The history of Akampene of Lake Bunyonyi masks a dark and painful past making it a key tourist destination. In fact, of all the 29 islands in Lake Bunyonyi, the Punishment island is the most visited on by tourists on safaris to Uganda. The islands around it are far busier, with houses, tourist comfort resorts such as those that litter the entire lake and thriving trees.
Akampene Island, found in the center of lake Bunyonyi, is large enough for the lonely tree that grows there. From the Bunyonyi overland resort pier, it takes a ride of about 20 minutes in a motorized boat running at a slow speed to get to the island. Some tourists on Uganda adventure safaris to Lake Bunyonyi, prefer paddling their way in locally dugout canoes.
In the old traditional Bakiga society, a young woman could only get pregnant after marriage. Marrying off a virgin daughter meant receiving a bride price, mostly paid with livestock. An unmarried pregnant girl was seen as not only bringing shame to the family but robbing it of much needed wealth. Families used to rid themselves of the “shame” by dumping pregnant girls on Akampene punishment Island, leaving them to die.
Most people at the time especially girls did not know how to swim. So, if a young woman was dumped on the island, she had two options; jump into the water and drown or wait to die from the cold and hunger.
Another way the girl would survive was that a passing canoeist would stop by the island and rescue the girl there. This rescuer would take the girl as his own wife. Because dowry was expensive then, men and girls would find themselves in unlikely romance developing between the gratefully rescued girl and the gallant rescuer. This was regarded as “getting a free wife”, because the man would not have to pay any bride price for her. This was the most common event, and there are women still alive today who were rescued in this way and they have happy families.
However, Akampene island itself is dying out because the lake is eroding it away from underneath, and this is what killed the trees that existed there. Their roots do not find soil anymore, so in the future, there may not be any Punishment Island any more. But there will still be that the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. Take a Uganda safari before it diminishes.