Despite its troubled past, Rwanda has emerged as one of friendliest, safest tourist destinations in Africa. Notable for delivering experiences like no other, holidays here are mostly planned with the hope of catching a glimpse of the dramatic landscape, mountain Gorillas and majestic-yet-mysterious wildlife. Usually, most of the visitors and major attractions start and stops at Kigali, the country’s hillside capital, however, Rubavu is steadily growing in reputation among local and foreign visitors.
Although less visited and congested than the capital, Rubavu holds the key to domestic tourism in Rwanda. It is also home to the country’s biggest beach and border city resorts. Blessed with various tourism attractions, the district which has its capital at Gisenyi in the Western Province of Rwanda, lies on the shores of Lake Kivu, and sits across the border from the Congolese city of Goma. It is also close to Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano site.
What to Do There
Unspoilt and enchanting, the Lake Kivu is one of the first points of tourist call in the town. With crystal clear and deep blue waters, it is not only one of Africa’s great bodies of water; it is also safe and free from crocodiles. Visitors can opt to sit by the shore and watch fishing boats come in at sunset or engage in various water and beach activities – beach volleyball, swimming, kayaking and sea kayaking.
Alternatively, adventure seekers can choose to embark on the Congo Nile trail along the Lake Kivu. The trail gives stunning views of the Lake Kivu coastline and offers the adventurous travellers an exciting way to discover Rwanda. Having a good camera with you could do a whole lot of good. The 227km (141 miles) long natural phenomenon extends from Rubavu, continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi, Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi District. Sightseeing along the trail can be done by trekking (close to 10 days), biking (close to 5 days) or by driving.
Along the trail in Cyimbril, lies the Pfunda Tea Estate (Pfunda Tea Company factory) – the perfect spot for tea lovers to relish a guided tour of how their craving is processed, made and shipped. The plantation with over 2000 workers boasts of highland tea, lowland tea and coffee. Another point of attraction is the newest national park in Rwanda – the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Officials are already working on trails for visitors to fully experience and see wide varieties of monkeys, chimpanzees, birds and more.
Rubavu district offers a lot of Mountains for climbing and hiking activities. The Mount Rubavu offers a stunning view of Gisenyi and a peek of nearby Goma town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Those interested in much more challenging hikes can take on the Mount Muhungwe – the highest non-volcanic peak in Rubavu and Mount Karisimbi – the highest peak in the Virunga Mountains.
Being the liveliest of the lake side towns and closeness to the Congolese town of Goma gives Rubavu a cosmopolitan feel. It is not uncommon to find Congolese, Kenyans, Ugandans, Rwandans, and European nationals in the town. Several bars and nightclubs open into the wee hours of the morning. Moreso, beach parties and wedding ceremonies during weekends are a very common sight.
How to get There
Rubavu is easily accessible by air and road – either public transport or private means. One can choose to fly and land at the Gisenyi airstrip or opt for helicopters from Akagera Aviation and land at any convenient landing spot. Those around the Lake Kive can take boat rides from Rusizi, Kibuye or even Goma to Gisenyi.
Where to Stay
Depending on your budget, there are various accommodation options in the lake side resort district of Rubavu, from premium hotels with top-notch experiences to budget hotels where the basics are offered. Most hotels now accept cashless payments and can be booked instantly on arrival; however, it is always better and safer to book before arrival to avoid unforeseen inconveniences.