Saaka's Seductive Calm Scenery
Crater lake at Saaka.

Saaka's Seductive Calm Scenery

By Gerald Businge
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First published: February 4, 2006

Have you been to a place that gives you a feeling of great discovery? Well that is what filled me one Thursday afternoon when I visited Saaka a few kilometers outside Fort Portal town.

Saakas scenery and tranquility are simply overpowering. For nature lovers, this is a place with an abundance of chaste nature in its different forms.

I have always known Fort Portal as a very beautiful place the people, the scenery and the fact that it is the epitome of our internationally envied tropical climate.

Added to those fascinating mountains of the moon the Rwenzoris viewable from every corner of the town and the mostly green hills surrounding it, and you have a deserving place that has always proved irresistible to foreign visitors.

I saw this all when I was studying at St. Leos College, Kyegobe, found about two kilometers outside Fort-Portal town. My friends used to tell me that I had not witnessed the real beauty of Fort Portal, since I had not visited the really beautiful places.

They always mentioned Saaka Omubijongo (craters), where the Holy Cross Fathers got hooked, founded a permanent abode and got themselves Empako (pet names) and speak excellent Rutooro (the local language), better than some natives.

I had never had a chance to see the place firsthand. On my last trip to Fort-Portal, I decided to see for myself what Saaka had, that had tantalized many people.

I found a boda boda motor cyclist, who knew the place properly. The route to Saaka is a bumpy road, the same one that leads to Bundibugyo, the mountainous border district. We made several turns, sometimes passing the alluring green hills near their base.

We had traveled about only five kilometers from the town centre when I started noticing signs of limited human settlements. As we continued on, it seemed as if we were traveling to another country, or a place barely inhabited.

Scenery at Saaka
On Scenery at Saaka

Travelling without no end had began to worry me but the boda boda man assured me that he knew the place and that we were on the right track.

When we made the final turn to the place, I realised the road was barely a path, or at least it was rarely used. I almost felt we were trespassing. Then I saw a signpost that read: Brothers of St. Joseph the Worker, SAAKA NOVITIATE.

And later I saw Saakas beautiful structures. The waters from the crater lake and the natural green surroundings are overly captivating. We first stopped over at the hostel to inquire whether we were free to go down to the water. No problem, answers a man with a long beard.

Not even human activity has had a noticeable impact on the serenity of the place. In fact, everything here just seems to be a contributing factor to its peaceful aura.

It feels like you are in a place where you alone have visited, or at least a place many people havent been to. The tree and banana plantations, the little grass thatched houses, the hostel, all enhanced the beauty and calm elegance of the place, which is ideal for a holiday or quiet outing.

The cattle grazing nearby seemed to acknowledge this. They were a sight to look at as they chewed their grass in peace and moved with grace and dignity.

On crater lake at Saaka
On crater lake at Saaka

The crater lake is small, about 27meters in diameter. On either side are shrubs and growths providing striking greenery for any eye. There is a manual boat at the shores of the crater lake implying that boat rides are one of the activities at the site. When we visited, we were told the caretakers were not around and we could not get many details.

On the other side of the lake is a more comfortable stretch, with protected rest stands, where the White Fathers accessed the lake. I was told I could not go there since the Rev. Father who was conversant with the place was absent. So no one could explain to me about the hostel facility and other services.

There was a canoe, which was used for fishing in the lake. Muhammad Najib, the heavily bearded chief fisher said the lake was under the Department of Fisheries. He said the government contracted the lake to a businessman Yasim Abdul (his boss) but only for fishing.

We competed for the contract and won, Najib said. Najib says they harvest the fish species from Lake Albert and put them in this Saaka lake. We are under surveillance to use accepted fishing methods and appropriate fishing nets, he reveals.

Najib says that the late John Babiiha, former vice-president in the Milton Obote 1 government, started the idea of fishing on this lake in 1967. The lake has Nile perch and tilapia, which are in plenty.

As I marvel at the attractions of Saaka, the nearby mountain (or hill) where the contours and separated green fields notified me that farming was being carried out in the area. I was told that farming on the overlooking hill is the work of prisoners from Katojo Prison the old buildings I had passed and mistaken for a well-situated but neglected institute.

On the other side about a kilometer away are two hills on which Muhote Barracks was built. The barracks is one of the biggest in the country.

AFTER visiting Saaka, the crater lake, and its environs, you stop wondering why people of all walks of life and across generations have fallen for this place in Fort Portal.

By Gerald Businge
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First published: February 4, 2006
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Gerald Businge is a media practitioner and features Editor at Ultimate Media Consult in Uganda. He is a graduate of Mass Communication and several journalism and leadership certificates. He has been a practicing journalist since March 2001 and has worked at The New Vision as features writer, and has written extensively for different newspapers, magazines, newsletters in Uganda and internationally. He currently does fulltime media communication consultancy work as well as writing and editing at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd where he is a founding member and CEO. You can get his attention so long as you are interested in and you are working for a better world.