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Napoleon Island is one of the most popular and most visited islands on Lake Kivu. Napoleon Island is located outside Karongi. The island may not be the one of the largest in Lake Kivu but it is one of the tallest. The elevation from the water’s edge to the summit is just over 100 meters giving visitors a spectacular view of the surrounding lake, islands and shoreline.

The real name is Nyamunini island, but as you approach Napoleon Island from the distance you immediately see from where it gets its name. The profile of the island closely resembles the historical hats which were popular in European army uniforms at the end of the 18th century and Napoleon is commonly seen depicted in this kind of hat. Hence the name Napoleon Island.

Napoleon Island has been declared a conservation area. There is no development, services or construction on the island. All food and drink need to be brought with you and make sure that you leave no trash behind on the island. Hotel.

Animal & Plant life

The steep sides of Napoleon Island has managed to save some of the original vegetation and animal life. As most islands on Lake Kivu it is also used by the local community for farming. The steep and rocky side of the island has made it impossible to grow anything and prevents cows and goats to get to the vegetation. The result is a rather dense forest and bush cover on parts of the island, providing a last refuge to some interesting wildlife. Some interesting bird species are often found on Napoleon Island and the taller trees give refuge to palm nut vultures and fish eagles which can often be seen. Other bird species such as hammerkop and kingfishers are common.

The most well-known mammals on Napoleon Island are fruit bats. There is a colony of as many as 40,000 straw colored fruit bats living on Napoleon Island. The fruit bats are often though to disturb and create mess or to some people they are chased away because they mean bad luck. Large trees where the Fruit bats spend the day are often cut down, so the bats have found this remote island in Lake Kivu as one of their last refuges. The bats on Napoleon Island can be found resting in the tree tops at the base of the hill. One of the hiking trails leads straight underneath the colony. If visiting, take care to disturb the bats as little as possible. If the bats feel the need to move from the island because of disturbance they can very easily get in conflict with humans.

Snakes are a common sighting on Napoleon Island. No official inventory of snakes have been made but reports of snakes including forest cobras on the islands are common. Snakes are normally shy and do not seek to harm people on purpose. Snakes will normally avoid all contact with humans if possible. Remember to thread carefully and if you spot a snake move away from the snake making sure that it has a clear escape route. Never kill, touch or interfere with a snake.


One of the most popular activities on Napoleon Island is hiking. A hiking trail runs from one side of the island to the other side of the island. This hiking trail will take you to the highest point of the island. The highest point of the island is a bit over 100 m over the level of the lake and highest point on any of the islands of Lake Kivu. From here you have a magnificent view of the lake, landscape and surrounding islands.

Napoleon Island is not developed and there is no infrastructure at all on the island. This also includes the hiking trail so do not expect any signs benches or stairs. The trail has been formed through by visitors walking the same path to the top of the island over many years. The rock landscape of Napoleon Island makes it quite easy to walk. The island is steep to climb, but people with normal level fitness should easily manage to hike to the top of the Napoleon Island and to the other side in about one hour.

Getting to Napoleon Island

The only way to get to Napoleon Island is by boat and will take around 30 -45 mins by a local tour boat. There are many companies, cooperatives and hotels who offer boat rides to Napoleon Island, often in combination with visits to other islands such as Amahoro (peace) Island and Monkey Island. Companies like Africa Green Tours offer visits to Napoleon Island as part of their 6-island boat tour. Most boat operators operate from the lake shore below the Museum of Environment and Eden Golf.