Epic Adventures! Conquer Mount Karisimbi and Kayak Lake Kivu

On Lake Kivu, amidst the breathtaking scenery, I had a surprising encounter with a vervet monkey sporting vibrant blue genitalia. The air was filled with the enchanting sounds of flying foxes, while the trail wriggled with nut-brown millipedes engaging in intricate mating rituals. As I ascended from the rainforest to the golden grasslands of Munini Island, a panoramic view unfolded before me. Deep navy waters stretched in all directions, framed by the verdant hills of Rwanda to the east and the majestic purple mountains of the Congo to the west, adorned with a silvery ribbon of wispy clouds.

While making my way back to the kayak, I found myself in a small hollow beneath mango trees adorned with lianas. Startled, I let out an expletive as a dark and sinuous creature revealed itself. Its back was jet black, blending with the color of the millipedes, while its belly displayed the same hue as the slithering mass. It was a forest cobra, a rare sighting in this part of Rwanda. Though my guide, Gratien Uwikunda, seemed skeptical of my encounter, I couldn’t help but marvel at the diverse wildlife that thrived in this remote island.

My journey on Lake Kivu was made possible through Much Better Adventures, a company that specializes in providing professionals with adventurous experiences tailored to fit busy schedules. The expedition involved kayaking across the majority of the lake, venturing into the gorilla-inhabited hills of Virunga and Volcanoes National Park, and ultimately aiming to conquer Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda’s tallest peak at 4,507 meters.

As we paddled through the tranquil waters of Lake Kivu’s Bay of Islands, I was captivated by the richness of the local wildlife. From the peculiar hadada ibis with its crooked neck and splayed wing feathers to the majestic African fish eagle with its impressive plumage, the avian inhabitants of the lake fascinated me. We also encountered pied kingfishers, water thick-knees, and raptors like black kites and African harrier-hawks. The absence of crocodiles and hippopotamuses in Lake Kivu allowed for the safe presence of livestock, as I observed a herd of cows effortlessly swimming in the calm waters.

Continuing our journey, we encountered fishermen navigating the lake’s waters with a three-hulled fishing rig, united in their harmonious paddling and melodious singing. We eventually settled on an idyllic island, pitched tents, and relished a vegetarian barbecue against the backdrop of a stunning sunset. The glowinxg auburn caldera of Nyiragongo in the distance added a touch of dramatic beauty. As we retired to our tents, surrounded by the tranquility of the night, a sense of contentment and awe enveloped me.

Leaving the serenity of the lake, we reached the bustling city of Gisenyi, perched on the edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo. After a warm-up hike to acclimate ourselves to the altitude, we embarked on the arduous challenge of climbing Mount Karisimbi, a two-day ascent with a sleepover at a campsite situated 3,700 meters above sea level. The journey through temperate rainforests and volcanic gravel tested our endurance, especially when wading through knee-deep mud after heavy rains. Accompanied by porters and soldiers armed with rifles, we pushed forward, battling altitude sickness and treacherous terrain, until we finally reached the base camp.

At daybreak, with the majestic Rwandan landscape stretching beneath me, a feeling of camaraderie overwhelmed me. The guides, always cheerful and supportive throughout the expedition, exemplified the pride and hope that radiated from the country.

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