Lake Kivu is the largest of numerous freshwater lakes that shimmer in the valleys of Rwanda. Steep, terraced hills lead down to the picturesque lake shore, and three resort towns - Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu. These small towns come as welcome retreats in between the sometimes strenuous hikes to find gorillas and chimpazees in the surrounding Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks. Here, visitors can relax, swim, or take a boat excursion past the small lakeside villages that offer a rewarding glimpse of rural life. The towns are connected by a wide roller-coaster road that tumbles through lush plantain fields and relic patches of misty rainforest to offer sweeping views over the shimmering lake. Set amid the dramatic mountains of the Rift Valley and the volcanic Virunga mountains to the north, the irregular shores of Lake Kivu form numerous inlets and peninsulas and myriad forest-fringed waterfalls. Lake Kivu is set within the rift valley, making it one of the deepest in the world. Guests can anticipate seeing local fisherman oaring through the still waters in traditional dug-out canoes, while brightly-dressed women adorn the villages, playing the "iningire" (guitar) and smoking from wooden pipes. Lake Kivu is the perfect retreat in between gorilla safaris and chimpanzee trekking in the nearby national parks. Organised boat excursions offer guests a way to explore the expanse of the lake and its surroundings, including the rural life lived out in the villages at the lake's edge.
What to see and do
Discovering the three colourful lakeside resort towns, pursuing the various water sports they have to offer, and boating to the numerous islands on the lake are just some of the activities available in the area. Away from the main resorts, Rwanda's lakes offer visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles, as men go about their fishing and women fill the air with the strummed sound of a traditional guitar. Birdlife around the lakes is fantastic and includes large numbers of pelicans, crowned cranes, malachite kingfishers and much more. For sun-bathing, swimming and water sport acitivities, the Rwanda Riveira town of Gisenyi offers speedboats, canoes, and casual mountain walks and picnics. Ideally, guests can base themselves at one of the lovely accommodations around Lake Kivu and alternate between days spent lake-side with feet up, and days spent on thrilling excursions to find the primates dwelling in the rainforests of Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park.