Did you know that almost every day, something very special takes place on the clear, blue waters of Lake Kivu?
As sunset approaches, hundreds of extraordinary, three-hulled fishing boats leave villages all along Rwanda’s shores. With characteristic long poles attached to their bows and sterns, these fascinating boats become slowly silhouetted against the darkening sky. In small groups, they seek the deep water a few kilometres out into the lake from where they cast their nets and fish throughout the night.
To see them leave at twilight, go to a hotel near Bralirwa (7km from Gisenyi), the inlets of Kibuye or villages on the coast such as Cyimbili or Kinunu. And listen carefully. In the calm of the evening there is no wind so sails are not used here. Rather, each team of fishers paddle out with remarkable agility and speed, because, working in unison, they sing rhythmically to time their paddle strokes and give encouragement to each other.
Watching from the shore this makes an interesting sight. However, why not go out on the water to be right there with them? Silently paddling out onto Lake Kivu by kayak is by far the best way to see the fishing boats and hear their crews – as well as catching the sunset itself. Because only when you’re on the water can you closely approach, watch the fishers paddling and really appreciate their singing.
As dusk turns to night the fishing boats arrive in position. They illuminate lamps to attract a type of small sardine (known as Isambaza) and the delicious, larger Tilapia that they catch in their nets. With lights from the many fishing boats spread across the water, Lake Kivu soon resembles a starry sky. From one of the luxury lodges, guesthouses or even a private island campsite that are found along its shores, it looks both romantic and spectacular.
However, for the fishers out on the water, theirs is a hard job. Their catches are not large because the unique physical characteristics of Lake Kivu tend to limit the stock of fish that it can support. Therefore, whilst working most of the year, they all pause for a few days each month (around the full moon) as well as during September and October to allow the fish to replenish their numbers.
Witnessing the fishing boats depart for the night is one reason why kayaking on Lake Kivu has become one of the most popular activities in Gisenyi and Kibuye. So, time your visit well and, as a bonus to a superb time on the water, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing experience unlike anything else in Rwanda.
To see and hear the fishing boats of Lake Kivu by kayak, Kingfisher Journeys runs guided one or multi-day adventures from Gisenyi or Kibuye that include an optional sunset paddle. With no hippos or crocodiles in the water, modern, stable kayaks and expertly trained guides no experience is needed to take part. So book online or just ask your tour operator to include kayaking on Lake Kivu in your Rwandan itinerary.