Musambwa Island Profile
Musambwa Islands(located at 310 35'E, 000 55'S at an altitude of 1,130 m above sea level) are three rocky islands about five kilometres offshore from Kasensero Landing site in Sango Bay region. The largest of the islands is about three hectares, the medium sized one about 2 ha and the smallest are rocky outcrops jutting out of Lake Victoria. The islands is an important Bird Area (IBA) and Ramsar site. Its classification as an IBA was based on tenet that it contains congregations of breeding birds in globally significant numbers. The islands are of exceptional biodiversity supporting among others internationally significant numbers of four breeding species of birds. These are the Grey Headed Gull, the Long Tailed Cormorant, Greater Cormorant, and the Little Egret. In July NatureUganda through its bi-annual bird counts counted 98,910 grey headed gulls, 2916 long tailed cormorants among others. They are known to have the largest breeding colony for the Grey-headed Gulls in Africa. Other birds on this island include White-winged Black Tern ,Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Plover, Black Crake, Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Duck, Grey Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Moorhen, African Fish Eagle, Pink-backed Pelican ,Open-Billed Stork, Water Thick-knee, Common Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Green-backed Heron, Hamerkop, African Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Heron, Pied Kingfisher, Squacco Heron.
Unique reptiles such as snakes and lizards are also found on these islands which have never harmed any one. They usually occupy the same beds and houses with the island community members. Actually anyone who wants to concur his/her fear of snakes should visit this island. These reptiles include cobras,vipers, monitor lizards, pythons.
The vegetation on two of the islands is mainly shrubby dominated Erlangea sp. and stunted trees mainly of Ficus sp. The shorelines are mainly rocky with no fringing swampy vegetation or sandy beaches. However, some crops of the water hyacinth and bits of wetland vegetation can be found in about five percent of the coastline and these turned out to be important amphibian habitats.
Musambwa islands is known for its rich cultural diversity by the fact that its occupied by only men and it’s a taboo to have sex on this island. The island has reptiles like the African rock pythons, cobras, vipers and monitor lizards but one unique thing about these reptiles is that they have a great bond with the people in that most of the community members are not scared being near these reptiles and look at them as the owners of the island.
The island is the breeding ground of the breeding ground for the grey headed gulls (GHG) on the African continent so during the end of December to end of July the migrant GHGs are seen in vast numbers and make the island look spectacular. One can never miss to see most of the documented birds at this island. Musambwa island is known for its cultural uniqueness and the strong bond between the people and the biodiversity on this island. The island is only occupied by men and women are only allowed on the island during day with no intimate relations with men on the island. This has played a great role in the controlling the populations on the island hence giving birds more breeding space and no further encroachment on the vegetation. The visitors or tourists are treated to an initiation dance which purposely helps them to freely establish rapport with the island community. The island also has reptiles while have never harmed any one according to kabelenge an elder on the island. Since tourism is not a stand alone entity, the Musambwa island fraternity has always been in contact with other tourism sites in Rakai district as a means of networking and enabling tourists maximise their time and money by visiting all the sites instead of Musambwa islands alone. These include malabigambo forest with endemic trees and many butterflies, kagera river meanders which form some letters of the alphabet, Rwandan genocide graves, kasensero landing site, kakuto ostrich farm, the scenic views of the kooki hills,Sango bay swamp steep edged forests, and big caves.