Overview of Lake Kivu, Rwanda

Lake Kivu is one of Africa’s Great Lakes and lies on the border between DRC and Rwanda. It is part of the Albertine Rift Valley. Lake Kivu is approximately 2700km squared and in one of three known ‘exploding’ lakes. This term in used to describe the severe lake overturns which it experiences. It is not yet proven what triggers these lake overturns but volcanic activity is suspected.

Lake Kivu has a unique gaseous chemical composition of methane and carbon dioxide. The Rwandan government is looking into large scale methane extraction. This project is likely to increase Rwanda’s energy generation capability by as much as 20 times and will enable Rwanda to sell electricity to neighboring African countries.

Lake Kivu Location

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Lake Kivu, Rubavu (Gisenyi)

The restful shores of Lake Kivu provide a great place for swimming, sunbathing and water sports activities. The most developed of the three resort towns, Gisenyi, is under an hour by car from the Volcanoes National Park and has colonial architecture, attractive palm-lined sandy beach and crystal waters.  Drawn in by the sweet waters of the lake, the birdlife of Lake Kivu is also prolific with kingfishers, pelicans and cranes all gracing its shores.

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  • What to do in Gisenyi (Rubavu)

Rubavu, also known as Gisenyi, is a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Here are some activities you can enjoy in and around Lake Kivu in Rubavu/Gisenyi:

1. Boat Tour on Lake Kivu:

Explore the scenic beauty of Lake Kivu by taking a boat tour. You can hire a local boat and cruise on the lake, enjoying the picturesque landscapes and possibly visiting nearby islands.

2. Relax on Gisenyi Beach:

Gisenyi has a lovely beach along Lake Kivu. Spend some relaxing time on the sandy shores, take a dip in the lake, or simply enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

3. Water Sports:

Engage in water sports activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, or canoeing on Lake Kivu. Many local operators offer equipment rental and guidance for these activities.

4. Visit Hot Springs:

Explore the nearby hot springs, known as “Les Thermes de Rugerero.” Relax in the natural hot water pools with therapeutic properties, offering a unique and soothing experience.

5. Rubavu Promenade:

Take a stroll along the Rubavu waterfront promenade. Enjoy the fresh air, beautiful views of the lake, and maybe grab a snack from one of the local vendors.

6. Rubona Peninsula:

Explore the Rubona Peninsula, located near Gisenyi. It offers a quieter atmosphere and a chance to enjoy nature walks and birdwatching.

7. Coffee Plantation Visit:

Rwanda is known for its coffee, and you can visit a local coffee plantation to learn about the coffee production process. Some plantations also offer coffee tasting sessions.

8. Visit Local Markets:

Explore local markets in Gisenyi to experience the vibrant culture. You can find traditional crafts, fresh produce, and interact with friendly locals.

9. Biking Tours:

Consider renting a bike to explore the area around Lake Kivu. Biking allows you to cover more ground and enjoy the scenic landscapes at your own pace.

10. Cultural Experiences:

Participate in cultural activities such as traditional dance performances or visit cultural villages to learn about the local way of life and traditions.

11. Dining by the Lake:

Enjoy local cuisine at lakeside restaurants. Try fresh fish dishes and other Rwandan specialties while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of Lake Kivu.

12. Sunset Cruise:

End your day with a memorable sunset cruise on Lake Kivu. Many boat operators offer evening cruises, providing breathtaking views as the sun sets over the lake.

Visit Imbabazi Orphanage

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.

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Lake Kivu, Karongi (Kibuye)

Heading south of Gisenyi, you will reach Kibuye, whose hills are filled with pine trees and eucalyptus, which would not be out of place in the Alps. Access to Kibuye is easy from Kigali, which makes it a popular spot for both Rwandans, who enjoy coming to the lake as a weekend retreat from the city, as well as international visitors who soak up the laid-back lakeside atmosphere.

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  • 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.

Karongi, also known as Kibuye, is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Here are some activities you can enjoy in and around Lake Kivu in Karongi/Kibuye:

1. Boat Tour on Lake Kivu:

Explore the stunning beauty of Lake Kivu by taking a boat tour. You can hire a local boat and cruise on the lake, enjoying the breathtaking landscapes and visiting nearby islands.

2. Visit Napoleon Island (Amahoro Island):

Napoleon Island is a small island on Lake Kivu. Explore the island, home to colonies of fruit bats. Enjoy the panoramic views of the lake from this vantage point.

3. Karongi Peace Park:

Visit Karongi Peace Park, a serene lakeside park with walking paths and green spaces. It provides a peaceful environment to relax and enjoy nature.

4. Karongi Beach:

Relax at Karongi Beach, unwind on the sandy shores, or take a refreshing swim in Lake Kivu. The beach offers a tranquil setting to enjoy the beauty of the lake.

5. Bisesero Genocide Memorial Site:

Pay respects and learn about the historical events that occurred in Bisesero during the 1994 genocide. It’s an important memorial site providing insights into Rwanda’s history.

6. Cultural Village Visit:

Explore a nearby cultural village to experience traditional Rwandan life. Participate in local dances, interact with villagers, and learn about their customs and crafts.

7. Karongi Market:

Discover the vibrant atmosphere of Karongi Market. Engage with local vendors, sample fresh produce, and explore traditional crafts and goods.

8. Coffee Plantation Tour:

Rwanda is known for its high-quality coffee. Visit a local coffee plantation to learn about the coffee production process and enjoy a coffee tasting session.

9. Water Activities:

Engage in water activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, or canoeing on Lake Kivu. Many local operators offer equipment rental and guidance.

10. Lakeside Dining:

Enjoy a meal at a lakeside restaurant, sampling local dishes and enjoying the ambiance of Lake Kivu. Fresh fish is a popular choice in this region.

11. Nature Walks on Rubona Peninsula:

Explore the natural beauty of Rubona Peninsula, which offers scenic nature walks, birdwatching, and a quieter atmosphere.

12. Sunset Viewing:

Witness a breathtaking sunset over Lake Kivu. Head to a strategic viewpoint, such as Kivu Serena Hotel, to enjoy the stunning colors reflecting on the lake.

13. Relaxation Time:

Spend some leisure time by the lakeside, reading a book, or simply enjoying the tranquility that Lake Kivu offers.

Always check local regulations and weather conditions for these activities, and adjust your plans based on your preferences and the specific locations you choose to visit. Enjoy your time exploring the beauty of Lake Kivu in Karongi/Kibuye!

Lake Kivu, Rusizi (Cyangugu)

Cyangugu is situated closer to Nyungwe Forest and is the least developed of the three towns for tourism, characterised by small inlets that weave in and out of the encompassing valleys. Away from these three more established towns and transiting between them you will witness the rural splendour of the ancient lake lifestyle, with many traditional dugout canoes that gently ply the lake’s waters, colourful costumes and local residents playing iningire guitars and troubadours.

At the southern end of Lake Kivu, Cyangugu (pronounced ‘Shangugu’ – its new name of Rusizi is easier to pronounce!) is an old border town whose fading façades tell of its past as a vital trading gateway. It makes for a convenient base if you want to combine a stay on Lake Kivu with Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is only 45 minutes away, although there are limited hotel options.

Rusizi, also known as Cyangugu, is a town located in the southwestern part of Rwanda, on the shores of Lake Kivu. Here are some activities you can enjoy in and around Lake Kivu in Rusizi/Cyangugu:

1. Lake Kivu Boat Cruise:

Explore the scenic beauty of Lake Kivu by taking a boat cruise. Enjoy the views of the lake, the surrounding hills, and possibly visit nearby islands. Local boat operators often offer guided tours.

2. Kamembe Airport Overlook:

Visit the Kamembe Airport overlook for a panoramic view of the lake and the planes landing and taking off. It’s a unique spot to witness the beauty of the area.

3. Kivu Belt Coffee Plantation:

Rwanda is known for its coffee, and you can visit a local coffee plantation like Kivu Belt to learn about the coffee production process. Experience a coffee tasting session with a view of the lake.

4. Rusizi National Park:

Explore Rusizi National Park, which is known for its birdlife. Take a guided nature walk to observe the diverse flora and fauna in this tranquil setting.

5. Congo-Nile Trail:

Embark on a part of the Congo-Nile Trail that passes through Rusizi. This scenic trail offers picturesque views of Lake Kivu and is great for hiking or biking.

6. Kamembe Market:

Visit the Kamembe Market to experience the local culture and buy traditional crafts, fresh produce, and other goods. Engage with local vendors for an authentic market experience.

7. Kivu Serena Hotel:

If available, consider enjoying a meal or drinks at Kivu Serena Hotel. It often offers a beautiful view of Lake Kivu, providing a relaxing atmosphere.

8. Beach Time at Nyamyumba:

Relax on the shores of Lake Kivu at Nyamyumba Beach. Enjoy the sandy beach, take a swim in the lake, and unwind in the peaceful surroundings.

9. Rubavu Hot Springs:

Take a day trip to the nearby Rubavu Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in the natural thermal pools. It’s a unique and rejuvenating experience.

10. Kamembe Catholic Church:

Visit the Kamembe Catholic Church, known for its unique architecture. The church offers a tranquil environment for reflection and appreciation of its design.

11. Local Cuisine Experience:

Explore local restaurants in Rusizi/Cyangugu and indulge in Rwandan cuisine. Try local dishes, especially those featuring fresh fish from Lake Kivu.

12. Sunset Viewing:

End your day by enjoying a spectacular sunset over Lake Kivu. Find a suitable spot along the shoreline or at a viewpoint to witness the vibrant colors reflecting on the lake.

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Visit the Rwanda Directorate general of Immigration and Emigration : https://www.migration.gov.rw/index.php?id=28 which takes you to a visa application form which picks your personal information.

Depending on your travel plans, choose the best visa choice available:

  • Single entry visa – allows entry in Rwanda alone for 30 days – 50 USD
  • Transit Visa for 3 days – only you in the country for only 3 days – 50USD
  • East African Tourists Visa – Allows you to cross to all East African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda – 100 USD

The supporting document to attach is your tour Itinerary if traveling to visit rwanda, Invitation letter, other document with respect to your travel intentions or your flight details in PDF format. You MUST ATTACH documentation at this stage or the visa request will not be processed.

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