Rwanda has earned its reputation in the tourism world as one of the best destinations to visit the incredible mountain gorillas, a bucket list experience to be sure.
However, the country's rich culture, beautiful landscapes and attractive wildlife warrant a longer stay for travelers who want to explore the country beyond an unforgettable gorilla expedition.
A perfect add-on to a gorilla adventure is Rwanda's Lake Kivu, which is situated in close proximity to the Volcanoes National Park. The lake is expected to become Rwanda's 2020 hotspot, according to tourism players, with new experiences and accommodation options in the cards.
Part of Africa's Great Rift Valley, Lake Kivu in the west of Rwanda is surrounded by magnificent mountains. It is Rwanda's largest lake and the sixth-largest in Africa. With its relaxed and laid-back vacation vibe, Lake Kivu has become famous for its Singing Fishermen. The fishermen set out singing in their three-hulled fishing boats every evening. With characteristic long poles attached to their bows and sterns, these fascinating boats offer perfect photo opportunities.
For adventurous travelers, an exciting way to explore the Lake Kivu region is by kayaking, mountain biking or hiking one of the six off-the-beaten path stages of the spectacular Congo Nile Trail.
This popular trail takes travelers through rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests. It takes approximately 10 days to complete the trail on foot, five days by bike and eight days by kayak, although it is possible to explore the trail in single sections.
Kayaking on Lake Kivu.
Along the trail, travelers are able to soak up daily life in traditional villages, tour a historical church, swim and paddle on the lake shore or sip coffee or tea on one of the tea or coffee plantations. With its innumerable beaches, coves, waterfalls, valleys and vistas, the winding path of the Congo Nile Trail offers some of the greatest adventures in east and central Africa.
One of the must-stops along the trail is the Pfunda Tea Plantation. During visits, travelers can explore the crop fields and soak in some knowledge on the art of tea making, from picking and drying to cutting and shipping. Pfunda is one of the most sustainable tea companies in the region, employing local community members to ensure that the region feels the direct benefits of the business.
For those preferring to sample the famous Rwandan coffee, the Crop to Cup coffee experience is a great attraction. Travelers can follow the coffee creation process on the coffee plantations on an island along Lake Kivu. They will be able to pick coffee beans before heading to the coffee washing station where travelers will see the 20 different steps of the washing process. After the washing, the coffee is roasted on an open fire and tasted by visitors.
There are several accommodation options in the pretty fishing villages along Lake Kivu. Launching in March this year, the five-star, luxury resort Kivu Marina Bay Hotel is a great choice in Cyangugu. This new resort offers travelers luxury accommodation as well as amenities such as a spa, gym and lake-view swimming pool.
Lake Kivu at sunset.
For travelers who are looking for a more adventurous lake experience, a new luxury houseboat is launching on Lake Kivu in July this year. The Mantis Kivu Queen is an intimate, 10-cabin houseboat with a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and a viewing deck with a hot tub. In addition to guided hikes and bird watching, travelers will get insight into the quaint Rwandan villages through a variety of interactions based on culture and cuisine.
For travelers from the U.S., Rwanda and its beautiful Lake Kivu will soon be even more accessible as RwandAir is planning to introduce a direct flight from JFK International to Kigali in 2020.