National Parks

Lake Kivu in Rwanda

An African Great Lake, Lake Kivu is the world’s 18th deepest freshwater lake and is home to a wide array of bright and colourful fish and aquatic creatures.

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Everything you need to know about Lake Kivu

Africa is a continent that relies on its vast lakes, and Rwanda’s Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes. This freshwater lake is the world’s 18th deepest, it covers a total surface area of 2,700 kilometres squares, and the world’s 10th largest island on a lake, Idjwi, is wholly surrounded by the volcanic Lake Kivu. The lake is home to a wide array of bright and colourful fish and aquatic creatures, including over 20 species of cichlids, Lake Rukwa Minnows, four species of bard, catfish, freshwater crabs and Lake Tanganyika sardine. Lake Kivu’s biggest draw is by far the boat trips that you can take, exploring parts of Rwanda that are untouched by tourism. The lake is an alternative to the rugged savannah and misty mountains that usually attract adventurers to this part of Africa.

Where is the lake located?

The lake is located in western Rwanda, spanning the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Albertine Rift. Lake Kivu stands at approximately 2.0448° S, 29.1856° E and at its largest parts is 89 kilometres long and 48 kilometres wide. This freshwater lake lies within the Virunga National Park, sustaining several settlements along its shoreline, including Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu.

What can you expect of the terrain?

Lake Kivu is more than just a freshwater lake, it entirely surrounds the island of Idjwi. The lake itself sits on top of a rift valley which is slowly drifting apart, causing extensive volcanic activity in the area. The towns on the lake shores are reliant on Kivu for fishing and irrigation of crops and plantations, with much of the land along the shoreline taken over for farming. There are, however, rugged rolling hills and forested areas in some parts, surrounded by the backdrop of untamed Rwandan and Congolese mountain ranges.

About the lake

Top experiences to enjoy at Lake Kivu

If you wanted to experience a different side of Africa, away from the tourist crowds and the safari trails, then Lake Kivu is the perfect choice. Take a traditional wooden fishing boat and sail across the lake, stopping off at small villages and rugged woodland along the way, or try your hand at some water sports, with sailing, kayaking, wind surfing and motor boating set against the backdrop of jagged mountains and farmers tending their plots. If you’re feeling especially adventurous then you could swim in the clean waters of Lake Kivu; there are no crocodiles, hippos or diseases here. Just a short boat ride away is the island of Nyamirundi with its coffee farms; Starbucks buys its beans from here and you can tour the plantations and see how coffee beans are produced.

When to visit

Lake Kivu is an excellent destination to visit throughout the year, largely thanks to Rwanda’s constant temperatures throughout the year and calm rainy season. If your main reason for visiting the lake is to relax before you embark on a strenuous trek through the mountains in search of gorillas, then time your visit to fall between June and September, as this is when the mountain trails are driest. As one of Africa’s Great Lakes, Kivu has something to offer throughout the year.

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lake kivu

lake kivu

lake kivu

lake kivu


lake kivu

lake kivu

lake kivu

lake kivu