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Lake Kivu: Rwanda’s Largest Freshwater Lake

by | Aug 28, 2023 | 0 comments

Lake Kivu: Rwanda’s Largest Freshwater Lake

Nestled in the heart of East Africa’s country – Rwanda – a land of a thousand hills, Lake Kivu a natural beauty stands as a shimmering jewel of both serenity and geological wonder. Its serene waters stretch across the western border of Rwanda while mirroring the blue skyline above and cradling a tale which intertwines beauty, danger and a unique connection to Earth’s restless depths.

As the largest lake in Rwanda and sixth largest in the whole of Africa, Lake Kivu is more than just a picturesque expanse of water, it is a natural testament to the complex interplay between the forces of nature and the originality of humankind.

What is Lake Kivu?

Lake Kivu is a huge freshwater lake situated along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is Rwanda’s largest lake and the sixth largest lake in Africa.

The lake is 89 kilometres in length and 48 kilometres wide, covering a surface area of 2,700 km squared at an average depth of 240m with maximum depth at 480 meters, water volume of 500 km³ and surface elevation of 1,460 meters. Lake Kivu as well stores huge quantities of methane gas that Rwanda is extracting to produce electricity.

Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika.

In the early centuries, Lake Kivu drained toward the north, contributing to the White Nile. And about 13,000 to 9,000 years ago, volcanic activity blocked Lake Kivu’s outlet to the watershed of the Nile. The volcanism produced mountains, including the Virunga, which rose between Lake Kivu and Lake Edward, to the north.

Water from Lake Kivu was then forced south down the Ruzizi. This, in turn, raised the level of Lake Tanganyika, which overflowed down the Lukuga River.

Is there Methane in Lake Kivu?

It has recently been discovered that Lake Kivu contains approximately 55 billion m3 of dissolved biogas (Methane)at a depth of 300 metres. Until the year 2004, extraction of the gas was done on a small scale, with the extracted gas being used to run boilers at the Bralirwa brewery in Gisenyi.

As far as large-scale exploitation of this resource is concerned, the Rwandan government has negotiated with a number of parties to produce methane from the lake.

Wildlife at lake Kivu

The breath-taking Rwanda’s Lake Kivu habors various aquatic-life species such as the Ripon Barb, East African Red- finned barb, Red- spot barb, Pellegrin’s barb, Amphilius Catfish, Clarias Catfish are the two catfish species found here.

The Lake Kivu also contains tilapia fish species such as the Nile tilapia, Red breast tilapia, Long fin tilapia, Blue-spotted tilapia, and the Lake Tanganyika sardine, that was recently introduced into the lake.

Lake Kivu is a birders’ haven with its diverse ecosystem inhabiting over 400 bird species, making it a prime location for birdwatching. From the graceful African fish eagle to colourful sunbirds and elusive shoebills, the region is a bird paradise.

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What are the things to do in Kivu?

Lakeside Retreats

The epic shores of Lake Kivu provide a picturesque backdrop for relaxation and calmness. Various resorts dot the coastline, offering awe-inspiring views of the lake and the surrounding vast landscapes such as hills. Here, you can unwind, savor local cuisine, and nourish in spa treatments while soaking in the soothing atmosphere of the lake.

Water sports

For adventure enthusiasts, Lake Kivu has a number of water-based activities such as Kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding allow you to glide across the calm waters while taking in breathtaking views while Jet skiing and speedboat rides provide an adrenaline rush, creating memorable experiences for water sports lovers.

Cultural Encounters

The local communities along and around Lake Kivu are rich in cultural diversity and heritage. Engage in authentic interactions with local people, gaining insights into their way of life, traditions, and artistry. Visit vibrant local markets as well, where you can get handcrafted souvenirs and immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and flavors of East African culture.

Hiking

The awe-inspiring vast hills surrounding Lake Kivu offer excellent opportunities for hiking and trekking. Trails transverse across lush forests, providing glimpses of wildlife and bird species. One of the notable hikes is the Congo Nile Trail, which stretches along the lake’s edge and offers captivating views at every turn.

Hot Springs and Geothermal showers

Geothermal activity in Lake Kivu has led to the rise of natural hot springs. These therapeutic springs offer a unique way to relax and rejuvenate. Gisenyi, a town on the side of the lake, is famous for its lakeside hot springs, where you can soak in warm mineral-rich waters amidst breathtaking scenery.

Islands Exploration

Lake Kivu habors numerous islands that add to the atmosphere of the region. The Idjwi Island is the Kivu’s largest island and is known for its isolated communities, vibrant culture, and lush breath-taking landscapes. A visit to these islands offers a glimpse into traditional ways of life and provides opportunities for cultural exchanges.

Birdwatching

Lake Kivu is a birders’ haven with its diverse ecosystem inhabiting over 400 bird species, making it a prime location for birdwatching. From the graceful African fish eagle to colorful sunbirds and elusive shoebills, the region is a bird paradise.

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How to get there?

Lake Kivu is about 100 km from the country’s capital city, Kigali. The lake can be accessed by road using public or private means. The length of the drive, however, depends on the town you are visiting. From Kigali to Gisenyi, it takes 3 hours, from Kigali to Kibuye, it takes 3 hours, from Kigali to Cyangugu via Kibuye it takes 6 hours, from Kigali to Cyangugu via Butare takes 6 hours.

In conclusion, Lake Kivu has its unique charm, offering a blend of relaxation, adventure, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking a serene lakeside retreat, an immersive cultural experience, or heart-pounding outdoor adventures. Explore Rwanda with Friendly Gorillas Safaris.

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Frank

Enthusiastic Tour Consultant. Self-Motivated and passionate about crafting Un forgettable African safari experiences.

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