Lake Victoria is located in East Africa on the equator. The lake is roughly the same size as Switzerland or Ireland. Lake Victoria is the source of the Nile, which at 6,600 km is the world’s longest river. Three countries share the lake: Kenya (6%), Tanzania (50%) and Uganda (44%). There are three principal towns on the lake: Kisumu in Kenya, Mwanza in Tanzania and Kampala in Uganda. Entebbe, nearby to Kampala is the only international airport on the lake and has direct flights to Europe.
Bulago is located ten miles east of Entebbe and eighteen miles south of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It is perhaps the best located of all islands on the lake due to its proximity to both capital and international airport.
Lake Victoria is a freshwater lake. It is relatively shallow, rarely more than 200 feet deep. The lake at 3750 feet above sea level generates its own climate that affects the surrounding landmass. Temperatures in the northern sector average around 25 degrees. Officially there are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. These seasons are virtually indiscernible on the lake; in the dry season it is a little sunnier and in the rainy season there are a few more showers each week; it is rare for rain to persist beyond mid-morning on the lake.
Lake Victoria is home to several hundred species of birds – perhaps the largest variety in the world and the greatest concentration of Fish Eagles in the world. Otters are found throughout the lake (several families are resident on Bulago), rare Sitatunga and other smaller antelopes populate the islands and shores of the lake. Elephants and other large mammals are found on the more remote parts of the lakeshore. There is an extensive variety of fish, but the Tilapia and giant (up to 200kg) Nile Perch provide fine sport and excellent eating and are abundant.
The islands and shores vary in vegetation depending on geological formation; there are extensive, old rainforests and other areas that are savannah. The rainforests support a wide variety of fauna including primates. The Jane Goodall Foundation has established a chimpanzee sanctuary for orphaned and rescued chimps on Ngamba Island 4 miles from Bulago Island.
The lake has very low levels of pollution because there is little intensive agriculture and little industry on the lake’s shores. It is one of the cleaner large bodies of water in the world.
There is a popular conception that Africa is riddled with diseases. This is wrong. The truth is simply that there are fewer doctors than elsewhere, so there appears to be more sickness. Bilharzia, Sleeping Sickness and Malaria are associated with the lake. There is no need to catch Bilharzia since it is a localised parasitic infection that can be banished with ease through public health measures. However, if infected, a handful of tablets cures it immediately. LVSC has worked to ensure that the chances of Bilharzia around Bulago are kept to the absolute minimum. In fact, there is an ongoing project by the Uganda Ministry of Health to wipe out Bilharzia. The project is funded by Bill Gates Foundation and the Bulago Island is being used as the first experimental site. A series of recent tests has shown that there is now no Bilharzia on the Bulago Lodge shoreline following stringent hygene measures.
Sleeping Sickness was prevalent at the beginning of the 20th century and is carried by Tetse flies. Most of the lake is out of the Tetse belt and it is rare to see a Tetse fly on the islands nowadays. Bulago has a Tetse control programme in place initiated by LVSC.
Malaria, which is the biggest killer in Africa, is almost unheard of on Bulago since the conditions – little or no standing water – militate against mosquitoes. Except occasionally at the height of the rainy season, Bulago is mosquito free.
There are various European run medical centres in Kampala as well as two private hospitals.
There are very few indigenous islanders on the Ugandan islands. Most of the present day fishermen originate from other parts of the region. Most of the fishermen are nomadic, following the movement of the fish throughout the year.
Lake Victoria is ideal for water sports. There are reliable winds from mid-morning to late afternoon that provide excellent sailing throughout the year. Although the lake can get rough at times – it is more akin to a sea than a lake – storms never exceed force 6 or 7 on the Beaufort scale. Generally the lake is calm in the mornings and late afternoons and water skiing and other power sports are all enjoyed. Bulago has the tremendous advantage of an enormous north facing bay that is almost always calm enough to be used for skiing throughout the day, and also provides the perfect venue for learning to sail with brisk winds over calm waters