Art, Culture, Books and Travel

Nyanzibiri: Breathtaking twin lakes separated by a road

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How do I get to Nyanzibiri?”

In Magambo Parish, Rubirizi District, this is a question that most of the residents seem to have heard before, and have always eagerly answered. Why? Because Nyanzibiri is their pride.

Located two kilometres from Nyakasharu trading centre, along the Mbarara-Kasese highway, Nyanzibiri are explosion crater lakes in the Bunyaruguru crater field which are about 300 metres apart (a road runs between them).

It is about 10,000 years since the lakes were formed, as a result of volcanic activity.

Jamil Sewaya, a geographer, explains that the volcanic activity was a result of intense heat and pressure in the upper mantle or interior of the earth. “The heat was brought about by geochemical reaction and radio activity in the earth. Later, gaseous explosions occurred, blowing off the surface rocks, forming a round shaped and fairly flat depression. Over time, the depression was filled with rain water, leading to the formation of the explosion crater,” explains Sewaya.

“Nyanzibiri” is a Runyankole word which means “two lakes”. One of the lakes is called Kamweru and the other is Kyeema (its full name is Kyeema ky’enzubu). There is no factual explanation for the origin of either names but, myths have it that Kamweru, which is a Runyankole word that means “productive of”,was called so because before the formation of the lake, any crop cultivated in this area would yield.

Kyeema ky’enzubu, is a Runyaruguru name which means “a school of hippos”. Likewise, myths suggest that before the volcanic activity, the area where Kyeema sits was always frequented by hippos, thus the name.

A view of the lakes from a nearby hill leaves with you a snap decision about the next photo to upload on your facebook timeline or twitter page. The panoramic view is one to behold, stately, yet quiet and gentle lakes. Kamweru, has green coloured water and Kyeema, blue. Beauty that speaks to the soul! The view is complemented by the sounds of birds tweeting and whistling, together with crickets chirping, all from the surrounding green plantations.

Back in the day
However, 50 years ago, the twin lakes offered a different view- albeit better, from today’s. Daniel Katugano, an elder who has been living in Magambo Parish for the last 70 years, says there was a forest where the plantations at the shores of the lake lie today, “Both lakes were surrounded by a forest which was home to a big number of monkeys and chimpanzees. Around the 1960s, people began encroaching on the forests to create more land for cultivation. Since there was nobody to stop this trend, what started as morsels being taken went on until when the entire forest was cleared,” narrates Katugano adding: “Aside from losing the forest, most of the monkeys and chimpanzees also migrated. Nevertheless, there are few left. Although the plantations guarantee food for the members of the community, clearing of the forests weakened the soil and rock materials beneath which made the surrounding slopes susceptible to landslides when it rains heavily.” The elder recalls that around 2007, there was a landslide and the re
sultant soil poured in Lake Kamweru, leading to massive death of fish.

The local community’s pride in Nyanzibiri is not only in its being a popular spot for tourists, but also a source of fish and water. The popular fishing method which is used to catch fish types like tilapia and mudfish here is gill net fishing.

The cave
If Nyanzibiri is cake, then its icing is the beautiful historic cave at the shore of Lake Kamwezi that has a stream flowing through it, a neat and splendid site that oozes mother nature’s sense of art and design. Morris Ayebare, a manager, at Nyanzibiri Community Eco- Campsite, which manages the cave, says before morphing into a tourist destination, the cave preliminarily served other purposes.

“In the past, the cave was a used as a sacrificial ground as well as other rituals performed to cleanse off misfortunes. Then during Idi Amin’s regime, it offered refuge to those fleeing the brutality of the then government as well as wars. Currently, it is only serves the purpose of being a tourist site.”

The cave’s serenity merged with the gurgling stream offer a frequently sought and rarely found environment for meditation.

Eco Campsite offers a number of facilities to tourists, such as accommodation (in both the cottages and tents), meals, entertainment and a cultural museum in which one learns about the Banyaruguru culture.

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