Sometimes we all need to get away from the chaos and noise of the city, to take a break in a tranquil setting and just kick back. When you feel like this, a weekend trip to Karongi (formerly known as Kibuye) could be just the thing you’re looking for.
A little under three hours from Kigali’s Nyabugogo, Karongi is a world away. The bus ride to this small town on the shores of Lake Kivu costs RWF 2,600 each way, taking you along winding roads through green hills.
From the traffic circle in town, there are a number of hotels and restaurants readily visible, or motos can take you to any of a number of hotels on the lake for 500 francs.
If you’re looking for calm, relaxing atmosphere, the lake is the place to go. On the budget end, prices run from RWF 10,000 to 25,000 at Home Saint Jean, which boasts spectacular views across the lake.
If you’re looking to splurge a bit, Bethanie has rooms for around RWF 35,000, and the Moriah Hill Resort has rooms for $100-$170, with a 20% discount for residents. All hotels offer swimming, though at Home Saint Jean, it’s a bit of a hike down to the water.
The hotels have their own restaurants serving both Rwandan and international fare, with plates starting from RWF 3,000 and up.
The plates are generous and flavorful. However, if you want to save some money and see a bit of what the town of Karongi offers, there are numerous local joints near the traffic circle, all of which can fill your stomach and spare your wallet. A 10 minute walk through town will take you to Kivu’s more open shore, with Congo visible in the distance.
If you’re looking for more than just kicking back and relaxing with a book and a beer, there are options for boat rides around the scenic Lake Kivu. Captains can be contacted from any of the hotels and charge RWF 15,000 per hour, per boat for the tour. Getting other guests to join you can cut down the price immensely, so it’s worth it to reach out.
The Catholic Church and Genocide Memorial located just before Home Saint Jean are worth a gander. Though on Sunday mornings, the church is literally overflowing with worshipers during the morning mass, with people sitting along the church walls just to listen as hymns pour out, audible for quite some distance.
Staying on the lake is in itself a delight for the senses. There are absolutely brilliant views in every direction, with an incredible wealth of plant and animal life.
Flowering trees fill the air with their sweet aroma. The only sounds are of the birds waking up with the day, and the occasional lowing of a cow echoing across the water.
All in all, whether you’re soaking up the view from your hotel’s terrace or roaming the town and chatting up its inhabitants, Lake Kivu’s Karongi is an incredible way to step away from the noise of city life.