We think the drive here from the Virunga’s is one of the most beautiful in the country, winding through mountains and steeply terraced hills, covered with tea plantations against a backdrop of mountains. In Gisenyi itself, the lower town is a jumble of picturesque but faded colonial homesteads and charming markets and the nearby Imbabazi charity is definitely worth a visit.
Most people come here to sit back and enjoy the beautiful views, with the lakes blue water surrounded by steeply terraced escarpments and the northern shore overlooked by the smoking Nyiragongo volcano, which can sometimes be seen glowing at night. It is a great place to spend a few days in a wide range of accommodation, depending on what you want, although not all lodges have beaches, so pick wisely.
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 center 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!
Why visit Lake Kivu
The perfect place to rest those aching legs after trekking gorillas
Wander through the lively markets at Gisenyi and pick up a bargain
Visit the Imbabazi Foundation for a unique cultural experience
Look out for the lava flow from the distant Nyiragongo volcano at night
Things to Do in and Near Lake Kivu
Swimming and other water sports
Lake 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. The waters of lake Kivu has 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 tourist 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.
Hiking and biking along the shores
A walk in Rwanda is always exciting and doing it on the beaches of lake Kivu can be the best decision one can ever make. Hiking is a good exercise that can be enjoyed by tourists after a safari or those on a honeymoon. With great views of the fresh water body, a walk at the shores of lake with cool breezes from the waves will give you a remarkable and unforgettable experience.
Water trips and cruising
This can be done on local dugout canoes or using engine boats. Cruising on this fresh water body enables one to discover more of the land of a thousand hills. Excursion boat rides can be made within a few meters of the lake even while having dinner while other longer trips can be made to the major islands in the lake especially the Napoleon and Amahoro island. Relaxing on cruises and water trips on the lake makes one somehow forget about their problems and feel home away from home.
A Visit to Imbabazi Orphanage
The 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.