We went away to Karongi on Lake Kivu last month, and if you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you will have seen some photos I posted from this lovely place. We stayed in a hut in Rwiza Village and it was beautiful!
Karongi used to be called Kibuye, and many people still refer to this town by its old name (a few years ago the names of provincial capitals were changed). It’s an easy drive from Kigali as the tarmac road is in good condition and not crowded, only it’s a very winding one so it takes about 3 hours to cover the 180 km (there are virtually no straight bits, you constantly go around hills). The views on the way are very pretty though, so it’s nice to have to drive at a more leisurely pace and be able to admire the scenery.
Our aim was to simply relax over the weekend so we didn’t do any sightseeing this time. But we will definitely return to Karongi to visit the Genocide memorial and the church where thousands of people perished in 1994 (unfortunately churches were not safe havens for those fleeing their ruthless executioners, not even children were spared). It is hard to believe that this green, pretty and peaceful place witnessed some of the bloodiest events only 22 years ago… Now, along with Rubavu (previously called Gisenyi – I went there last year for a boat party and wrote about it here), Karongi is a popular weekend destination for Rwandans and tourists alike. We stayed in Rwiza Village which is a beautiful little complex of huts on a hill overlooking the lake. At sunset local fishermen set off on their unique boats, singing. The sound of their voices carrying over the water was truly magical. We sat on the terrace with cold beers, baked banana and tasty sambaza (little fish from the lake fried in a batter and served with mayo and Akabanga, the local chilli oil), watching the sun go down, listening to the songs, and letting our minds just relax and be in that moment. It was fabulous 🙂 Just have a look!
The fishermen remain on the lake all night. Once it gets dark, you can only see the twinkle of their oil lamps but their conversations can be heard quite clearly! They get back around 7am and announce their return with more singing, which turned out to be quite a nice alarm clock 🙂 You can swim in Lake Kivu as it’s free of parasites causing schistomiasis (bilharzia), a tropical disease that kills thousands of people every year. The parasite is common in other lakes in East Africa but Kivu is an exception. Just looking at the photos I took in Karongi makes me feel blissfully relaxed. I’ve added it to my list of most favourite places in Africa!