A large chunk of land off of the Ugandan coast of Lake Victoria recently broke off and began floating away from the mainland. The island is twenty acres and has been floating across the lake for months now. Residents have also reported seeing the island anchor itself at various ports. This is not the first known case of a floating island, but Jaja Magezi, as it was christened, has already become a tourist destination, albeit a dangerous one.
Several people have been ferried to and from Jaja Magezi to tour the floating island at a fee. This is despite protests from scientists and government officials who say that the island has a weak foundation. Environmentalists state that if anyone were to step on a weakened spot, the island may end up sinking and all who may be on it would drown. As a result, police have been attempting to stop any would-be island travellers from being ferried to the island. In spite of such an impending risk, a group of artists and musicians live on the island and have built a community called Mirembe, which translates into “peace” in Luganda. The community has erected makeshift houses, have started growing their own food gardens, and have even hoisted the Ugandan national flag as a reference point. They argue that the island is conducive for relaxation and creativity away from the chaos of urban life.
The question on most peoples’ minds, however, is what caused the emergence of a floating island on the lake. There has been some superstition surrounding the island and several say that the island is inhabited by spirits. However, many also point out that it may be due to one of several scientific reasons. There have been cases of floating islands in history, often caused by varying water levels, powerful waves, or plant decomposition.
While the appearance of the floating island has surely been a source of interest on the Lake Victoria coast, it has made life harder for fishermen in the area. When the island anchors, it destroys fishing nets and threatens the livelihoods of those who make a living from the lake. Similarly, it has been claimed that it blocks berthing terminals and prevents free movement of ferries and boats. It is unclear as to whether or not the Ugandan government hopes to clear the island to prevent such issues in the future.