A crater Lake hidden in Kisoro

You wake up to sweet jazz music cascading into your room from an orchestra of various birds merrily playing out their daily morning tunes. You step out into the rising sunlight and your eyes crash into a delicious sight: Mountain Muhavura erect in his invariable aim for the skies, the crowd of cloud around his peak indicating that he has successfully hit the celestials.

You turn your eyes from Muhavura toward the opposite direction, and the placid waters of a picturesque lake sprawling off between the high hills invites you to check out what is in progress at thatmorning hour. At the lake’s shore you get to behold a crowd of crested cranes singing and dancing as though on a morning exercise routine.

It is the kind of experience you should hope to encounter waking up on the shores of Lake Chahafi, one of the several crater lakes down in South Western Uganda’s Kisoro District.

Like other smaller crater lakes in Kisoro, Lake Chahafi remains largely unknown to the tourist world, pushed into the background by the more famous Bunyonyi and Mutanda lakes. But as a visitor you will actually find solid reasons why small Lake Chahafi perhaps deserves to be ranked along with the larger Bunyonyi and Mutanda on the list of lakes one has to prioritise when planning an excursion to Kigezi region.

Bird-watcher’s paradise
Lake Chahafi (together with its vicinity) is ranked by Kigezi tour operators as one of the places with the largest population as well as diversity of birds in south western Uganda. This is quite a statement, given that this region sits with the Kazinga region atop the rankings of Ugandan regions on the subject of bird endowment.

Nelson Mugisha, a tour operator in the region, avers that indeed Chahafi has both a bigger population and a wider diversity of species than most other tourist destinations in Kigezi.
Mugisha’s claim is supported by information from the African Bird Club, where Lake Chahafi is indicated as one of the lakes where a number of rare East African bird species have been sighted.

Talking of that gives Chahafi its competitive edge in this respect, Mugisha says: “The lake descends into a sprawling swamp of lush papyrus vegetation, of a kind you can hardly find on other lakes in Kigezi. It is this swamp that attracts the birds in bigger numbers and in more diversity than is to be found in other areas, because the birds always find it easier to feed and nest in the vegetation.”

Among the bird species to be easily seen at Lake Chahafi and rarely anywhere else are the Lesser Jacana, the African Jacana, the Brack Crake, the Blue-headed Coucal, the Common Moorhen, swamp flycatchers, swamp warblers, among others. Yours truly had a chance to behold two rare species: the Common Moorhen and the Malekite Kingfisher.

Beautiful scenery
Michael Murangira, a local tour guide in Kisoro, points out that Kigezi was nicknamed “The Switzerland of Uganda” owing to its rugged mountainous terrain and Mediterranean climate. Murangira names the Lake Chahafi area as one of the most scenic in the entire Kigezi area. “Lake Chahafi actually has a twin to its east, called Lake Kayumbu,” Murangira says. “In between these two lakes is a towering thread of a hill, and standing atop this one you will catch breathtaking scenery sprawling several kilometres on all sides below.”

Standing on the several high hills in the Chahafi area, one is spellbound as he rolls his eyes as far off as Mountain Muhavura on the horizon. In between the horizons lay incredible spreads of forest vegetation, hillside gardens, oddly-shaped ridges and gorges, name it.

Strategic base to tour Kigezi
Lake Chahafi has a resort right on its shores, and Murangira says apart from staying here when touring the Chahafi area, Lake Chahafi Resort is also ideal for one wishing to go tracking Gorilla or mountain-hiking. He explains that Lake Chahafi is about just 20km from Mountain Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo –and less than 20km from the Mgahinga gorilla sanctuary.

There’s a colonial history to it
For those with interest in the past, there is also some interesting history to be encountered at Lake Chahafi. A rich colonial history about the struggle for control of the region at the time of the First World War. For the shores of Lake Chahafi is where in 1914, the joint forces of the British and Belgians set up a base to ward off the approaches of the Germans in the struggle for control of Kigezi.

And going backwards beneath 1914, the Lake Chahafi area is also where the Bafumbira tribal leader Katuregye based in his attempts to repulse the approaching British imperialists. This Katurebe and his subjects were inspired by the native Nyabingi religious movement which claimed that the spirits of the land would help the natives defeat the colonialists, and there are interesting tales about the dramatic campaign that subdued Katuregye.

Still talking of history, the Echuya Forest Reserve is also around this area, its fringes holding one of the largest Batwa pygmy communities in Kigezi. One gets to see the Batwa Pygmies living in their traditional setting as it has always been since time immemorial.

Other attractions in the Lake Chahafi include visiting the farms to see the farming styles in this area of fertile volcanic soils, sailing on the lake, fishing, among others.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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