By Justin Kayiranga
When you arrive in Rwanda and ask your local friends to take you to Lake Kivu, not everyone will suggest you to visit this lake on its side in Karongi district. Many will pick Rubavu (Gisenyi) destination for you to visit as long you are targeting Lake Kivu.
This is triggered by the fact that there is too much fun in Rubavu than anywhere else when it comes to Lake Kivu attractions.
However, in this story about my journey to Karongi, you will get to understand how this place would be an ideal destination for retreat time on the shore of lake Kivu
My journey begun in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where I set out on a drive towards Karongi and did a 4-hour drive that took us through a captivating panorama of hills and small villages across the road.
Although it was not my first time to Karongi, this time I went there for a short retreat as I was convinced that the place might be so tranquil to assist that retreat.
Arriving in Karongi, I first had to find a place to stay. Out of many options I had, I decided to go to Bethany Hotel, one of reputable hotels that have been operational for quite a long time in this area, as it has been established in 1982 as a guest center and later, in 2011, it got legally recognized as a Hotel under Bethany Investment Group and currently it’s listed among the 2-star hotels in Rwanda.
Prof. Dr. Martin Leiner, from Germany, is one among many international tourists met along with my stay at Bethany Hotel. In our convo, he revealed what led him to pick Rwanda from other recommended destinations across the globe saying that, as the President of International Association for Reconciliation Studies, “I proposed to have our first annual conference in Rwanda, because of the impressive work done here to live together after the genocide in 1994.”
Asked why he chose to have their conference held in Karongi, Martin Leiner said that, despite the fact that he has been at this hotel twice before, he found the hotel ideal for such a big global conference and also commended the hospitality and the good service rendered by hotel staff. However, he pointed out infrastructures matters, specifically internet connections and poor roads conditions as a big challenge to visitors in this district.
He said “Internet connections must be stronger and more stable. The roads must be built more solidly. Particularly, this Rwanda is a wonderful country and the persons working at Bethany are wonderful friendly and welcoming.”
Visit Rwanda contribution to Karongi tourism endeavors.
Rwanda’s plan to promote tourism, through Visit Rwanda, is among the reasons why Karongi district is getting visited by both domestic and international tourists.
The meetings Rwanda hosts, as well as promoting tourism through partnership with European football teams including Arsenal FC, Paris Saint Germain and the recently announced partnership with Bayern Munich have been consequential to the increase of tourists traveling to Karongi.
Speaking to Ntwali Janvier, the Manager of Bethany Hotel, he disclosed how Rwanda’s tourism ambitions have assisted to their business growth through the increase of bookings they receive.
“Like the international conferences that take place in Kigali, when they are over, the participants take the time to travel around Rwanda, including here in Karongi. For example, during the CHOGM conference, I remember that our hotel was one of the 3 hotels selected to host guests in Karongi so we were fully booked even before the start of the meeting.
Bethany hotel’s plan on extension
Basing on the bookings they receive from clients, Ntwali, hotel’s manager, revealed their plan to expand this hotel’s features and amenities that will soon see it ranked at least among the 4-star hotels.
He said “We still have steps to complete such as adding other services like gym, swimming pool and other facilities that will improve the standards of services we provide, so that in the next three or four years we will have reached at least the level of being a 4-star hotel.”
Things to do in Karongi
The primary thing that strikes your eyes, when entering Karongi city center, is the landscape views by the lake and the islands. Despite their own extraordinary profiles and mysteries, most of the islands in lake Kivu, part of Karongi, are uninhabited.
Napoleon Island is probably the most visited island due to its interesting story of being molded like Napoleon’s cap from the distance and the presence of bats that are always ready to make a pleasant sound whenever you clap your hands.
Monkey Island is one more well known island to visit in Karongi. Monkey island has thick development of woods and is exceptionally lavish and good to visit. The name “Monkey Island” comes from the way that there is a little populace of primates possessing the island.
Night fishing is another fascinating activity which can be coordinated through the hotel’s management or boat companies in Karongi. Each night, a group of piscators propel their boats on Lake Kivu while chanting and whistling for fishing evening of the sambaza. Their songs meaning is hard to perceive but the singing vibes are price worth paying. Sambaza are often gotten from traditional boats utilizing conventional techniques.