Shared between Rwanda and the DRC, lies within the Great Rift Valley, and the Albertine rift eco-region. The lake covers an area of 2700 sq km and lies 1460m above sea level. It is 89 km long, 48 km wide, with an average depth of 220m and a maximum of 485m. it flows into the Ruzizi river which feeds Lake Tanganyika.
Lake Kivu is the largest of numerous freshwater bodies that shimmer in the valleys of Rwanda. Lakes Burera and Ruhondo, close to the gorilla-tracking centre of Ruhengeri, are oft-neglected gems, deep blue waters ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls, with the nearby Virunga volcanoes providing a spectacular backdrop.
Away from the main resorts, Rwanda’s lakes offer visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles.
Here, fishermen ply the water in dugout canoes unchanged in design for centuries, while colourfully dressed ladies smoke traditional wooden pipes and troubadours strum sweetly on stringed iningire (traditional ’guitars’). And, the bird life is fantastic: flotillas of pelicans sail ponderously across the open water, majestic crowned cranes preen their golden crests in the surrounding swamps, while jewel-like malachite kingfishers hawk silently above the shore.
Three resort towns, Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu, stand on the littoral, connected by a wild roller-coaster road that tumbles through lush plantain fields and relic patches of misty rainforest to offer sweeping views over the blue water. It is one of the classic road journeys in all of Africa. There is also charter boat service on the lake connecting the three towns.
Gisenyi, the most developed of these resorts, lies less than an hour’s drive from the Parc National des Volcanes standing, on a sandy beach lined with swaying palms and colonial-era hotels that exude an atmosphere of tropical languor. At Kibuye, to its south, tourist activities are centered on a modern lakeshore guesthouse overlooking pine-covered hills seemingly transplanted from the Alps.
Different again is Cyangugu, close to Nyungwe Forest, whose more subdued tourist development is compensated for by a stirring setting of curving inlets winding into narrow valleys.