Kibuye, a town located on Lake Kivu in Rwanda’s southern Karongi province, is as picturesque as it gets. Sparkling blue water, lush green hills, and bright flora make this small lakeside town one of Rwanda’s most sought after retreats.
To the joy of mid-range travelers and backpackers, Kibuye is still pretty far off the tourist map. Though Rwanda is becoming quite luxurious, with 5-star accommodation on offer throughout the country, you won’t find too much of that in this lakeside retreat. Instead, travelers have the chance to stay at small guest houses, quaint hotels, and a few upmarket lodges.
Home St Jean, the town’s best budget option, is a small guesthouse situated on the side of a cliff overlooking Lake Kivu. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets every day are all but guaranteed, though the property is too high up to offer water access. The rooms are simple, but hot water is generally available and the restaurant bar is fully stocked. Do your best to make reservations in advance though, as the weekends see a lot of Congo Nile Trail hikers and bikers spending a night or two here.
Cormoran Lodge and Rwiza Village are the two best upmarket – but not budget breaking – options in the area. Cormoran’s porch is the place all travelers and visiting locals come to hang out and grab lunch or a drink, even if they’re not staying there. Few views looking out onto the expansive Lake Kivu, with the Democratic Republic of Congo visible on a clear day, are better than those from Cormoran Lodge’s hearty wooden porch. Rwiza Village’s views are equally mesmerizing, and all the rooms at both lodges have lakeside views, as well as a variety of activities like boat rides and kayak rentals.
Due to its small size, there aren’t too many culinary options in Kibuye. Though a few brochette stands and restaurants can be found in the center of town, meals often take a long time to arrive and can unfortunately be pretty mediocre.
However, hotel restaurants throughout Kibuye are quite good, and travelers are welcome to dine at these spots even if they’re staying in alternative accommodations. Home St Jean grills up some of the best fish brochettes and chicken in the area, served with a homemade pili pili sauce and endless cold beers.
Cormoran Lodge serves classic Rwandan brochettes and grilled meat as well, but also offers several international options like pizza, grilled prawns, and well-cooked steaks. For kids, Cormoran’s fish fingers served with a homemade tartar sauce make for an excellent snack. A few other hotels in the area – such as Moriah Hill Resort and Kivu Lodge – also serve decent food.
A town favorited by Kigali locals for tropical-like weekend escapes, Kibuye still feels like a hidden gem. Spend your days relaxing at the beachfront, strolling around the town’s main road loop, and wiling the hours away with a good book and a cold beer.
For more active travelers, kayak and boating adventures are recommended. Cormoran Lodge rents out kayaks by the hour, Kingfisher Journeys organizes half-day, full-day, and multi-day kayaking excursions, and every hotel in the area can arrange boating trips around the town’s many islands. Visiting Napoleon, with its famous bat colony, and Amahoro Island makes for a lovely afternoon trip, and an evening with the impressive night fishermen of Lake Kivu is truly memorable.
About an hour from Kibuye is the Gisovu Tea Estate, a lovely working farm that offers tours, a small guesthouse, and endless cups of tea. The bright green fields are worthy of a visit alone, as well as the chance to learn about one of Rwanda’s leading exports. Further afield is the Nyungwe National Park, for travelers eager to break up their relaxing beachside hangs with some chimpanzee trekking or waterfall walks. Though small, Kibuye’s offerings are plentiful and diverse.