Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Don't Piss Off The Fish!

The view from the swimming jetty on Byoona Amagara.
The air is always surprisingly crisp around the edges of Lake Bunyonyi first thing in the morning. The sun starts to come up around 6.30am, but the heat takes a short while longer to break through the low-lying mist and clouds. 

It is Tuesday 19th April and I am lazily dangling my feet into the cool waters of Lake Bunyonyi, from a jetty on Itambira Island. This time of the day is the most peaceful on the island and at first the only other noise is the lapping of the lake's deep blue waters against the legs of the jetty. 

After a few minutes of acclimatising my legs to the exceedingly cool water, I slip into the lake and momentarily my breath is knocked out of my lungs. The extreme contrast with the early morning air temperature comes as a serious shock to the system – but it makes you feel alive. I give myself a few minutes of splashing around, just long enough to kick start my body, before I emerge once more from the water to take in the view. 

The time passes slowly and after around thirty minutes, by which time my colleague Grigorios has joined me and is swimming around in front of me, the sound of deep bass drums starts. A collection of small dots in the distance, dancing around in groups of five or six, start making their way down the sides of various islands that occupy the lake, including the far tip of Itambira Island, headed for the shorelines. 

Then, emerging from the base of the islands appear small dugout canoes to collect the dots and provide passage for them to their school on Bwana Island. Suddenly, my daily bike ride through Warwick racecourse as a child seems to pail in comparison to the dramatic daily commute for the pupils of Bwana’s primary school. Of course, for them it is normal, but for me and my group of bazungu it is something of a spectacle. 

"Please do not pollute the lake, it pisses off the fish!"
As I leave to start packing up my tent for the journey back to Kabale, I stop to read a sign next to the stairs, at the end of the jetty. It explains a set of guidelines about how not to piss of the fish – an important thing if you live on an island

Furthermore, it reiterates the importance of the Byoona Amagara resort’s desire to balance out the revenues from tourism, with the desire to be socially responsible for the whole of the local community – fish included. For that reason, my band of bazungu will continue to return year after year to enjoy the lake and not take it for granted. There is nothing better than eco-tourism with a sense of humour.

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