This 500 Acre Paradise Island is Found in Lango But Am Sure You Haven’t Heard About it!
Kwania district is full of surprises. I recently accompanied a team from the district commercial office for a tour of the tourism sites in Kwania and I was blown away by what I saw.
Kwania district is in the process of cataloguing and profiling all their tourism sites and potentials. They recently invited me to tag along with the team that’s dong that. I gladly accepted. After seeing all that I saw and experiencing all that I did experience, all I can say it that Kwania is the most underrated district in Lango as a tourism destination.
If you are planning a weekend of exploring parts of Lango that’s fresh and unchartered. If you want destinations in Lango that very few people have heard of leave (alone visited). I can gladly recommend destinations in Kwania for you.
What I saw and heard there blew my mind. Like in this particular one, did you know that there is a 500 acre paradise of an island in Lake Kwania? Yes there is and I had the privilege of visiting it. Or you could say I stumbled upon it. Let me tell you the story.
So we had just reached the top of Got Agwiciri after a slow and leisurely climb. We were now soaking in the raw beauty of what we were seeing from the top of that rock outcrop. What I saw there is beyond what words can describe. You have to hike Got Agwiciri and reach the top to appreciate for yourself what awaits you up there. I tried to describe it in this piece which I wrote earlier. Pleasefollow this link and read about it.
Standing from the ‘roof top of Kwania’ (that’s how Got Agwiciri is fondly referred to) gave us a bird-eye-view of Lake Kwania and beyond. So like an eagle soaring high, I was scanning the blue-green lake water that was below us. I noticed an interruption in the vast body of water.
“What’s that Fred?” I enquired from the Kwania District Tourism Officer who was guiding the team. “Oh that one… that’s Loka Anok.” He answered in a matter-of-fact way as if everyone knew about it.
‘’Loka Anok? I have never heard of it! It looks so different.” I exclaimed.
“True, not many people have heard about it and but it’s a very big island in the middle of Lake Kwania. It’s between 300 to 500 acres”.
“What?” I exclaimed. “Yes, it’s that big.” He assured me.
“In other words, what you are saying is that that’s not a floating island.” I asked completely blown away by what I was looking at. “No it is not. It is a piece of dry land in the middle of the lake.” He explained.
“Who lives there?” I enquired of him.
“Someone has his cattle grazing there unattended. Maybe there is someone there to milk the cows but the island is largely uninhabited. There is a whole ecosystem out there including wild animals.”
I didn’t respond because I had no words. “An investor should come and work on the beaches and setup a resort or golf course and a hotel there.” He continued.
“Can we go there?” I inquired. “Yes, we can go there but tomorrow.” He responded.
“Why not today?” I asked impatiently.
“Reaching the island needs planning and you need to set apart a whole day if you really want to appreciate the island. It’s a big magical place. You will love it” He said with an air of pride.
Fish From Abali Landing Site In Kwania
The next day we found ourselves at Abali landing site in Atongtidi Sub County. Abali is the officially recognised landing site that’s nearest to Loka Anok island. If you want to go there, you need to use this gazetted landing site because it’s from Abali that you can easily hire a motorboat to reach the island.
Abali landing site is fairly populated, busy and lively which is a surprise because you drive for miles to reach it without meeting much traffic on the way. Then all over a sudden, you find so many people and so many grass thatched huts in one place. The music is loud and so is everyone. And the people are busy and friendly. They are all willing to help. It didn’t take us long before we could get a boat to hire.
Although finding the boat was easy and quick, the operator took a while to show up. We started to complain. But when he finally came, within thirty seconds of his loud and proud appearance, he had already made us laugh. This proud long-limbed fisherman who talks fast, talks loud and talks funny was to be our boat ‘pilot’. Even his name is funny. He proudly calls himself Atin-Atin. That’s a Luo expression for ‘childish’.
As you might know, laughter causes a rush of a hormone called oxytocin in the body. And oxytocin makes you feel good, happy and forgiving. So we felt good and forgave him for being late and that’s how our adventure to Loka Anok started.
You see, a visit to Loka Anok, at least at the moment, is not something you do in your Sunday-best dress. You should know that you are going to get muddy and wet. And you have to understand how fishermen do their things. They have their own culture complete with their own language and world outlook. You have to be patient with them. They are probably suspicious of you thinking you are from the fisheries department coming to check on their licences.
But back to our adventure. After the oxytocin faded away, if you are not used to boat riding, expect another hormone called adrenalin to set in. It’s the hormone for ‘flight or fight’.
Seeing the vast water body and boarding what will appear to a newbie as a tiny boat can trigger the adrenaline rush. Firstly to reach the boat, you have to jump over dirty pools of water. Then there is the smell of fish constant in the air. But this is common and expected along our lake shores. So your shoes will get muddy and wet. And the whole thing might scare you a bit.
Next is climbing into the boat. You have to be athletically flexible to climb inside because there are not proper platforms on which to climb on aboard. But as I said before, people from Abali landing site are very friendly. There is always someone available to help.
Inside the boat, there are no proper seats except for rails used by the fishermen to sit on. And your feet have to be in the puddle of water on the floor of the boat. This too should not surprise you as most boats on our lakes are not water-tight. I come from a lake shore myself so I don’t really have issues with such. A leaking boat doesn’t really scare me. But it did scare one of us. You see, other people had joined us and we were now like ten in the boat. It wasn’t crammed though.
“You people have put us in a leaking boat?’’ One ‘newbie’ inquired somewhat scared. But not one second passed after he finished voicing his concern, Atin Atin had a ready answer for him as if he was expecting such a concern. He belted out a non-apologetic loud and clear answer. “It’s only Noa’s ark which doesn’t leak.’’ This sent us all into another bout of laughter. Nice to have oxytocin flowing around again. I glanced at the person who raised the concern to see his reaction, but he seemed to have got the message and the oxytocin as well.
However this answer from Atin Atin, while not necessarily accurate, summarises for you what the whole visit to Loka Anok is supposed to be. It’s for adventure seekers, people who are looking to venture in to the unknown parts of Lango. It’s not for the clean and fussy. And like in every good adventure, you don’t know what to expect but just enjoy the fun and the adrenaline/oxytocin rush in your body as they come.
But another crew member took pity on our guy. A youthful medium built lad who was wearing a greenish t-shirt with some fake designer label on. He promptly removed his ‘designer’ t-shirt, bundled it and used it to plug the three inch or so hole that was on the boat side and gashing in water whenever the boat rocked. He then proceeded to scooping the half foot deep ‘pond’ of water that had gathered on the floor of the boat using a five litter Jeri can that had been cut in a half specifically for that purpose. Problem solved. Another rush of oxytocin again. Now that’s adventure.
Someone had said it was going to take us one hour to reach the island but it took us barely 20 minutes yet the boat wasn’t even moving that fast. But as we approached the island all the chatter and laughter fell silent as all eye balls were fixed on the marvel that’s Loka Anok Island.
There is something ‘stately’ about this huge piece of land mass in the middle of the water. I must say seeing the island for the first time did strike me like it’s another country not Uganda. A sovereign state of some sort.
I also expected a wetland but no, this is dry land. The trees are huge and tall and the grass is not swamp grass. You can hear birds chipping away somewhere inside the big trees. Yes, there are signs of human activity in this landmass. Someone burned charcoal over there and some tree branches are missing. Oh there is a charred tree stump over there suggesting that there was a bush fire here last dry season. But the forest is still thick and dark underneath as if the darkness we call night sleeps here beneath the dark forests during the day and spreads through the land and water at sunset.
Now the naturalist in me is fighting with the entrepreneur in me. “Should some investor with serious money come and make a picturesque golf course here with sandy beaches and a resort golf hotel here?” The entrepreneur in me was thinking. But the naturalist in me resisted the idea. “That would mean destroying most of this magnificent age old trees and most of the ecosystem. We have climate change remember and we need all the biomass we can get to soak in all that carbon dioxide we are generating.” The naturalist in me pondered.
I squat down and uproot the short grass at the edge of the island where we were standing to make a small patch. With my bare hands I dig up half a fistful of the dirt to examine the type of soil. It’s sandy soil! I don’t know much about beach sand but my imagination tells me that this is it.
BIRDS IN LOKA ANOK ISLAND
The birds seem to enjoy it here in this paradise. They are plenty and a bird watcher would love it here. I tried to sneak and snap a picture of an eagle. But it was shy. It flew away before I could get to the right position. When it was flaying away, I noticed it was clutching a snake in its talons.
I notice a footmark of what I swear must be that of a deer. I try to track it but it disappears into the thickets. That’s when I remembered the warning from our ‘designer’ t-shirt wearing
guide. “There are serious cobras here. Some have hair growing on their faces”. He had warned us. Another adrenaline rush again. So I abandoned the idea. And yes, someone has his cows grazing here. Not many but they are there. And yes we found someone milking them. We even found fishermen resting and smocking their fish on the island. They offered us smoked fish. Nice people they are. I know how to identify some herbs. I saw some plants here that I know can be used as herbal medicine. The thought of Identifying them triggered the idea of using googlelens to identify some of them. That intern made me think of checking if there is internet connection in this island. So I fished out my phone from the pocket and fired up the internet. To my surprise there is internet here. Actually 4G internet. So am thinking, “I could live here.” I got lost in marvelling at this paradise of an island and I forgot to keep track of time. I don’t know how long it took us to leisurely walk round the island but Fred the Kwania tourism officer was right. You need to set aside the whole day to explore the island. I asked the friendly chap, the one with the ‘designer’ t-shirt on. ‘’ This island must be full of fairy-tale stories, do you know some?” I asked. ‘’ You leave Loka Anok alone. This place is full of mysteries.” He said. I don’t know why but he is always jovial and laughing. Oh, did I catch a whiff of liquor from him. That should explain it. Tell me just one of them” I insisted. “I will not tell you the one that will scare you too much.” He said. Trying to be nice to us. He then told us about a person who had gone visiting relatives in the island. The host took for him bathing water behind some bushes. After bathing, he realised he didn’t carry along his must have petroleum jelly for his skin. But just as he was thinking about it, the jelly appeared from nowhere. He was thrilled by the magic. So he used it. But just as he had finished using it, two white ladies (Europeans) came from the bushes as questioned him about the jelly. He told them he had used it already. They were not happy with him for that. After holding him for a while, they released him on condition that he goes on to the main land, buys the jelly and brings it back to replace the one he used. He promptly left the island and never went back. End of story.
We laughed at the preposterous story in unison. Even the teller laughed with us. But I guessed he left out some parts of the story because he was telling it to ‘important’ people from the district headquarters. Those white European ladies must have done something to the island guest. But our ‘designer’ t-shirt wearing guide tries to always be modest and nice you know.
WILD FLOWERS AT LOKA ANOK ISALAND.
Then we realised it was getting late and we needed to get back. I told you Kwania has many surprises. We had planned to go to Nambieso for another exiting visit. Am sure you must have heard that when the British first came to Lango to setup their admiration, they did choose to setup their headquarters in Nambieso. But did you know that the ruins of their buildings are still there? We had planned to visit the site but we couldn’t. You can learn about it in this You Tube video. Loka Anok took all our time but we weren’t complaining. We enjoyed every bit of it.
Ongwen Laodog is a heritage enthusiast based in Lango.
Compiled by Valentine Tours and Travel ltd
BENARD AMWATA -TOURIST GUIDE.