Lakes in Uganda? While most think Lake Victoria, Mburo or Bunyonyi, the crater lakes region near Fort Portal offer stunning scenery and relaxation on a budget. The crater lakes region lies south of Fort Portal in the shadow of the majestic Rwenzori mountains. The area is dotted with over 50 picturesque volcanic crater lakes, each more beautiful than the next, and provide some of the country’s best hiking trails. The area is truly stunning framed by undulating hills and matooke plantations as far as the eye can see.
To get to the crater lakes, drive to Fort Portal from Kampala. The drive takes about 4-5 hours on a road trip from Kampala via Mubende. Once there turn left and immediately left again past the hospital. Continue on this road for about 30 minutes until you find yourself surrounded by picturesque hills, streams and lakes. Accommodation is varied but all budgets are catered for.
For those on a budget, campsites are particularly well-placed. Planet Ruigo Beach Resort is in the south of the region, on the shores of tiny Lake Kasenda. As the mist rises at dawn and the stream slowly trickles into the perfectly still lake, you will feel like you are a million miles away from Kampala. With camping as cheap as 5,000 UGX per person, bandas at 25-30,000 UGX and hearty Ugandan food at approximately 15,000 UGX, the site is excellent value. With open space for children to play, there are few better places to relax.
Other campsites also offer very cheap accommodation and good food. The Chimpanzee Guest House has a lovely view over the surrounding area, and camping is under 10,000 UGX per person. Food is more expensive, but bbq areas are available for self-catering (don’t forget your charcoal!). From here, two campsites near Lake Nkuruba are easily walkable. Lake Nkuruba Catholic Community Campsite has the best facilities, including a lakeside cottage with views over the swimmable lake. The campsite offers local walks to a variety of areas, including a hilltop known as “Top of The World”. It certainly feels like it, with a view that allows you to survey all across Western Uganda.
For those looking for a truly special getaway, Ndali Lodge is in the middle of the area, straddling two huge crater lakes. There is no better view in this part of Uganda than that at the top of the escarpment. This luxury lodge would make a perfect honeymoon location.
A suggested hiking route starts from the Chimpanzee Guest House, walking southwest for approximately 10km to Planet Ruigo, then a similar distance north to the Lake Nkuruba campsites on a three day trip. There are many other camps springing up in the area and many paths to follow, all of which are accessible to anyone of any hiking ability. There is a reasonable tourist map available from Aristoc which is a good investment before you leave Kampala.
For the mountain scenery of the Rwenzoris, combined with the relaxing lakeside atmosphere of Bunyonyi, the Fort Portal crater lakes provide an easily affordable combination of both. Get your hiking boots on and have one of the best budget safaris in Uganda can offer!