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Explore the Kivu Belt of Rwanda

Welcome to the Kivu Belt, a guide to Rwanda’s best ecotourism and adventure tourism destination. This is the most complete guide to amazing places in Rwanda including the popular Lake Kivu, Gishwati Mukura National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park to less known destinations such as the Napoleon Island, Ibere Rya Bigogwe, as well as the Kivu Beaches.
Listed on this website are different adventure activities that can be done while on Rwanda safaris through the Kivu Belt and these include chimpanzee tracking, canopy walk, the Congo Nile Trail etc.

The Kivu Belt

The Kivu Belt stretches from the vibrant beach town Rubavu (156km from Kigali) in the North, over the picturesque lakeside town Karongi (110km from Kigali), along the two majestic mountain rain forests Gishwati & Nyungwe National Park, up to the former fishing village and border town Rusizi (240km from Kigali). The 3 towns are interconnected by a curvy tarmac road winding its way through the breathtaking landscape passing green banana fields, tea plantations, charming little rural villages and the endless wideness of Lake Kivu. Those who like it more adventurous can cover the distance on the Congo Nile Trail, an adventurous biking & hiking route.

Lake Kivu and the Kivu Belt

The Kivu Belt Region in Western Rwanda is a place of tropical montane rain forests nestled between tea and coffee plantations next to Lake Kivu,  Rwanda’s largest lake. The Kivu Belt region stretches between Rusizi and Rubavu, each at the end Lake Kivu. Even though Rwanda is a landlocked country without a coast on its own. This does not mean that Rwanda lacks coastal resorts, beaches and islands to explore. Instead of heading towards the coast, many Rwandans head to the shores of Lake Kivu and the Kivu Belt to cool down in the hot dry season. Lake Kivu is one of the Great Lakes of Africa, dotted with islands, beaches and chilled lakeside resorts. Locals and tourists come to the shores of Lake Kivu in the Kivu Belt to relax, swim and to enjoy the lake. Even though there are many resorts and experiences that hold international standard, the Kivu Belt and Lake Kivu remains an untouched gem, still unspoiled by the reaches of mass tourism and international tourist operators. Lake Kivu still hold many unspoiled beaches, islands, towns and hidden gems waiting to be explored.

Oldest rainforests in Africa

Some of the last remaining rainforests Central and East Africa can be found in the Kivu Belt not far from the shores of Lake Kivu. There are currently 3 remaining rain forests under national protection in the Kivu Belt. These are Nyungwe, Gishwati and Mukura Forests, but there are also other forests remaining, such as Muhungwe mountain and Mt. Rubavu, which are currently not protected as National Parks. The largest and most well-known of the rainforests is Nyungwe National Park in Rusizi District close to the town of Cyangogu. Nyungwe National Park is operated by African Parks and is a massive protected highland rainforest. The main attraction of Nyungwe Forest is the large primate population of Eastern Chimpanzee, Colobus and Golden Monkeys. There are many more interesting things to see in the Nyungwe Forest. The Canopy Walk gives a first-hand view of the rain forest canopy and with more than 300 bird species and 29 endemic species this is a birders paradise. Gishwati-Mukura Forest National Park, located less than an hour from Rubavu and close to Volcanoes Park Rwanda, the home of the mountain gorilla and the shores of Lake Kivu was created in 2019 and is also one of the last refugees of the Eastern Chimpanzee. Some of Rwanda’s remaining rainforest can be found in Gishwati-Mukura Forest National Park and parts of the park is currently being reforested. Both Gishwati-Mukura National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park can be visited as a part of the Congo Nile Trail as there are side trails running from the main trail to the parks. Park activities can be booked directly from the national park or from a tour operator as part of a tour.

Small Lakeside towns

The Kivu Belt is the name of the destination in Western Rwanda which stretches along the shores of Lake Kivu. At the northern end of Lake Kivu, at the Northwest of the Kivu Belt, you will find the border town of Rubavu. Rubavu, previously known as Gisenyi is a lively town on the borders between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main attraction in Rubavu is without a doubt the public beach and the beach bars close to the center of town. This is a great place to hang out on the beach or enjoy some drinks and food in a laid-back setting. Rubavu is also the start of the Congo Nile Trail.

Around 10 kms south of Rubavu you will find the smaller, but picturesque town of Karongi. Karongi is known for its archipelago of islands and its many beautiful resorts along the shores of Lake Kivu. Karongi is known to locals as a weekend getaway and is mostly visited by families and couples who come here to enjoy swimming or a boat ride to one of the islands. Travel a further 10 kms south and you will find the larger but buzzling border town of Rusizi. Rusizi, also known as Cyangugu, is mostly famous for its proximity to the rainforests of Nyungwe National Park but is also a great place for relaxing or enjoying a boat ride on Lake Kivu.

The Congo Nile Trail along in the Kivu Belt

Hiking and biking are becoming more popular past-time activities with local and international visitors to the Kivu Belt. The Congo Nile Trail is a hiking and biking trail which passes through the entire Kivu Belt. It goes along the shores of Lake Kivu all the way from Rubavu to Rusizi. The name can be confusing as it draws the imagination to countries like Egypt or Congo. The name comes from the fact the entire trail runs on top of the ridge which separates the Nile Basin from the Congo Basin. All rainfall which falls west of the trail ends up in the Congo River and all rainfall which falls East of the trail ends up in the Nile River. The Congo Nile Trail is a true genuine African experience that can be completed in a week in full or over a weekend or day if only a small part of the trail is done. Apart from magical views over Lake Kivu, rainforests and the surrounding plantations, the Congo Nile Trail is dotted with experiences ranging from night fishing with Lake Kivu’s singing fishermen, to traditional pottery tours and visits to coffee plantations. The Congo Nile Trail also offers many beaches and unexplored islands along shores of Lake Kivu. Accommodation along the trail ranges from campsites at the lake shore, to very affordable community lodgings to high end resorts.

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Traditional Rwandan Basket Weaving

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Rwanda Coffee to Cup Experience

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$100 Lake Kivu Group Fun Tour

Six Island Boat Tour in Karongi

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$100 Rwanda Tea Tour at Pfunda

Rwanda Tea Tour at Pfunda

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Lake Kivu Night Fishing Experience

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$25 Swimming Cows Experience Karongi

The Swimming Cows Experience

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Explore Rwanda: The Land of 1000 hills

Thousands of grassy hills, majestic volcanoes, evergreen rain forests, plenty of wildlife and biodiversity. Rwanda welcomes its visitors with a wide variation of tourism offers: The famous Mountain Gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, the Virunga Volcanoes, Akagera National Park, Lake Kivu & Nyungwe Forest – only a few of the many attraction of our small East-African country. A visit to Rwanda will never get boring. Come and discover it for yourself!

Recent News and Updates

Here are the latest news from within and around the Kivu Belt.
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