Lake Bunyoni – Where Pregnant Girls Go To Die

Lake Bunyoni is the second deepest lake in Africa and is located near the Rwandan border. It is also known as the “place of many birds”. It is also unknown to many tourists, thus making this lake even more special. I was lucky enough to explore it because my friend and guide Venex of Rwenzori Safari’s was born in the area.

However while it is beautiful it is also steeped in shame and regret amongst the local tribesmen. To them it is known as the place where pregnant girls go to die!

Many years ago, the tribesman of Lake Bunyoni, would send the girls who got pregnant out of wedlock to Punishment Island – a man-made island within Lake Bunyoni, with a lone tree and nothing else. There were only two options for this girl; if she knew how to swim, which was rare, she could escape her fate but if not, she was left to die from the hunger and the cold.

This barbaric practice was stopped in the 1940’s and only a few of the girls escaped, when men who otherwise were not able to pay a dowry, would swim or paddle to the island at night and rescue the girls, therefore saving her life and avoiding the price of the dowry.

The reason the girls were banned was two fold; one they were bringing great shame to their families and two they were also robbing their families of wealth.. In this part of Uganda, amongst others, a young woman could only get pregnant after marriage. Whenever a virgin daughter got married, the family of the bride received a higher price, mostly paid with livestock. However, a girl became worthless, when she got pregnant before she was married and thus the families had no choice but to send her off.Punishment Island was not the only thing we saw on our trip through Lake Bunyoni. We also saw kids at a local orphanage, which are supported by the boat tours; we saw many different birds, including the Pied King Fisher. We also for a birds-eye view of the island, when we stopped at a local hotel for lunch – it was off the beaten track and unless you again were with a local, you would miss this gem on your travels.

On our photo-tour to Uganda you will see all this and much more.

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14 glorious days with other photography enthusiasts; great discussions, in-the-field training and more.

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