Sandwiched into the Great African Rift, Rwanda owes its mountainous terrain and lush green landscape to the volcanic activity murmuring below the surface. Here, the cheerful humdrum of local life belies the country’s volatile underbelly. Where tropical vegetation and coffee plantations thrive, stretches the azure waters of Lake Kivu, separating Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. From volcano summits to lake islands; the team biked, hiked, canoed and kayaked their way to explore this tiny yet beautiful African nation.
We were asked to put together a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Volcanoes National Park and the Great African Rift Valley – a lush green landscape formed by volcanism deep below the Earth’s surface, where tropical vegetation, tea and coffee plantations thrive amongst rolling hills and countless dirt tracks are waiting to be explored by mountain bike.
This needed to be a multi-activity experience with an opportunity to experience Rwanda from a new perspective.
The adventure started with a cycle around the twin lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera. Following dirt roads as well as plenty of small tracks, this was a fun way to explore and see the real countryside and meet local people. The team overnighted at a guesthouse overlooking the Lake Ruhondo, with the very best view of all 5 of Rwanda’s volcanoes in the entire country!
The trip continued, crossing a narrow isthmus between the lakes to gain an interesting perspective on the geography of the region. Finishing at the outflow of Lake Ruhondo, the team took a canoe trip down the Mukungwa River through a lush fertile valley, looking out for dozens of species of birds and otters in the water.
Possibly the most remarkable day of the journey; the team saw the mountain gorillas, an unforgettable experience spending with these gentle and enigmatic creatures. In the afternoon visit Team Rwanda’s base where the national cycling team are becoming something of an international legend.
The team then Kayaked on the blue waters of one of Africa’s great lakes, Lake Kivu, and explored away from the roads where a traditional way of life flourishes. They went on a coffee tour to visit the local community co-operative, overnighting in Cyimbili at a small guesthouse overlooking the water.
The adventure continued by kayak, passing through a narrow channel between Bugarura Island and the mainland, meeting many canoes and families who make the short journey back and forth to the island. At sunset they kayaked out with the fishermen who often sing as they paddle into the night, finishing with wild camping on a private island.
The team pass though Rwanda’s “Bay of Islands”, with its many protected, uninhabited forested islands, looking out for monkeys jumping in the trees, African Fish Eagles flying to catch fish, many birds in the bushes and Congo Clawless Otters swimming in the water. Here the adventure ended with a transfer to Kigali.