Lake Kivu is an incredible place to visit and a stunningly beautiful lake. Running for almost 100kms along the Congolese border, Kivu takes its place among the 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies in the world. With no hippos or crocodiles and crystal clear, clean water, it is also one of the safest lakes in Africa. Rubavu (also known as Gisenyi) is a waterfront town located on the shores of Lake Kivu and at only an hour away from Volcanoes National Park , Rubavu is a great place to unwind after Gorilla Trekking adventures. Here you can sit on the beach, watch fishing boats plying the water, find interesting villages to explore, as well as see amazing birdlife set amongst true peace and tranquillity.
Rubavu marks the beginning of the Congo Nile Trail, which extends 227 km to Rusizi in the south-west and it's capital Cyangugu. Along the route, there are plenty of biking and hiking trails too for those who crave more adventure. Rubavu is also known for its agro-tourism experiences, with many tea and coffee plantations nearby.
Near to Rubavu, you can see how coffee is grown and brewed into a delicious cup of famous Rwandan coffee. Further down Lake Kivu and not far from Karongi (Kibuye), which is around half way between Rubavu and Cyangugu, is Rwanda’s own ‘Bay of Islands’ where many uninhabited islands are covered with natural woodland and even a remarkable colony of bats.
The best way to explore the area is by kayak and guided one / two day tours from both Rubavu (Gisenyi) and Karongi (Kibuye) are possible, as well as a fantastic four-day kayak journey between these lakeshore towns.
In terms of accommodation in the area, our top picks are Lake Kivu Serena at Rubavu (Gisenyi), Paradis Malahide (close to Rubavu) and further down the lake - Cormoran Lodge at Karongi (Kibuye). Most people will either spend 1 or 2 nights relaxing pre or post Gorilla Trekking at Lake Kivu Serena or Paradis Malahide, or alternatively if travelling up from Nyungwe National Park , may stop for a night or two at Cormoran Lodge, before heading onto Rubavu (Gisenyi) - by road or kayak, and onto Volcanoes National Park from there. Many possibilities in this beautiful area!
When visiting Lake Kivu most people will either stay in the town of Gisenyi (Rubavu) which is around one hour from Volcanoes National Park, or the town of Kibuye (Karongi) which is at the 'mid-way' point of the lake if you are travelling up from Nyungwe National Park. Gisenyi is around a 3.5-hour drive (approx. 160kms) from Kigali and Kibuye is around a 3-hour drive (around 140kms) from Kigali. Gisenyi and Kibuye are around 100kms apart, which is approximately a 2-hour drive along the shores of Lake Kivu.
From Gisenyi, there are many activities on offer. There are various guided expeditions possible including trekking or driving on designated routes along the lake, guided nature walks on Rubavu Mountain and guided tours of the bustling town of Gisenyi, which borders Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Various boat trips are also possible including boat rides to Lake Kivu Islands and the coffee farms, a trip to 'Paradise Islands' - a 30-minute ride with a potential for sundowner cocktails, or a boat ride to Kibuye, which is a 3-hour ride by speedboat. There is also many single-day and multi-day privately guided kayak trips possible on the lake.
Alternatively, the Amashuza Hot Springs are a 15-minute drive from Gisenyi. The minerals in these waters are known to contain medicinal values and a soak is thought to heal muscle disorders and numerous other ailments.
Together with her 7,000 km2 catchment area and multiple islands and surrounding hills, Lake Kivu is gorgeous. Lying in the Albertine (western) Rift and covering most of Rwanda’s western border with DR Congo, Lake Kivu, the largest water body is one of Africa’s Great Lakes and the 6th largest in Africa.
You can swim, take boat rides, hire a kayak and visit the local islands or simply lie on the beach and be mesmerised. In the evenings at Gisenyi, visitors can awe at the red glow atop the nearby Nyiragongo volcano across the border in DR Congo. It is still active!
It is 89 km's long and 48 km wide, the lake’s 480m maximum depth makes it the fifteenth deepest in the world! Lake Kivu empties into the Rusizi River which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika.
It is also one of the world’s only 3 known exploding lakes; it’s not going to happen today though, so no need to worry. Further economic importance derives from the lake’s estimated 65 billion m3 of dissolved methane gas which is extracted to run boilers at the Bralirwa brewery in Gisenyi.
Sitting on its shores, the resort towns of Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gisenyi are ideal rest and recreation transit points between the primate tracking destinations of Nyungwe Forest and the Volcanoes National Park.
Our top picks for accommodation in the area are Lake Kivu Serena at Rubavu (Gisenyi), Paradis Malahide (close to Rubavu) and further down the lake - Cormoran Lodge at Karongi (Kibuye). Most people will either spend 1 or 2 nights relaxing pre or post Gorilla Trekking at Lake Kivu Serena or Paradis Malahide, or alternatively if travelling up from Nyungwe National Park, may stop for a night or two at Cormoran Lodge, before heading onto Rubavu (Gisenyi) - by road or kayak, and onto Volcanoes National Park from there. Many possibilities in this beautiful area!