Ukerewe Island is situated 45 km (25 nautical miles) north of Mwanza to which it is linked by ferry, but a shorter vehicle ferry crossing of only 3.8 km also links the island across the Rugezi Channel to a dirt road on the eastern lakeshore, which runs to Kibara and Musoma. The shoreline of Ukerewe Island is carved into numerous bays and it is surrounded by at least a dozen smaller islands. Ukerewe is the largest island in Lake Victoria and the largest inland island in Africa, with an area of approximately 530 km². Ukerewe Island is situated in the Ukerewe District, nearly 50 km north of Mwanza to which it is linked by ferry, and it takes 3 to 4 hours to travel.
The shoreline of Ukerewe Island is carved into numerous bays and it is surrounded by 27 small islands surrounding the neighbourhood with 3 of them are not occupied by humans and the rest are occupied by fishermen with their families. Its largest community is Nansio. Its simple lifestyle and rocky terrain broken by lake vistas and tiny patches of the forest make an intriguing, offbeat diversion.
The few proper sights include agricultural activities in which the resident’s farm maize, sweet potatoes, millet, cassava and rice, including the main activity here, fishing. Seen from Nansio are 27 small islands surrounding the neighbourhood with 3 of them not occupied by humans and the rest are occupied by fishermen with their families.
They are visits to Kagunguli, the oldest Roman church built in 1895 located near a hill with the same name; the old school and dispensary which were built between 1902 and 1913 and surviving to date with few repairs all are still in use. The Chief’s palace, Bukindo built from 1922 to 1923, the modest European-style palace of the island’s former king, which is still in use is a must-see place if you are in the area and find out from the palace guide why one of its rooms has remained closed more half a century.
Others include Irondo point where visitors see amazing views of Mwanza city, Entebbe in Uganda and Nairobi in Kenya; a chance to be part of a traditional dance group Buzegwe staff band that is sure to leave you fascinated; a visit to the historic sites, including graves in the area.
The dancing stone in Ukara, a neighbouring island is also another attraction in the area, including crocodile tree and the knife of truth and learn how the people eke out a living.
As part of the activities here, visitors are introduced to local fishing, canoeing, biking, village tours and more. They are mildly interesting, but the deeply rural life between them is the real attraction.
Things to do or to see at Ukerewe Island
Rubya Forest. Rubya Forest is the largest forest in the district. It is a very peaceful place with a fascinating environment. Also in the forest’s area are fishing activity area and a natural Beach on Lake Victoria. It takes about 50 minutes by car to reach the place from Nansio.
Rutare Hill. We can climb Rutare Hill which is great for viewing the scenery of Ukerewe. It takes an hour by bicycle to reach the Hill.
Cultural Tour . These can include traditional dance shows, visit traditional Healers, visit local families, trips to meet Farmers on their Fields, and Preparation and eating local food. I will be very happy to tell you everything about the life of the Kerewe people.
Dancing Stone of Ukara Island. Ukara Island is the home to ‘dancing stone. It has cultural and traditional values for the Kara people. The island is also a good place to cycle in as no cars.
It takes about three hours to get on the island from Nansio.
Note: It is impossible to go and come back on the same day because you may be late for the ferry backs to Ukerewe.
Cycling. Ukerewe Island is a good place to cycle in, especially in villages where no more traffic. When you do, you get a chance to view the natural beauty of the villages.
Visit local Primary School. A visit to local schools is a great way to understand more about the education system of Tanzania. The local children are very keen to ask you some questions about the education system in your country.
Chief’s palace. In Bukindo village is the chief’s Palace which used to be the most magnificent building on the island. In the palace are drums that were used as means of communication between the ruled and the ruler. It takes about 53 minutes to reach the Palace by cycling.