If you’re looking for a place to show right down, Ssese’s lush archipelago of 84 islands along Lake Victoria’s northwestern shore boasts some stunning white-sand beaches. There’s not much to do other than grab a good book and relax. There are canoes for hire, but swimming is not advised due to the risks of bilharzia, and some outlying islands have the occasional hippo and crocodile. Most guesthouses on the beach have nightly bonfires, which is a great way to relax with a few drinks after enjoying one of Ssese’s famous sunsets.
The early 1990s saw the Ssese’s popularity peak, but the suspension of the ferry service largely removed them from the foreigner map until a ferry began running from Entebbe in 2006.
Early in the 20th century, sleeping sickness hit the islands (Ssese equals TseTse), which saw most of the original Bassese inhabitants flee. People slowly began to drift back about a decade and a half later, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that serious settlement took place again. There are very few Bassese anymore and their Lussese language has all died. The lack of settlement left the islands largely unspoiled, though things have changed dramatically in the recent past. Massive scars of deforestation are visible on many of the islands, and overfishing is an issue.
Almost all visitors limit themselves to Bugala or Banda islands. The electricity supply on the islands is erratic, though most lodges have generators.
Few people venture far beyond Buggala Island (the most accessible of the islands), though it can be noisy. Most of the Buggala Island lodging is on attractive Lutoboka Bay, right where the ferry drops you off, and most hotels will pick you up for free.
Ssese Islands Beach Hotel
While motel-style rooms may not suit an island getaway, at least they’re set right on the beach with great views from their private porches. It backs on to a basic golf course; a hit is included in the rates.
One of the first lodgings on the island, the wooden bungalows here have a real beachy feel to them, which may have something to do with their location on a blinding stretch of white sand. The spiced, fried tilapia (Nile perch) it serves is absolutely delicious and the staff is friendly and helpful.
Brovad Sands Lodge
A stunning property comprising large, plush thatched cottages in a tropical garden with a soaring banda restaurant and direct beach access. Though it has its imperfections, all is forgiven when lazing in its pool or hanging out on the beach by the bonfire. Bring your own mosquito net. Discounts available.
Banda Island Resort
Banda is exactly what an island escape should be: it has a picturesque beach and laid-back vibe, and days here feel like weeks. This decidedly rustic place nonetheless has running water, cold beer, and hot showers. Accommodation is in comfortable cottages, decent dorms, or tented camps. Food is a highlight. Hippos are common visitors come full moon.
The local catch contributes to anything from fish samosas to sensational fish burritos. Guests can paddle around in canoes, learn to sail, pass the days with lazy games of outdoor backgammon, or perform some quality control on the hammocks