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.