Ukerewe is the largest island of the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria. It belongs to Tanzania and is a museum-island, unique for many reasons. Recently, it has become one of the most interesting tourist attractions of this area. Also because it is connected to the city of Mwanza. Both Mwanza and Ukerewe show a different face of Africa. Not just the classic safari, but also special environment, special architectures and … special people, too: the albinos.
Ukerewe, a tourist dream
Ukerewe is the largest island of Lake Victoria. It is in the southern part of the lake, in the national territory of Tanzania. And it is very close to two major Tanzanian tourist places: Musoma, to the east, and Mwanza, southwards. A quick and efficient ferry service takes people to the island from both cities. It is a 45-km trip from Mwanza and just 3,8-km from Kibara port, not far from Musoma.
Easy to reach, lovely to see, Ukerewe Island offers many interesting sites. Natural environments, traditional villages, amazing views. But also monuments witness of the ancient and colonial past of Lake Victoria. Nansio is the main urban centre, with a little more than 6.000 inhabitants and an active port. Tourists can stay at Nansio’s hotels and resorts. They can also experience living and working with local fishermen in their real houses.
What to see on Ukerewe Island
Ukerewe offers lovely beaches, small bays and the possibility of enjoying boat trips or swimming in the lake. But you could also admire old monuments. The Catholic Church of Kagunguli (1895), the school built in 1902, Bukindo Palace (1922). This one is a typical colonial architecture and the former “king of Ukerewe” lived here. There is a mystery in this palace: one of the rooms has been closed for over a century. Only the guides know why, and only they will tell … if they want to!
Also ask your guides to show you the “dancing stone”, or the “crocodile tree” and the “knife of the truth”. A Fifty-minute drive from Nansio will take you to the Rubya Forest. This is a beautiful protected area where plants and animals live free and wild. Climb up Rutare Hill to admire the island from above, or go to Irondo Point to admire Mwanza city lights at sunset! Ukerewe has 27 smaller islets all around its shores. People live only on three of them.
The island of Albinos
Ukerewe Island is the “friendly island” or “the Albinos’ island”. This is because it has been welcoming for a long time Albinos. These people suffer from the phisical anomaly that makes skin and hair pale and clear.
What is particular in the western culture, in Africa can be a curse. In fact, they have been persecuting and killing Albinos for centuries, here. Recently, many laws have changed but still there are tribes or states that fear Albinos. Ukerewe Island is the place where they can find a safe shelter. It is also a place where many children with this anomaly are born every year.
How to get to Ukerewe Island
Land at Mwanza International Airport with local flights from Nairobi or Dar Es Salaam. From Mwanza, you can easily get to Ukerewe by ferry-boat.