Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Goma to Nyungwe National Park

Lake Kivu is one of the worlds most volcanically active lakes experiencing limnic eruptions on a regular basis. Situated between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, this lake is of great economic importance for the region and is now a center for methane extraction.

Beyond its economic value, Lake Kivu is beautiful. It's waters are a brilliant blue and it's shoreline is a mix of towering mountains, old lava fields and white sandy beaches. Although most people spend their time relaxing on the shores in Gyseni, Rwanda, it is a lake that is worth exploring if you have the time. 

From Goma, DRC speed boats travel twice daily across this expansive lake stopping at a couple of the islands (where you can get off and stay over) before docking at the southern tip of the lake in Bukavu, DRC ($50). 

Wanting to get to Nyungwe National Park, located in southern Rwanda, as scenically and efficiently as possible traveling by boat seemed like the best option. Taking 2.5-3 hours (in comparison to 9 by bus) this boat sped across the calm waters of Kivu and allowed one to enjoy the beauty of it all. 

Arriving at Bukavu, the bustling port city located in south Kivu, it was then a 15 minute taxi ride, a chaotic border stop, and 5 minute walk to the border at Chanegugu, Rwanda, a land so distant and exotic in comparison to the dizzying streets of Bukavu and Goma.

After a seemless crossing in Rwanda one can either take a bus (45-1 hour) or hire a taxi (30 mins, $40) to take you into one of the most biologically diverse pieces of land on the planet: Nyungwe NP. Home to 275 bird species and numerous primates including chimpanzees and golden monkeys, this park is breathtaking. Ranked the #1 place to visit in 2014 by National Geographic, it is definitely a spot worth exploring, if only to  walk across the 40 meter high canopy bridge to get a birds eye view of the expansive forest.

Practical information on boating across Lake Kivu:

1. Boats across the lake depart from Goma, Congo. Unfortunately no boats leave from Rwanda.
2.You are allowed 10 kilos. If you are over you will have to pay a small amount per extra kilo.
3. Sandwich and drink are provided with your ticket. 

Practical information for Nyungwe NP:

1. There is NO ATM so take out cash in Chanegugu. 
2. The ranger station at Gisakura allows you to book hikes using your credit card. 
3. Accomodations are limited. There are a couple of very high end lodges and very few low end. Camping is an option but just come prepared with warm clothes and food. 
4. Motorbikes are a great and cheap way to move about the park if you do not have a car. From one ranger station to the other it is 5000 ($8) RF, in comparison to the $100 they charge for car hire. 

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