- Lwaji Island is one of the three equator markers in Uganda. Others are found at Kayabwe in Masaka and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
By Richard Wetaya
From Entebbe’s Aero Beach, it took us approximately 25 minutes to get to Lake Victoria’s Lwaji Island. The winds were blowing mildly and the lake’s waters were tranquil.
Our destination was an island where the equator crosses the lake. The equator line runs through two of the lake’s islands — Damba and Lwaji.
However, before we embarked on our voyage, we had to spend close to half-an-hour waiting for the mechanics to prepare the ferry’s decks. Excitedly waiting with me were the East African Mariners, most of whom seemed very eager for their maiden voyage on Africa’s largest lake. The excitement was written on almost everyone’s face.
Tourists at Kayabwe in Masaka
Apart from the adventure, the mariners also had a worthwhile cause to accomplish that day: they were on a mission to donate life-saving jackets to the island’s fishing communities.
Going by the accounts I heard before we set off, most of the lake’s fishermen go on ill-advised fishing expeditions without life jackets, even deep in the night. When we finally departed, it was an exhilarating experience. It was also fun watching all the revellers on the sandy beaches we were leaving behind as we voyaged farther out.
As we sailed off, the view was beautiful. It seemed only natural when an old gentleman seated at the back of the ferry exclaimed: “God is great.” Everyone seemed cheerful when we caught sight of the first island. Smiles were unlocked, faces lit up and there was an endless repertoire of jokes, coming courtesy of the many happy-go-lucky emcees we had on board.
It was spell-binding watching the varieties of birds chirping and flapping away. We caught glimpses of kingfishers and the egrets flying low on the surface of the water, eager to catch some prey. The fishermen paddled their canoes past us, unconcerned by our presence.
Regardless of their attitude, many people on the ferry entertained themselves by watching the fishermen at work. Lake Victoria has many ringshaped islands that many of the fishing communities inhabit. Many of these communities live in old corrugated iron sheet shelters.
When we went past one of the inhabited islands, a group of six men were taking a bath on the edges of the island. Some even had the nerve to wave at us in their birthday suits. As our ferry cruised past the many islands on our way to our destination, almost everybody wanted to catch a glance of these marvels of nature. It is said Lake Victoria has 84 of them.
The Equatorial Island
We finally reached our destination — Lwaji Island. Plenty of bird life exists here, going by what we saw when we alighted the ferry. There were many birds flying in and out of their nesting grounds.
What fascinated us most, however, was the fact that this particular island seems uninhabited, save for the few UPDF marine soldiers we found there. Some bits of the island are cleared of bushy vegetation, while the rest is like a garden.
On this picturesque island, one can enjoy a wide view of the lake, the Entebbe Airport runway and the other surrounding islands. The atmosphere and breeze around us was pleasantly refreshing. Here you will be able to spot a tree that has incredibly grown on the island’s rocky surface.
Whether you fancy a quiet place to meditate or if sightseeing is your cup of tea, this island is the perfect get-away. The island, just like the others on Lake Victoria, is of considerable conservation value.
But nothing here shows whether this particular one has been visited of recent. Before our tour ended, we lined up for photo opportunities at a signpost designating the spot where the equator line passes, just like the one in Kayebe, Masaka