From the ice-cold waters between Rwanda and Uganda atop Mt Muhabura to the colourful bays of Bukavu, the Gorilla Highlands region is blessed with numerous bodies of water. You can safely swim in all of them — but which lakes are the most beautiful?
1. Lake Bunyonyi
This giraffe-shaped lake is made exceptionally gorgeous by the heavily terraced hills that surround it and the huge concentration of islets in its centre. Add to this scores of dugout canoes that traverse Lake Bunyonyi on market days and the Virunga Volcanoes visible in the distance and you have a clear winner. As an added bonus, the history of its islands is unrivalled.
HINT: Most tourism facilities are concentrated in the first bay that you reach driving from Kabale Town. To get a proper idea of Bunyonyi, you should explore elsewhere. The scenic road from Muko in the north of the lake is highly recommended, and climbing one of the hills on the eastern shore is a must (for example during the Islands of Miracles canoe trek).
2. Lake Kivu
Africa’s eighth largest lake is shared by two of our region’s countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Every four to six years, there’s a natural phenomenon that makes Lake Kivu change colour. Scientists think it might be caused by a phytoplankton boom or high surface water temperatures. Either way the water becomes turquoise and would have you think you’re on a tropic island in the Caribbean.
HINT: Lake Kivu Offbeat is an opportunity to make a complete loop of Lake Kivu.
3. Lake Burera
Our Rwandan favorite is Lake Burera, conveniently close to the city of Musanze where we are headquartered. The one word to define Burera would be “dramatic”: its shores are steep, the views of the Virungas striking and there is a radical 100 m/328 ft drop between Burera and it’s twin lake, Ruhondo.
HINT: Don’t just stay on the more frequented western shores of the lake; best vistas unveil themselves on the islands and on the eastern side of Burera.
4. Lake Mutanda
We mentioned the Virungas before and if volcano vistas are what you are after, on the Ugandan side, Lake Mutanda will be your favourite. It has far fewer lodges than Bunyonyi, what gives it a more raw, natural feel. A cultivated swamp on its eastern side is a pretty sight as well.
HINT: If you choose the shortest way from Kisoro Town, the biggest island will block most of your lake views. Better go to Gahiza Island Retreat on Punishment Island (pictured) in the south of the lake to be close to the volcanoes, or make it to the northern shores for a complete panorama. Our Parks Reunited itinerary covers it all.
5. Lake Kayumbu
Sometimes having one sole island can make a big difference, at least if it is as well-positioned as Lake Kayumbu’s. The very definition of “picturesque”, especially at sunset!
HINT: Kayumbu doesn’t offer any accommodation yet (unless you are on our camping trip) but it has a twin lake, Chahafi, where you can stay at Lake Chahafi Resort.
featured image and the other Bunyonyi photo by Marcus Westberg; other pictures by Simba Ngezayo, Josh Hamby and Henriette Faye-Schjøll