Hi my name is Richard but my pet name is Acaali. In Rutooro – the language of the Tooro people – this means someone who is friendly and who easily relates to other people.
Fort Portal and Tooro is famous for its crater lakes (known in Rutooro as ebijongo) – formed at the top of hills that were once small volcanos, which are thankfully now extinct. The tops were blown off by the violence of the eruption and over thousands of years they filled with rainwater. In fact, Tooro has more crater lakes than anywhere else in the world. They’re beautiful places for relaxing, exploring and encountering wildlife (including a lonesome but friendly hippo).
In this blog post I want to introduce you to three of my favourite ebijongo, which are located within 900 metres of each other (yes that’s how frequent the crater lakes in Tooro are). These lakes are Nyamirima, Nyinabulitwa and Nyabikere – the names all relate to their specific qualities, which I’ll get to in a minute. They are located about 24km from Fort Portal in Kasenda sub-county.
Nyamirima crater lake
As you see from the photograph, Nyamirima crater lake has dark water and this is where it gets its name. Nyamirima means darkness in rutooro. The darkness comes from the depth of the lake and the vegetation that lies just below the surface.
Nyinabulitwa crater lake
Local people think this is first of the three crater lakes to be formed. This lake is known for its lone hippopotamus, it’s quite shy but it’s friendly so it takes a bit of luck and perseverance to spot it. Here’s a video of the lonely hippo sent to me by a friend.
Nyabikere crater lake
Lots of frogs live in Nyabikere – hence its name lake of frogs – and when you come here in the early evening or night they make a lot of noise. It’s like a frog orchestra! A big amphibian population is always a sign of a healthy ecosystem and Nyabikere is also a great place for bird watching. You can see over 300 species of bird here including broadbills, bee eaters and fish eagles.
Top of the World
When I show visitors around Tooro these three walks are often where I first take them as crater lakes form such an important part of our region’s distinctive identity. After walking between the three and maybe having a swim if they need to cool off, I then get them to look across at the snow-covered slopes of Mount Rwenzori and the range of peaks that the Ancient Greeks called the Mountains of the Moon (believed to be the source of the river Nile).
Then I tell them, it’s time to go to the Top of the World. Often at this point, I can get some worried looks from my guests, who are anticipating a long hike ahead of them.
In fact, Top of the World is just a short (but steep) climb away. It’s the tallest peak in Kibale forest and there’s a lodge located at the top. From there you can get a great view of the three crater lakes you’ve just seen and sit down for a well-deserved rest and a drink and some food at the nearby lodge.
Thank you for reading. I’m going to be posting more of these in the coming months. If you have any questions about life in Tooro I’d love to hear from you.