Lake Kivu in Rwanda

Rwanda’s western side is bounded by Lake Kivu, one of a string of huge freshwater lakes which lie along Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Dominating the border between Rwanda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo); Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake, and the sixth largest lake in Africa.

The real joy of this area is driving between the towns, and it’s a lovely option for a slower route between Nyungwe Forest National Park and Volcanoes National Park. The road gently curves back and forth as it weaves through hills and mountains beside the lake from Gisenyi all the way to Cyangugu, with Kibuye almost at its centre point. Every corner produces another gorgeous view. Eucalyptus trees line the road, while every inch of the hills seems to be terraced with bananas. Villagers smile and wave, and children constantly call out “Abuzungu!” as you drive past (the Kinyarwanda term for white people, like “Muzungu” in Swahili). You’ll end up with hands tired from waving, and feel like royalty at the end of the trip!

Lake Kivu’s three main towns are roughly 3-4 hours apart from each other. However, on our last visit, extensive road construction works were making the journeys longer.

What to do in Gisenyi (Rubavu)

There is a pleasant public beach on Gisenyi’s lakeshore but it can get quite busy, particularly at weekends. Some hotels have private beaches and water sport options.

Driving north from Gisenyi (Rubavu), the Imbabazi Orphanage founded by American Rosamund Halsey Carr, is a beautiful memorial to a remarkable lady. On returning to Rwanda after the genocide at the age of 82, she transformed her ransacked house into an orphanage for survivors and over 400 orphans have since called this place home. Sitting among colourful gardens, the house looks like an English country cottage, complete with an aging Labrador. Imbabazi is planning to develop a cultural centre in Carr’s memory and runs a variety of projects for local people, continuing to support its former orphans. Your driver/guide will need to contact the orphanage beforehand should you like to visit.

What to do in Kibuye (Karongi)

From Kibuye (Karongi) you can take boat trips on Lake Kivu to nearby islands: Napoleon Island with its colony of fruit bats and Amahoro Island, which became popular locally for the sundowner bar set up on the island seasonally!
It’s also possible to visit Kibuye’s genocide memorial church, with brightly coloured stained-glass windows, in a quiet location on a hill above Lake Kivu. Despite a tragic history, it’s a place for peaceful contemplation.

Lake Kivu

Activities in Lake Kivu in Rwanda

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Congo Nile Trail around Lake Kivu

Lake KivuOne of the newest developments is the Congo-Nile Trail. Officially opened at the end of 2009, the Congo-Nile Trail is actually a tangled network of trails and roads that run from Gisenyi at the north end of Lake Kivu 227 kilometers south to the town of Cyangugu at the southern end of the lake. The landscape between these two familiar points is made up of unending rolling hills and innumerable towns and villages, offering cyclists and trekkers a glimpse of Rwandan rural life rarely experienced by the city dwellers that make up most of Rwanda’s expat community. Bird lovers will also enjoy a wonderful diversity of fowl found along the way, including white tailed blue flycatchers, black headed herons and White-breasted cormorants.

There are several options for enjoying the Congo-Nile Trail. Walking, motorcycling and cycling are all options, but you won’t get very far walking up the hills, and you can’t adequately appreciate the scenery if you’re zooming by on a motorcycle, so I recommend taking a cycling tour to get the most out of the Trail. On a bike you have a plenty of touring options. You can keep to the wide roads, challenge yourself on the more technically demanding narrow footpaths that snake through the hills and villages, or a mix of both.

A visit to Nyamirundi Island

This island is near Gisenyi and a lot of coffee growing and processing is done around the area. A visit to the island enables one to learn about the whole coffee growing process and get a chance to taste the locally processed and made coffee. There are also other crops grown on the island like bananas and other major food crops. The island provides beautiful views of the terraced gently sloping islands covered with coffee and banana plantations.

A visit to the Imbabazi orphanage

Lake KivuThe orphanage was set up by the late Rosamond Carr to take care of the children who were left orphans by the terrible Rwandese genocide. Carr had lived in Rwanda for some time and was a close friend to Dian Fossey a mountain gorilla conservationist.
During the genocide, the orphanage had to be moved from one place to another due to insecurity reasons however after the genocide in 1994, it was permanently moved back to Gisenyi and at that time the orphanage was a home to over 400 orphans.
The orphanage was reconstructed and well built and today it has beautiful gardens, has a restaurant that prepares classic and standard food and also provides great views of the Virunga volcanoes in the background.

Swimming and relaxation on Lake Kivu

Lake KivuLake Kivu is a fresh water body that is crocodile free, hippo free and bilharzia free. The water in lake Kivu has a cool temperature and all those who would want to cool down especially on a hot day are free to jump in the lake and relax. There are beautiful beaches along the lakeshores with fine sand where one can relax in the mild sun after having a great swim in the lake. Better swimming points can be got from the major towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu.

Wind surfing and other water sports on lake Kivu

The waters of lake Kivu have waves that support water sports activities like windsurfing, kayaking, speed boat rides and sport fishing. Wind surfing and kayaking equipment can be hired from around Gisenyi.

In conclusion, Lake Kivu is a fantastic tourists attraction, which one should not miss out while in the country. If you’re visiting for gorilla safari, this is a relaxing destination to top your adventure in Rwanda rewarding with a relaxing experience in the land of a thousand hills

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