Lake Kivu is shared between Congo and Rwanda on the Rwandan side it’s in Gisenyi and on the Congolese side it’s found in Goma.
On the Rwandan side is where you will find Kingfisher Journeys for an experience like no other, right from the warm and chatty reception from Steve Venton the Director himself to the kayaking guide who are both very friendly and ready to answer any questions you may have.
We got to paradise hotel where the kayaks park I should say, we (I, Joanna and Madyie) were taken to the shores of lake Kivu where we met with our kayaks blue yellow and orange that look bigger than they seem on television and in pictures, instructions are given to us on how to get in and set our feet and legs in the right angles and I’m there thinking what if my leg slips while on the lake but because I was with ladies I brave it out n keep my cool. So we are tutored on how to row forward, backwards, turning right, and left which seemed easy till it was time to get onto the lake.
Suddenly I felt so small the little waves on lake kivu kept bouncing me around as I rowed away from the shores, the really friendly guide was right there with us which gave gave me confidence that in case of anything there’s an expert with us who will get us out incase of anything, he then points to a little island that looked really far away. With the first couple of rows u feel like u aren’t moving then the pace starts to pick up after six to eight rows adrenaline kicks in as the momentum of the kayak explodes, with enough power in your arms and consistency you create a wash behind you, which is similar to raising dust while driving at high speeds on a dusty road.
Soon as I was blasting feeling like a pro at kayaking on my first day reality checked in as my unfitness checked in and I had to rest my arms, this however allowed me to enjoy the scene with the waves rocking the kayak the little island had eventually grown without me realising, looking back the shore had been left a great distance behind with my friends not far off as well, just as they were catching up with me, fishermen joined us on three conjoined canoes with their main guy in the middle leading them in songs of encouragement while the rest whistle and sing as they row into the night for they will be fishing all night long and return in the morning with the fish from the nights catch,as they set out to work something else is happening in the background, different species of birds are heading back to their nests from their daily activities as well, being part of this felt incredible like something straight out of a movie or one of those shows from national geographic television.
After that incredible exhilarating experience we were ready to get back to land n put our feet down for it was even getting dark. That day’s activities were done and there was still more in store for us by kingfisher journeys so we planned for the next morning. At about 9am we were on the shores of lake kivu once more it looked so calm, collected and so serene.
We then are told about journey for the day and we are in awe even before we set off. We get into our kayaks and this time round it’s a smooth breeze with no instructions needed but the excitement was still high for out there on the water u can easily forget about the rest of the world and what reality emphasises to keep reminding you of, for the moment all you can think about is rowing the kayak enjoying the winds on the lake and having a good time.
We managed to catch the last group of the fishermen return from their night fishing, one could hear the fatigue in their voices as they tried to encourage and motivate each other to keep going through whistling and singing in the local language which is kinyarwanda. Since we had set off early we had time to rest a bit on an island that’s associated to kingfishers journeys where we caught our breath enjoyed the beach sand, if only we had planned a picnic we could have stayed longer “oh well maybe next time” we told ourselves.
Our guide then points towards our next destination which were the hot springs what were brought about be nature(it’s a beautiful thing) on reaching the hot springs I realise it’s not what I would have expected in a million years, water from beneath the earth was overflowing to the surface while boiling hot, this made it safe to drink but of course I didn’t try that though I saw local collect it carefully and wait for it to cool a bit before they indulged.
What was amazing was what the locals had done with this gift from Mother Earth, try created baths on the shallow waters of lake kivu making sand banks where they would trap the hot spring water and let it mix with the cold water from the lake, this kept the water warm enough for people to sit on the sand banks and deep their feet in the warm soothing water just as we were enjoying that the locals surprised us more with natural massages where they would use the sand from the banks to scrub your desired body parts, we didn’t go for the full body massage which is also an option if you are up for it but we had our hands and legs massaged, it helped ease the stress on the muscles from the rowing but just before we left I was treated to a local sauna, water was collected into a basin.
I was told to squat and tilt my head right above the basin, I was then covered with towels and cloth to keep the steam and said nutrients in and for me to keep inhaling them without losing out too much for about 10-15 minutes. This is said to heal colds, hangovers for those that take part in the consumption of alcoholic drinks and it’s also said to excrete toxins from the body leaving you feeling fresh and energised.
After all this 5 star treatment at the local spa we expected a fee but to our surprise there was none( I know right, you probably thinking does this kind of hospitality still exist? Well yes it does) out of appreciation we decided to give thanks for the care and experience we had gone through. Time to go back and none of us want to row back we had found a little bit of the garden of Eden on lake kivu for it really took you away from the noise of an urban setting fresh cool air, no noise pollution, no congestion, just looking at this world we live in in its truest and natural form.
The world there seemed to be a century back to the least. Leaving for the shores and to the end of our experience on lake kivu was a bitter sweet moment filled with mixed emotions in the air as we appreciated a wonderful time but were saddened by the reality check that we had come to the end of this short but unique and wonderful journey.