Something naturally inestimable exists in the middle of the Ugandan main city Kampala but very few dwellers and visitors alike are aware of its existence. In fact, after arriving at a nearby suburb of Nateete in the south of the city, I enquired from several boda-boda riders if they can take me to Kabaka’s Lake or “Enyanja ya’Kabaka” as it is locally known. A few of them gave me a stunned look since they never knew the directions to the lake, let alone its very existence!
The first time I heard about Kabaka’s Lake was during my history lessons in primary school. On the study series about Buganda’s history, we were taught how the artificial lake came into existence plus other mythical features about it. Kabaka’s Lake (the King’s lake) is an artificial or a man-made lake that sits just a kilometer away from the main palace of the Buganda king at the Lubiri palace in Kampala city. Located a few meters south of the palace’s perimeter wall along the Lubiri Ring road, the lake is Buganda Kingdom’s treasured gem that has a lot of cultural connotations attributed to it. Its reserved location in a withdrawn neighborhood could one of the many reasons as to why a few people know about it but anyone who learned Buganda’s history can relate to its existence.
Throughout my short stay, I never got a chance to meet the lake’s caretakers to give me their narrative accounts of the lake’s precise origin or the norms and cultural practices on which its existence is based but since my evening mission was to view the lake for the first time, I opted for the narrators at some other time. But according to one reliable source, the man-made lake measures an average of around 2km2 and is about 200ft deep.
That same source further summates the origin of the lake: “It was constructed by the 52 clans of Buganda from 1885 -1888 during the reign of Ssekabaka Mwanga II. The plan of the king was to construct a channel wide enough for him to travel by boat to Lake Victoria for swimming and fishing and staying at another palace he had built at Mulungu hill near Lake Victoria. The channel would also serve as an escape waterway in the event of armed conflict with the British. The construction was, however, abruptly disrupted and stopped on 2nd August 1888 before the channel could reach Munyonyo because of the religious war which broke out in the kingdom.”
The Daily Monitor while quoting a Buganda Kingdom official, tells that Kabaka’s lake is a closed lake as it has no tributary nor does it have any outlet flowing out of it and remarkably, the water levels have remained consistent since 1886 due to the underground springs that feed it. In fact, I was amazed at how easily accessible it is because it’s just less than 50 meters from the two main city roads that I have regularly used for ages – Ring road and Masaka road. And before this, I had always deemed that the lake is almost inaccessible. Despite being surrounded by the massive human settlements and activities, the lake’s breeze and appearance are typical of other natural water bodies within the Great Lakes region.
The place is so relaxing and rousing and as expected, I found many people – nearly 100 – either sitting in the cool shades of the indigenous trees that dot the lake’s shores while others like me were simply strolling on the fresh green grass. I simply couldn’t stop marveling at the lake’s beauty characterized by a variety of birds, small islands, the clear waters and the cloudless blue skies giving the perfect photographic backdrop.
I was also taken aback after noticing small boats meant for ferrying visitors across the small lake but from my deep observations, the lake is in a dire need for reforms from the caretakers as the grass upon which visitors are meant to sit is overgrown and needs a regular trimming. More trees are needed to halt soil erosion and silting of the lake whereas the human activities that pose dangers to the lake such as the nearby washing bays need to be closed down. I noticed that dirty and soapy water from the washing bays run back to the lake and thus polluting the waters and endangering the creatures that depend on it.
In fact, at one end, the lake’s waters look greenish in color an indication of the prior massive contamination. The lake’s caretakers can even do more: promoting the lake as a top tourist destination to make it appealing both locally and abroad through the massive publicity of its incredible history, customs, and cultural events held on it.
Experienced scouts and narrators also need to be in place to guide visitors around the lake while also perfectly quenching the visitors’ thirst for information related to the lake. It also seemed to me that some people enter the lake and swim unsupervised including young children. This puts their lives at risk of drowning and getting infected with waterborne diseases. And finally, proper signposts are needed on the lake, security personnel are also required to protect visitors and their stuff while other amenities like beach benches, shades/shelters, toilets and a visitors information center are also needed to make the place more appealing and classy.
The lake is also impressive in its unrestrictive environment as people can move about unhindered which is good for natural visitors but proper management is needed to profit from the ever-increasing tourists flocking this small lake. I recommend anyone to visit this historically, culturally and naturally important place as it will improve your perspectives about the Buganda Kingdom while helping you to relax and unwind from the hustles and bustles of the nearby Kampala city. Such a naturally interesting place it is that it deserves your finest attention, be it for just one hour…