Lake Kivu

lake kivu credit myafritrip.com Lake Kivu | Credit: myafritrip.com

Shared between Rwanda and the DR Congo, beautiful Lake Kivu extends for 2,370km² across the floor of the Albertine Rift, and hemmed in by a steep terraced escarpment that rises up to 1.5km above its surface. Ranked among the world’s 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies, it is lined with pretty fishing villages and a trio of larger ports in the form of Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu. The latter in particular has long served as a popular weekend retreat for residents of Kigali, and as the most northerly point on the Rwandan lakeshore, it also forms a great place to chill out after tracking gorillas in nearby Volcanoes National Park.

Highlights

The most southerly port on Lake Kivu, Rusizi (formerly Cyangugu) is split into a bland upper town perched 150m above the water and a smaller but more atmospheric lower town set alongside the Rusizi River as it exits the lake. A short ride on a local amato boat (comprising three dugouts bound together with bamboo poles) leads to the islands of Gihaya and Nkombo, both of which support an abundant birdlife.

karongi

The closest Kivu port to Kigali, Karongi (formerly Kibuye) sprawls prettily across a row of pine- and eucalyptus-planted hills interwoven with the arms of the lake. It is notable for its bustling Saturday market and the recently-opened Museum of the Environment, which incorporates a collection of stuffed animals and mounted butterflies, and s rooftop garden of well-labelled plants used as traditional medicine. Nearby Napoleon’s Island is shaped like its namesake’s hat and supports a massive colony fruit bats.

Situated at an altitude of 2,150m on the escarpment above the lakeshore, the 100m-high Chutes de Ndaba is most impressive in the rainy season and a rough footpath leads to the base from the main road between Karongi road and Rubavu.

Rwanda’s newest conservation area, gazetted in 2016, the 35km² Gishwati-Mukura National Park protects two relict patches of the vast tract of montane rainforest that once covered the Rift Valley escarpment south of Nyungwe. The more interesting to tourists is the Gishwati Forest, which supports significant populations of chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey and golden monkey, along with 120 bird species, including Albertine Rift endemics such as Ruwenzori turaco, strange weaver and red-throated alethe. the park is not yet open to tourists but a network of walking trails is planned.

rubona The lakeside village of Rubona

The most popular Kivu port with tourists is the leafy town of Rubavu (formerly Gisenyi), which lies just 60km from the gorilla tracking facilities at Volcanoes National Park. Rubavu’s lovely setting is capped by by the distinctive outline of Nyiragongo, the most active of the Virunga volcanoes, which lies on the opposite side of the Congolese border, and often belches out smoke by day and glows ominously at night. Tourist facilities are concentred 6km out of town at Rubona, a scenic lakeside village notable for its pretty beaches and fishing harbour.

enter image description here Biking the Congo-Nile Trail | Credit: Bike Packing

The scenic Congo-Nile Trail runs roughly parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Kivu between Rubavu and Rusizi along 227km of existing roads and motorable tracks. Divided into ten stages, it takes ten days to complete on foot, five by bicycle and two or three by 4x4, sleeping at various lakeshore villages and towns.

Practical advice

  • RwandAir operates a once-daily flight between Kigali and Kamembe airport outside Rusizi (formerly Cyangugu). Otherwise, main ports on Lake Kivu are most easily reached by road. Rusizi is about 220km/5 hours southwest of Kigali via Huye and Nyungwe National Park, whilst Karongi is 135km/2 hours west of Kigali and Rubavu is 155km/3 hours northwest via Musanze (the gateway town for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park). A newly surfaced 200km road also connects the three main ports to each other, as does a twice-weekly ferry service.

  • A decent selection of budget and midrange accommodation is available at Rusizi, Karongi or Rubavu. For something more upmarket, you are best heading to Rubavu. Boat trips onlt othe lake can be arranged at all the ports.


Our Recommended Itinerary

The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 1

Nairobi, your arrival
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 2

Early flight into Amboseli
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 3

Amboseli elephant and views of Kilimanjaro
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 4

Into the Masai Mara
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 5

The Mara confluence and paradise plains
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 6

Find the migration

Jun

Jul

Western corridor and Grumeti River

Jul

Oct

Kogatende and the Mara River


day 7

and stay with them

Jun

Jul

Western corridor and Grumeti River

Jul

Oct

Kogatende and the Mara River


day 8

Dunia's big cats
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 9

Make sure you find leopard
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 10

Hot air ballooning and your flight to Rwanda
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 11

Genocide memorial and onwards to Volcanoes
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 12

Your time with the Gorillas
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)
  • The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

day 13

Fly home

View Full Itinerary

You might also like

Rwanda in July

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. July falls within the long dry season and monthly rainfall in most parts of the country is low (well below 50mm). July is an excellent month for…

Medical travel insurance for Rwanda

Go for fully comprehensive medical travel insurance, inclusive of air evacuation where required. Read the small print before you sign, in the knowledge that many policies will not cover injuries sustained during recreational activities deemed to be hazardous, or in areas subject to travel warnings by the British FCO or US state department. ...

Budget safari in Rwanda

Options for budget travellers are limited. Rwanda has consciously implemented attract a low-volume, high-cost tourism strategy that reflects the scarcity value of its main attraction: mountain gorillas. Tracking gorillas in Rwanda costs more than twice as much as it does in neighbouring Uganda, and other activities in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks are also relatively costly.…

Rwanda in February

Highlands and medium-altitude regions, for instance Kigali, Lake Kivu and Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks, are warm to hot by day, and comfortably cool by night. Low-lying Akagera National Park is hot by day, and warm by night. February falls towards the so-called short dry season and most parts of the country receives a medium to high precipitation (around 80-100mm). February…

Languages in Rwanda

Unusually for Africa, Rwanda is essentially a mono-linguistic state, with the first language of practically all citizens being Kinyarwanda. In addition, most Rwandans speak a little of at least one international language. Historically, French was the most widely recognised European language, thanks to almost 50 years of Belgian colonisation. These days, however, English probably has the…

Welcome to Rwanda

Rwanda is, quite simply, the best place in Africa to engage in what is arguably the world’s single most thrilling wildlife encounter: tracking mountain gorillas through the steep bamboo- and forest-swathed slopes of the Virunga Mountains. No two encounters are ever the same, but whether it’s a 200kg silverback chilling out on the forest trail, a curious mother staring questioningly…

Popular Rwanda Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

The Uganda Hills | The complete East Africa experience (EA 13 days)

The complete East Africa experience

Enjoy East Africa's most celebrated highlights, from a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, to sailing above the Serengeti in a hot-air balloon and meeting mountain gorillas...

 | Nature, Romance, Exclusivity and Luxury - A Complete African Honeymoon

Nature, Romance, Exclusivity and Luxury - A Complete African Honeymoon

This exclusive African honeymoon through East and Southern Africa is the perfect way to celebrate the start of your new journey together...

Gorillas | Gorillas and the Migration Combined (EA 11 days)

Rwanda gorillas and the migration, both sides of the Mara River

Enjoy two of Africa's most magnificent wildlife experiences – mountain gorillas and the Great Migration – on one unforgettable safari...

Elephant Herd | Best of Africa Safari (EA 16 days)

Best of Africa safari

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

Chimpanzee | The Primates of Uganda & Rwanda

Primates and wildlife of Uganda and Rwanda

See mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys and tree-climbing lions, take a boat cruise and visit Rwanda's genocide memorial ...