Looking at the picture above, would you ever expect it to be taken in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Well, it is!
Farm vacations are well known around the world and attract people who want to escape from busy work life or families who enjoy spending a weekend in nature, but the DR Congo might not be the first location that comes to mind when you think about farm life. Enter Auberge de Rushengo — a 40-year-old rehabilitated farmhouse located in the North-Kivu province. The farm covers 280 hectares and has sheep, goats, cows, chickens, and, hopefully soon, horses.
At 2,400 metres/ 7,870 feet above sea level, guests can indulge in the full farm stay — milking cows, collecting eggs and harvesting food. After a day of farm work, they get pampered with fresh meals from the garden, including homemade cheese and milk. And if there’s some energy left, hiking the Congolese countryside is a must. Bikes are also available for rides across the farm.
The nearest city is Goma, where you will probably depart from. There is a road all the way to the farm. It is a bumpy 2h 30m drive, but well worth it. On the way, you are treated to spectacular views of small villages and endless lush nature. There is a driver available for guests, but if someone wants to use their own vehicle, a 4×4 is recommended.
Auberge de Rushengo is owned and operated by Naomi Ann and her husband, Yannick. Naomi was gracious enough to give us some insights into living in the region and shared some of her travel tips. They are opening the doors of their auberge for tourism at the beginning of June 2021.
How did you end up hosting an auberge in the DR Congo?
The auberge was first built more than 40 years ago by my husband’s father. He bought the farm and started constructing a house there for his family and friends. They also offered some small-scale tourism activities and horse rides around the farm. Unfortunately, everything on the farm was destroyed in the war of 1998, following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. In 2014, my husband decided to rehabilitate the farm and built back what his father had once created.
I studied tourism and hospitality in Switzerland and worked for many years in the business. When I arrived in Congo and saw the potential of this place, I decided to use my knowledge to motivate as many people as possible to experience the beauty of the Masisi area.
The east of Congo is not an evident place for tourism. What has been the biggest challenge?
In the past it has been the security problem, not being able to visit the area during the war. Even now, there is no insurance or help from the government. We know that there’s a chance that we could lose everything we have built once again. There was no road when my husband and I came here to rehabilitate the place, so we built it from scratch. Rainfall and the passing by of trucks hasn’t made that easy.
The main challenge now is advertising the auberge and promoting tourism, because Masisi still has a bad reputation as being unsafe. Luckily, we have been able to host expats, residents of Goma, and some of our friends. All of them were seeking nature relaxation since the city is always super busy. They wanted to escape their work lives and enjoy their time alone, with friends, or with their family in total tranquility.
One of our first guests was a friend of mine from Switzerland. She was amazed and fell in love with the area and the people. She was surprised, because it has such a bad reputation, yet she felt safe all the time, even during the protests in town against the UN. She is now promoting us to her friends and family and helping us show a different side of the region.
What makes Rushengo worth a visit?
The amazingly helpful and friendly people. All of our workers are from the Masisi tribe and have Rwandese and Congolese backgrounds. Most of them were born here and have lived here all their lives. They know little about Goma and its surroundings.
This has motivated us to help the locals by giving them jobs around the farm, offering space to grow their vegetables, giving their children clothes, games, and books, and providing solar energy for their small village.
You can contact Auberge de Rushengo through their Facebook page. Prices start from USD 60 per person per night.