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In my previous episode https://bit.ly/2RerFfu I narrated how I had stepped my foot on Gangama hill. It’s on this hill that Mwanga and Kabalega were incarcerated, it’s on this hill that Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu finally settled, it’s on this hill that he died and was buried. In this episode I take you straight to what to see on this hill in the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Experience with Kakunguru Safaris a local company that has taken time to develop the itinerary.


Semei Kakungulu grave at Gangama Hill in Mbale.

Kakungulu died on 24th November 1928of Tetanus. Kakungulu is buried in a short distance from the main Abayudaya synagogue behind the unpretentious home which he lived during his last years of his life. He was buried inside a house. I asked Steve my guide why he was buried inside a house. “He built this house before he died and instructed his relatives to be buried there” Says Steve the soft spoken man with a lot of simplicity. We were allowed in by the care taker of Kakungulu’s grave and old house Mr. Hamis Nambale who looks like he is in his old 60s. As you enter, the immediate site is a front stone on the grave with words……..

“SEMEI LWAKIRENZI KAKUNGULU A victorious General, Saza Chief in Buganda, Administrator of Eastern province 1899 – 1905, President of Busoga 1906 -1913. Died 24th 11 1928”

His grave is surrounded by his tools of work that include spears that he used to take on his battle fronts. Each spear or tool there has its own meaning according to Steve.


Darius – Show Host and Steve – Kakungulu Safaris standing infront of Semei Kakungulu House


Under pressure from the British who wished to limit his holdings, in 1917 moved his residence a short distance further from Mbale town into a short distance in the foothills of MT elgon to a place called Gangama. It was there that he started a separatist sect initially called Ekibiina Kya Abayudaya abesiga Katonda (the community of Jews who trust in omnipotent God) which is made up of mostly Kakungulu’s Baganda following as told to us by Steve. When I visited the site, I could easily tell the difference with rest of the community.

In 1922, at Gangama, Kakungulu published a 90-page book of rules and prayers as a guide book for his Jewish community. “The book set fourth Jewish laws and practices as Kakungulu found them in the old testament as well” Says Rabbi Garshom Wambede who is the current Mbale Jewish community leader or teacher. I found out that despite this interest in Jewish practices, there does not appear to have any contact between Kakungulu and the Jewish practices before 1925.

According to Steve, many European engineers and mechanics who were employed by the British had a chance of meeting the Christian-Jewish community in Mbale in what appears to be chance encounters and then out of this Kakungulu was told about Orthodox Judaism. As a result his other Cristian values and customs were dropped and he adopted Judaism including practices of baptism.

From these encounters the community learned of citing Hebrew prayers, observing Sabbath on Saturday, slaughter meet in Kosher manner and also speak some Hebrew.

After Kakungulu death local sources say, the Abayudaya community was divided into those wishing to retain a toehold within Christianity and those wanting to break it completely. The Bayudaya remained a mixture of both Christianity and Judaism, with faith in Christ remaining in Kakungulu’s faith and beliefs.

Some of the young Abayudaya community members performing local dance for Darius


Just few meters Steve leads me through a maize plantation walking through a small footpath with visible stones across on the same hill. “This man was ambitious, both in wars and establishing his dynasty” Says Steve as he looks at me firmly on the face. I nodded in agreement. I tasked Steve if he knew some of Semei daughters or sisters surviving and he told me there is one sister who stays near former president of Uganda Amin’s ware house in Lunguja, Rubaga Division, Kampala but they seem to have lost touch. If one of his children were still alive probably he would have finished this palace and ascend on the throne of Bamasaba, Steve re-affirmed me.


A kid traverses through Semei Kakungulu road that goes to the community school.

Some Baganda chauvinists believe and think Kakungulu was a great philanthropist who took religion and education in that area. They sometimes go as far as saying he took civilization in the area…………………. To be continued in the next episode


Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.

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They say water is life, BUT to me there is life on water. Just when you see yellowish dirty water on the shores of Lake Victoria at Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe town, I bet it’s not appetizing, and so was my mood as boarded the MV Kalangala ferry. Okay!


I must admit it was my first time to sail on a ferry and for all my years I have been hearing of it in stories from uncle Ben who used to be a District Commissioner ( D.C) in my hey days. So I can’t hide the excitement of stepping on the ferry for the first time and seeing the magnificent thing that carries other boats and cars, goats, charcoal, people and anything that cared to get on board. It flashed my memories of bible times about Noah’s ark. Albeit Uncle Ben’s phone was off to tell him how my dreams came true.

MV Kalangala on Lutoboka docking point

At exactly 1:45 pm the ferry alarms for the first time. We are all lining up to join others onboard already. First you need to have a ticket which is around 10,000 Ugandan shillings and 12,000 Ugandan shillings for Economy and Business class respectively. If you have a car you need to book for space early enough or else you will not get space for it. The ferry carries around 8- 12 cars maximum with some other luggage and people who love sailing on open air. However am different, I want to have a taste of all corners of cabins and since I had gone for a documentary, at least talk to so many guest on board and understand of their feeling was as exciting as mine.

Darius Touring the cabins

MV Kalangala is actually the only vessel which plies Entebbe- Kalangala route and is run by Nation Oil Distributors and was built in 2005, so it has been over 13 years in operational although initially it used to work between Mwanza and Port bell Luzira. Sources say, government is in the late stages of procuring a new vessel that will be 100% carrying passengers without too much luggage and if the process doesn’t go “the Ugandan way”, it will be available this year. This will be taking only two hours or less from Entebbe to Kalangala or vice versa.

At exactly 2:00 pm the captain hoots for the last time and we are leaving. It’s a three and half journey on water. Doesn’t that sound so tiresome? I guess so. But wait, not all journeys are so tiresome. It actually depends on the fun and excitement on board. It was not until the titanic sank that Juliet and Romeo’s journey became so long. Otherwise it was the sweetest journey of all times. To us who did not expect the Titanic story to repeat itself in Uganda, then we had a good travel story.

MV Kalangala has a modern sitting area with full onboard entertainment to keep you busy on your favorite movie or TV station.  Each sitting area for VIP section has comfortable chairs with a sitting capacity of 4 pax on either side facing each other sharing a table. The sitting area that is more like a modern road bus with four sitting lanes divided into two sections with one section on the entrance and the other one towards the stairs to the upper captain lounge. The ferry can carry a total of 150 passengers in both VIP and Ordinary sections, toilets and all facilities for a modern traveler. Am in agreement with Mr. Kit Yahya the logistics manager at MV Kalangala.

MV Kalangala has a well-stocked canteen on board where you can buy a snack or drink. I took stair to go and view Lake Victoria from the top and it was awesome. Few minutes from take off a gentleman approached me to ask if I needed a snack or so. He told me of course on the lake we love to give you fish accompanied by chips and salads which I Okayed and he told me to pay first. Wait, a meal on MV Kalangala is not for the faint hunted. We waited till we forgotten we had ordered for a meal and slept off. Just when we woke up, this man turned up with one plate yet we had ordered for four and he told us to wait for the other three remaining plates with no apologetic face. I can’t recall his name in case he told me but I would possibly advise you to travel with your snacks since it’s allowed on the ferry.

There is no much to see along the way apart from fading sky blue waters of Lake Victoria, magnificent fading views of the islands across to the Tanzanian boarder and few water birds sailing or catching fish. Sometimes the lake is calm and sometimes it’s windy with a lot of waves thus slowing the ferry speed. Wind is too much mostly in dry season. But most important are the different races of people you meet on board. I met almost everyone on the ferry especially Kalangala politicians and business men who are accustomed to the routine. Also on board were tourists who were more like me since it was their first time to go to Kalangala too. But trust me you can always fall sleep if you are not a fan of stories and storytelling. To my shock when you approach the landing site at Lutoboka which is the main docking site for MV Kalangala, you will find people waiting for their guests like it is on any landing site of the world. What do I mean here? Just like it is on international airports. People waiting with Name-pads and many signposts directing guests, vans and all kinds luxurious plus non luxurious cars, with faces looking very excited to meet their guests. Ohm my God!! Alas I didn’t expect this on just a mere ferry docking point. Maybe on Canadian cruise ship lines or on Heathrow airport yes, but not on the lake. That’s fine but here I think it’s not fine and I owe nobody an apology to say this is unusual.

Victoria Forest Resort

When you get close you start seeing many luxurious resorts on the water fonts with white sand stretching beaches and you can cry out of joy asking yourself where you have been. To me it was a memorable start for my trip to Kalangala, Ssese Island. Time check, its 5:30 pm local “Basese-Kalangala” time First check in at Victoria Forest resort that looked like calling me from a distance to come as faster as I can and I will continue my story in my next series about Kalangala.

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Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners. Pictures maybe subject to copyright.

Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.