Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes lying on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, 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.
Lake Kivu is approximately 42 km long and 50 km wide with its irregular shape covering an estimated area of 2700sq km. It is Africa’s eighth largest lake and the lake sits at a height of 1460 meters above sea level. The lake has a maximum depth of 475m and a mean depth of 220m, making it the world’s twentieth deepest lake by maximum depth, and the thirteenth deepest by mean depth.
The lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area. Lake kivu has a chance of suffering a limnic eruption every 1000 years.
In the lake is the world’s tenth-largest island, idjwi, within the boundaries of Virunga national park. Settlements on the lake shore include Goma,bukavu in Congo and Kibuye and cyangugu in Rwanda.
The lake is known to undergo limnic eruptions. These are eruptions where overturn of deep water stratified layers release dissolved carbon dioxide. Around the lake, geologists have found evidence of massive local extinctions about every thousand years, presumably caused by out gassing events. The gaseous chemical composition of this lake includes methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), as a result of lake water interaction with volcanic hot springs.
There is no much aquatic life around the lake, only 28 described fish species, including 4 introduced species. Some of the native species include lake rukwa minnow, 4 species of barb, Nile tilapia among others and another 20 possibly undescribed species of cichlids are known from the lake.
Activities and attractions on lake kivu
Kayaking: Spend a few hours, a full day or even a few days paddling the clear blue waters of the lake, exploring the countless inlets and bays, soaking up the spectacular scenery, meeting local fishermen, visiting hot springs and keeping an eye out for local wildlife such as long-tailed cormorants, flocks of pelicans, crowned cranes, tiny malachite kingfishers and Congo claw less otters among others.
, Lake Kivu has some superb fishing – there are nearly 30 different recorded species of fish in the lake and as a reward for your exertions trying to catch them, you’re allowed to keep one fish for yourself, perhaps taking it back to your accommodation where the chef will prepare and cook it to perfection for you to so you can enjoy your spoils over an evening meal and a glass of wine.
Island hopping and coffee
Lake Kivu has many islands with one of the largest being Nyamirundi Island which is home to a large coffee plantation. Here you can learn all about the coffee making process; from harvesting, drying, roasting and of course culminating in the opportunity to sample some exceptionally fresh, organic and award-winning Rwandan coffee for yourself.
Mountain biking and hiking
The mountain biking and hiking trails around Lake Kivu are not as long in distance nor duration but take you through vibrant local communities and along the beautiful shores of the lake making for great alternative ways to explore the area.
With over 700 bird species, Bird watching activities could take you on nature walks through the surrounding forests and along the lake shores as well as boat cruises on the lake itself as you go in search of; Bronzed Sun birds, Common Wax bill, Crimson- rumped Wax bill, Bronze Manikin, Speckled Pigeons among others.
Accommodation options here
Lake kivu lodge: The lodge is located on a small piece of land that juts into the calm waters of the Lake Kivu in Karongi District. The lodge boasts 20 spacious cottages, 2 of which are executive suites. It also has a restaurant, coffee bar and lounge bar. It boasts an outdoor cascading swimming pool overlooking the waters of the Lake Kivu.
Lake kivu serena hotel: Lake Kivu Serena Hotel is located just 3 km from the centre of Gisenyi. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant and an on-site bar. Free WiFi is available in the rooms and each room comes equipped with a satellite TV, a kettle and private bathroom. Certain units include a seating area to relax in after a busy day.
Guests can enjoy a meal at the hotel’s restaurant and enjoy a drink at the bar. There is a 24-hour front desk and airport transfers can be arranged upon request at a charge.
Hotel paradise malahide: Located just seven kilometers from downtown Gisenyi, this beautiful space provides the perfect escape. Each comfortable bungalow was built using local wood and volcanic rock to blend seamlessly into the natural beauty of the area.
How to get to the lake
By air: If you are traveling internationally, you can fly into the nearest international airport. For Rwanda, the main airport is Kigali International Airport (KGL), and for the DRC, it could be Goma International Airport (GOM). From there, you can proceed to Lake Kivu by road.
By road: Once you reach the nearest entry point, you can use road transport to get to Lake Kivu. The specific routes will depend on your starting location. If you are in Rwanda, you can travel from Kigali to towns like Gisenyi or Kibuye, which are located on the shores of Lake Kivu. In the DRC, Goma is a major city near Lake Kivu.
Best time to visit
June and July are the driest months and therefore the best seasonal months for relaxing at Lake Kivu, with maximum and minimum temperatures just a bit cooler than that.