covered. There are places for quiet relaxation and contemplation, and hotels that cater to partying on the beach – plus everything in between.
- Hornbill Camp +256414220065
- Ssese Islands Beach Hotel +256414220065
- Banda Island +256772222777
- Islands Club +256-772-504027
- Kingfisher Camping Site 0754 157888, 0753 231531, 0782 455358
- Mirembe Beach Resort +256 0392 772703, 0782 528651
- Panorama Camp +256773 015574
- Ssese Habitat Resort, email@example.com, 0312 278318, 077692269
- Brovad Sands Lodge, Ssese Islands (Located on Bugala Island), +256-701367970
- Philo Leisure Gardens Hotel, Ssese Islands, Kalangala +256774006331
Learn more about Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.
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Hi, I’m Dena Haines. And I’m co-founder of Storyteller travel. I love to cover food, animals, and destinations around the world. I also blog about photography at ClickLikeThis.