There are parts of Uganda that are surprising for not being more touristy than they are. And the lakes in the Ndali-Kasenda area fulfill this fact. These idyllic lakes due to their green landscape and each one with different shades of water, are of volcanic origin and are said to have been formed about 10,000 years ago. There are about 50 lakes in the area.
They are located in the northern and southern part of the city of Fort Portal, a city of the Toro kingdom. This was founded by the British who built a Fort that protected them from the guerrillas in the area, Fort Gerry. Later, from the arrival of the English consul Sir Gerald Portal, who called for the application of English law in the area, the city received the name of Fort Portal a mixture of the two most important things at that time: the fort and the English consul.
The city now serves as a base to discover this southwestern part of the country, an area unknown to many Ugandans and many tourists.
How to get there?
To get to Fort Portal, you can easily get there from Kampala by a good road (A109) traveling the almost 300 kilometers that separate these cities. If you come from the north, you can get there from the Masindi-Hoima-Fort Portal road, which is also in very good condition. From the south, you can get there from Kasese on the same A109 road that runs along the Rwenzori Mountains or through Katoma and Kibale NP, leaving the Lake District to the west. Therefore, Fort Portal is a very accessible and well-connected city.
Through the lakes, as there are around fifty volcanic lakes (some inaccessible) there are different dirt roads that connect the different lakes. Preferably, the best thing you can do is visit them with your own car or hire a private car to take you on a tour.
Mainly, there is a main road that goes from Fort Portal to Rwankwenzi (located to the south) passing through the Top of the World, Lake Nyinambuga, Lake Mwimba, Kasenda, Lake Rwenjuba and finally the town of Rwankwenzi. This route is accessible without using the 4×4, and from here you can detour through different lakes that are located a few kilometers from the main road. In some of them, like the one in Katanda, you will have to use the 4×4 if you go in the rainy season, which is when we went.
In the following map you can see the different paths and routes that you can take within the Kasenda lakes area:
What to do in Fort Portal and in Kasenda lakes?
The main activities that you can do in the area of Fort Portal and Kasenda revolve around the lakes. We find around fifty crater lakes, and therefore, you have many options of activities to do. We highlight:
– Visit a tea plantation
This area of Fort Portal and Kasenda stands out for its tea plantations that extend through the mountains around it. Tea is the most popular drink in the country and the one that most people drink. Most of these plantations come from Indian companies that later export the product to their country. We did not visit them because we had already done so during our visit to the most important area of tea plantations in Kenya (if you want to see our experience in Kericho click here) but there is the possibility of doing so if you visit Uganda for holidays.
– Tour the different volcanic lakes in the area
For us, it is the star activity that you can do in this area. Based on the map and depending on the transport you have, we advise you to spend a few days in this area and enjoy this curious landscape and its fantastic and friendly people.
If you want to bathe, ask the local people beforehand which are the best lakes to do so since it is not possible in all of them because the water still contains gases from the volcanic era. Here is a brief explanation of the lakes that we visit, in order, and some practical information:
- Lake Nyabikere: It is located 11km from Fort Portal, and is the easiest lake to access. It has different accommodations around it. One option may be the CVK resort that has a camping site for 10$ in front of the lake or 150,000 UGX for bed and breakfast.
- Top of the World: From that viewpoint you can see 3 lakes at the same time. It is a very good option for a walk in the area. Easy and very well marked. There is the accommodation at the top of the viewpoint that can serve as a stopping point to eat or drink or as an option to sleep if you want to spend the night.
- Lake Nkuruba: It is located about 25km south of Fort Portal. You can take a tour of the lake and bathe. It’s a lake where you can stay at the community-run campsite: Enfuzi community Campsite. The campsite has small cabins (20,000 UGX) and camping ground (10,000 UGX). Food and drinks can be reserved by prior reservation. If you want to contact the campsite, talk to Agnes: +256781912315.
- Lago Lyantonde: It is located in the west of Lake Nyinambuga. It is one of the most beautiful lakes where you can sleep in the Papaya Lake Lodge accommodation (400 USD full board). There is the possibility of eating a menu for lunch and using the swimming pool for about 90,000 UGX per person. If you want more information, you can contact Brian at +256753159631.
- Lake Nyinambuga: It is located in the south of Lake Nkuruba and has a large surrounding landscape full of forests. There we find the most luxurious hotel in the area for people with very high budgets. This one is called Ndali Lodge and is worth about 600 USD with full board. If you want more information, you can contact them at +256772221309.
- Lake Katanda: More secluded than others. On the way you can see the rural life of the people of the area. Very close to the Mahoma waterfalls, which may be an option to complete the visit, but when we visited the area they told us that they did not have much water.
- Lake Nyamiteza: Very easy to access if you come from the main road from Fort Portal to Queen Elizabeth NP. It is a beautiful lake with a rural population around it. It is one of the best options because it has a very nice accommodation right next to the crater: Bella Vista Lodge. You can go on walking tours in the surroundings.
Other lakes that were recommended to us but that we did not have time to visit are Lake Kifuruka located west of Lake Nyinambuga. The color of the water is green because it still has sulphurous waters. Excursions to the area can be made through local guides from the surrounding eco-lodge campsite. Good area to see birds.
– Walk around one of the lakes
As we have said, this area of lakes that are actually craters, is a very good area for walking routes: either shorter, such as going around Lake Nkuruba, going up to see the views of the craters from above, such as the lake. Nyamiteza or one-day routes to go to the Top of the World and the surrounding lakes.
It is a rural area where people will greet you effusively and you will reaffirm yourself thinking that it is still an undiscovered jewel of the country.
– Visit the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori Mountains are one of the icons of the country. Majestic and with a variety of impressive landscapes, they are a good stop if you like to do more high mountain trekking. Attention however! You have to be prepared and bring the necessary technical equipment. There is the possibility of doing routes of a few days or climbing emblematic peaks of the mountain range such as the Marguerita peak, the 3rd highest peak in Africa at 5,109 m with views to the three best-known mountains of the moon: Mt. Stanley, Mt. Speke or Mt. Baker.
Where to sleep?
– Rwenzori View Guest House: This is the best accommodation if you want to sleep in the city of Fort Portal. It has different rooms that open onto an internal courtyard, private parking, Wi-Fi and a beautifully decorated living room with information about Uganda. It also has a handicraft shop of a very interesting women’s cooperative in the area. With a great value for money, if you want to be in a quiet area of Fort Portal, this is your place. To book you can click here.
– Enfuzi Community Campsite: This communal accommodation is located in the northern part of the Kasenda lakes. Right next to Lake Nkuruba with a very beautiful environment, from there you can make different excursions on foot to the lake. The prices are 10,000 UGX for the campsite and 20,000 UGX for a double room. It has a restaurant on request. To book, you can contact Agnes via WhatsApp at +256781912315.
– Papaya Lake Lodge: For higher budgets, this accommodation is located right in front of Lake Lyantonde, with very beautiful views. It has different cabins, a swimming pool and an elegant and quiet restaurant. Prices are around 400 USD for a double cabin with full board. For more information, you can click here or contact directly with Brian, the manager, at +256753159631.
– Bella Vista Lodge: Located just above Lake Nyamiteza, this lodge offers spectacular views and a very beautiful surroundings. It has a swimming pool, rooms with a very good decoration and an excellent restaurant where you can enjoy good pizzas. If you want to enjoy the lakes of Kasenda, this is the best Lodge where you can stay with a great value for money. If you want to book, you can click here or contact directly with Mark, the manager, at +256701508462.
DAY 1: After seeing chimpanzees in the Kabango area (Masindi area), we arrived at Fort Portal in the afternoon where we slept at the Rwenzori View Guest House, a well-kept accommodation in the city. From Fort Portal, you could see the Rwenzori Mountains (known as the Mountains of the Moon) that separate Uganda from the Congo and which have the highest peaks in the country such as Pic Margarita or Pic Stanley.
In the city, we took the opportunity to do grocery shopping and stock up before visiting the area of the lakes that were in the south of Fort Portal.
DAY 2: Today we were leaving Fort Portal behind to enter the lake area. Think that in total there are more than 50, so we made a selection from the route that we would try to follow. First, we visited Lake Nyabikere and then we went up to the Top of the World viewpoint (at the hotel) to see the view of 3 lakes from up there. The landscape was green, with farmers working the land amidst volcanic craters filled with water.
We continued the route visiting Lake Nkuruba where we did a walking tour; and, before eating, we headed towards Lake Lyantonde and Lake Katanda where we started cooking macaroni while the weather threatened a storm. We had just enough time to boil the pasta al dente and we had to hurry up all the utensils and eat inside the car, while a family of farmers watched us laughing. It was time to go pulling towards the accommodation, lest the rain take more force.
We followed the route of our GPS that took us through narrow paths in the middle of valleys until we reached the shores of Lake Nyamiteza where we enjoyed fabulous views of the volcanic cone filled with water. Next to the lake was the Bella Vista Lodge, which would be our accommodation for the next two days. After a route around different lakes, it was time to rest with the car rooftent in the parking lot of this Lodge located in a wonderful environment.
DAY 3: We get up early to hike to the top of the mountain of Lake Nyamiteza. The road climbed as we passed children who grazed cows and men and women who cultivated the land. We reached the top of the antennas, from where we could glimpse Lake George, located right at the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth NP. We enjoyed the views of Lake Nyamiteza, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Kasenda area and in the afternoon we rested at the lodge, which had wonderful views and very good meals.
The next day it was time to get up early to go to the Queen Elizabeth NP, in search of the famous tree climbing lions. If you want to know how was our experience with these animals, you can click here.
The lakes that we find in and around Kasenda are a must if you are in the area. It is a good place to disconnect, take different excursions and enjoy impressive views of a country that has the nickname of “the pearl of Africa”.