Good thing it is not all work here, as we took a boat to the Banda Island Reggae Bash during the first weekend of February. This is the smallest of the Ssese Islands and is, according to the Lonely Planet:
A once legendary place for backpackers and a perfect location for an island escape…
The reason why it is ‘legendary’, is because the eccentric mzungu Kenyan owner Dominic (a third generation white Kenyan) had his own little kingdom there, entertaining his guests with lavish feasts and stories about how he, somewhere in East Congo, dug up the diamonds he used to buy the island. Being a lover of good food and loads of alcohol he found an unfortunate premature death when his liver stopped functioning, which left Banda Island pretty much deserted and uncared for. Recently, new caretakers have taken up the task of bringing Banda back to life by organizing regular events, such as the Reggae Bash we attended when we were there with a group of about 40 people.
The Ssese Island group consist of 84 islands in Lake Victoria, a few hours by boat from Entebbe. It used to be a prime chill-out destination, but since the regular ferry service from Port Bell near Kampala was suspended in 1997 it has been a bit harder to reach them. The bigger islands are served by a ferry again, but to get to tiny Banda you have to rely on open fishing boats, like the one we took. The ride itself isn’t that pleasant – three hours with no protection from the sun – but at least we didn’t forget to bring some drinks to enjoy ourselves with the crowd.
The Ssese islands got their name from the Tsetse sleeping sickness (Ssese = Tsetse), which killed a large number of island inhabitants in the early 20th century and caused most of them to flee to the mainland. Since the islands were left largely deserted they gained some reputation as a Wild West area as, according to the guide books, wanted criminals from around East Africa sought refuge there. It also meant islands like Banda remained mostly untouched, so when you arrive you feel a bit like Robinson stepping foot on an uninhabited jungle island.
All in all a great way to spend a relaxing weekend, hanging around on the beach (be careful a bit about Bilharzia though – a parasite found in large fresh water bodies such as Lake Victoria) and listening to live Reggae.
Google Maps Location