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

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.

  • 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.

rwanda gorilla trekking safaris, rwanda gorilla safari, gorilla trekking rwanda, rwanda gorilla tours, gorilla trekking in volcanoes park, gorilla tours in rwanda, gorillas in rwandaKarongi, 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.

  • 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.

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.


Imbabazi Orphanage is located in Gisenyi, originally started in December 1994 by Rosamond Carr from New York, USA. Rosamond Carr brought a flower plantation in the Mugongo area in 1955, for the next 50 years she witnessed the end of colonialism, celebrated Rwanda’s independence and became one of Diane Fossey’s closest friends. Rosamond was forced to leave by the American Embassy in April 1994 due to the outbreak of the genocide. She returned in August 1994, aged 82, to find her home and plantation ruined. She then decided to open her doors to genocide orphans and developed Imbabazi Orphanage. Due to security reasons the Orphanage has had to move locations 4 times, but is now settled in Gisenyi. The flower plantation is still running and provides fresh produce for the orphanage.

Visit the Rwanda Directorate general of Immigration and Emigration : 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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