Situated 60 kilometers from Kigali, at the intersection of two major national highways, lies the town of Kayonza. For most, this is just a truck stop where people pass by going either to Tanzania Rusumo boarder or to Uganda through Kagitumba. But about 10 kilometers beyond Kayonza lies one of Rwanda’s most beautiful sights, Lake Muhazi.
Lake Muhazi is found in Gahini, a village and sector in Kayonza District, Eastern Province. The village is the centre of one of the nine dioceses of the Eglise Episcopale au Rwanda (EER), the Anglican church of Rwanda, and one of the four Rwandan sites chosen by the Church Missionary Society (CMS), who built a large mission, hospital and schools in the village.
Gahini also happens to have one of the largest hospitals in the Eastern Province, established by the CMS, with facilities including maternity, orthopaedic surgery, HIV treatment, a rehabilitation centre for persons with physical disabilities and an eye clinic used by patients from across Rwanda.
Although Gahini is strewn with lots of history, its biggest attraction is the Muhazi lake shore, two resorts: the Seeds of Peace Centre, and Jambo Beach are very popular with tourists .
These are used both as stop off points for journeys to or from Akagera National Park, and as venues for lake tourism offering boat cruises, fishing and bird watching . This stunning lake happened to be a home to a variety of birds taking sanctuary in the trees and wetland vegetation around the water.
At the shore of this stunning lake lays President Kagame’s home, which is not far from famed Jambo Beach. While jambo is not a beach in actual sense, (as there is not a grain of white neither sand nor any mob bikini-clad females along its shores.)
It is beautiful and a relaxing location to enjoy incredible scenery which is not yet overly trampled by the outside world. On the terraced bank of the lake, Jambo stretches nearly a half kilometer across, with umbrella covered tables scattered far enough apart that it gives you a feeling of being alone on a private lakeside.
This place offers an escape from the noise and traffic of the city. Surprisingly, the waiters and waitresses are never far away, but have a way to remain out of sight giving you the always much needed time alone until beckoned.
Sad to say, food and beverage options are limited and are on the steep side. Besides brochettes, their menu consists of grilled chicken, and tilapia, (according to Mike an employee, all fish are imported from Uganda as they are not allowed to fish from the lake) served with a side of tomato salad or chips.
Guests often take rides in the special long boats driven by guides who grew up on the surrounding shores. They often talk about the history of the Rwandan farmers in this region, while rowing slowly up and down the lake.
The long boat is often the only craft on the water, making the lake seem as if it were the private domain of the passengers aboard. And, if you love swimming, you can swim in the lake from both Seeds of Peace and Jambo Beach. There is also a traditional Mwami hut at Seeds of Peace: a model replica of a King’s house from the former Rwandan monarchy.
Jambo Beach comes alive mostly on weekends. Here you find experts dancing shoulder to shoulder with locals next to the bar, under the vast tent, or even down on the small pier which juts out over the tranquil lake.
For quite sometime now, this location has earned a reputation amongst young folks in Kigali as a hot spot for a cool evening to drink and dance the night away.
But if you ask me, the true appeal of a visit to Jambo Beach is not for the lively music and late night parties.It is the gentle wind you feel caressing your soul while you listen to birds chirping away in the trees.
Warned about a place to stay? Don’t fret.The nearby Seeds of Peace Center, have rooms that include suites and a few private cabins, all with stunning views of the lake’s calm stretch reflecting the evening stars. If your wallet is not happy don’t fret, walk up the hill opposite Seeds of Peace towards the village of Gahini.
Take the dusty road up the hill, and opposite the school you will find a guesthouse that charges around RWF 6,000 per night for a double room. For those with a bit more money to spare, Seeds of Peace host luxury lake-side bungalows for RWF20, 000 per night.
If you are a visitor and want to check out out Gahini hire a driver in Kigali. Buses also run hourly between Kigali and Kayonza, operated by the Atraco, Stella, Excel or Sotra companies. In Kayonza, taxi-motos, minibuses, and the occasional taxi are available for the short ride to the north. It takes a two and a half hour to drive from Kigali city to Gahini.