Dominating the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is one of the African Great lakes situated in the western branch of the east African rift known as the Albertine rift. This huge fresh water lake covering a total surface area of 1,040sq miles and 4790 ft above sea level empties into Ruzizi River which flows south into Lake Tanganyika. This is the sixth largest lake in Africa and the biggest in Rwanda. Idjwi is the world’s tenth largest inland island that lies in lake Kivu and so does a tiny island called Tshegera. On its shores are settlements including Kabare, Sake, Bakavu, Kalehe, Kibuye, Gisenyi, Goma and Cyangugu.
Driving through these towns brings real joy with the road gently curving back and forth as it curves through the mountains and hills alongside the lake from Gisenyi all the way to Cyangugu and at its centre Kibuye. Each corner produces another beautiful view with the eucalyptus besides the road and hills terraced with bananas. The children in the villages make you feel like a royal as you drive past them as they joyfully wave at you. These 3 main towns are roughly 3-4 hours apart.
Lake Kivu along Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, in Cameroon is one of three lakes that experience limnic eruptions. Outgassing events around the lake have been found to cause vast biological extinctions about every 1000 years by geologists. Each of these exploding lakes is unique in its own way and for the case of Lake Kivu, its gaseous composition is made up of carbondioxide and methane due to its interaction with a volcano. An overturn of this lake has not happened yet but the risk of its possibility can be a major catastrophy as what happened with its counterpart lakes that claimed lots of lives.
To deviate this risk, it was resolved that the lake should be degassed and luckily enough methane can be used to produce energy therefore there was a huge opportunity for energy production from the untapped supply of gas. This led to the birth of Kivuwatt biogas project which is currently in phase one at 25mW and being funded by the UK, Dutch, Swedish and Swiss governments.
The main towns
Gisenyi also known as Rubavu
This is a large town on the northern edge of Lake Kivu extended over numerous hills. The town has some decent hotels including those that exhibit international standard, trendy bars that sit on the shores of the lake perfect for a sundower cocktail as well as the famous waterfront beach. The once colonial beach is lined with old mansions that have maintained the ancient glow.
What can be done in Gisenyi town?
There are plenty of activites that can be done at the waterfront beach in Gisenyi like sun bathing, swimming, beach volley ball and beach soccer name it. You won’t be bored at any one moment while there. It can get really busy especially on the weekends.
North of Gisenyi is the Imbabazi orphanage that was founded by a remarkable American lady called Rosamund Halsey Carr. Here you will have an opportunity to interact with the unfortunate yet joyful and healthy youngsters who will melt your heart thanks to the notable work of their keepers. Halsey transformed her ransacked house after returning to Rwanda at the age of 82 after the genocide. She mainly set it up for the survivors of the genocide and this has seen over 400 orphans call this home. In honor of this notable lady, Imbabazi is planning to develop a cultural center. It should be noted that the orphanage should be contacted first prior to your visit.
Kibuye also known as Karongi
Almost at the center of the towns, Kibuye is most likely the prettiest of them all and is about 100km south of Gisenyi. Hills clothed in eucalyptus and pines surround the fertile tropical spot. Yellow billed kites flying over Lake Kivu on their annual migration can be spotted from here in August. Accommodation in Kibuye has most of its lodges overlooking the lake which leaves with a glorious view of the scenery and the gorgeous sunset.
What can be done in Kibuye?
The genocide memorial church was set up in Kibuye and a visit there will do you so good. Despite the tragic history this place offers an ultimate environment for peaceful contemplation. The chrch stands proud with its brightly colour stained glass windows. While in Kibuye you will also get the opportunity to take boat trips on Lake Kivu as well as catch a light moment at its only bar on the Amahoro island. This island is pertinently known as the “One bar island” because it has only one on this island. Another island found here is the Napoleon island which is popular for its colony of fruit bats.
Cyangugu also known as Rusizi
Close to the DRC border, this town is a major trading gateway and makes a suitable base in case you want to combine a stay on the lake with Nyungwe Forest National park that is only 45 minutes away. The old town is located at the south end of the lake. Great items can be purchased from the town since it’s a bustling market town.
The shores of Lake Kivu have a number of beautiful and extremely comfortable hotels you can choose from to stay. Below are some of these;
Lake Kivu Serena hotel
Serena is calmly placed on the white sandy shores of Lake Kivu outside Gisenyi town only 160km away from Rwanda’s capital city Kigali. By air it is 20mintues away from Kigali international airport. Serena issurrounded by far-reaching tropical gardens offering you the perfect extended holiday destination. Overlooking its own private beach, Serena offers executive suites, 66 luxury hotel room, indoor as well as beachside bars, a panoramic restaurant and a lavish swimming pool to relax. Serena makes sure the health of their guests is a priority and this is done through the Maisha health centre that offers a range of health as well as beauty regimes. This is all topped up with a world class fully incorporated conference centre.
Bethanie Guest house
Right in the middle of Rwanda’s lakeshore close to the gorgeous town of Kibuye, the lodge is situated alongside lapping waves facing west into the setting sun. it is run by the Pentecostal church and has a modern exterior together coupled with a simple inside that is slightly dated.
It has 42 rooms with each room having twin beds and some triple rooms are also available. The rooms have concrete polished floors, a hot shower and an en-suite bathroom. Each of them has a terrace that opens out onto the lake which gives you the best views of the lake.
Mouth watering food ranging from local traditional foods to international dishes, the guest house has a restaurant with very warm loving staff to always attend to you.
Visiting in August will give you the opportunity to see yellow billed kites that are on their annual migration. While here you will also be able to take boat rides on the lake to the nearby island Napoleon to see the massive fruit bat colony.
Sitting on a steep hill heading doen the lake, Cormoran lodge offers beautiful views over the lake with a small number of wooden cabin which are well run and constructed with utmost care and quality.
The central areas of the lodge comprise a large wooden structure set right into the hill and is harnessed on wooden stilts. To one side you will find comfortable sofas and a television and at the center is a bar and a fire place that is always lit in the evening. Dinner tables are also set to the other side of the room.
Stylishly designed the main areas radiate a liberating ambience with a chunky rope and lifesaver rings giving it the seafaring feel as the African wood carved statues and ornaments give a local atmosphere.
Seven of the rooms here are identical for the most part with the honeymoon suite having a slightly bigger bathroom but this doesn’t make the prices vary. The rooms are quite simple and bucolic with its wooden finishing all over from the floors to the walls as well as the ceiling. They have a wooden double bed, a television as well as a small writing desk with some chairs.
The food provided will leave you in awe and the lodge has a bar to give the perfect finishing touch.
Moriah hill resort
A lovely lake side resort located in Kibuye, Moriah hill resort comprises 18 en-suite rooms that have a private balcony that overlooks the lake together with an exquisite restaurant, a bar and a man made beach. While here you will get a chance to scenic take boat trips on the lake.
An exceptionally friendly guesthouse, Paradise Malahide is located in Rubona a small village located south 7km from the centre of Gisenyni.
You will find 10 rooms here including 6 individuals and 4 apartments each bungalow has gardens surrounding it while the apartments are in a 2 tiered structure. All these are fitted with self contained bathrooms and each bed has a mosquito net fitted to protect you from mosquitoes.
From here you can see children cheerfully playing by the lake shore and the sites of the lake from here are very rewarding.