Lake Burera is one of the twin lakes of the Gorilla Highlands region and a fabulous destination to get the pulse of true rural Rwanda. Once frequented by dugout canoes, it is now ruled by fishing vessels and motorboats. A ride to three of its six islands, each with a strikingly different community, leads to a cultural walk into a mining village on its northern shore.
- superb volcano views
- island primary school experience
- authentic lunch with fishermen
- sorghum and banana beer brewing with Wolfram miners
- incredible stories of kings who walked on water and farted dramatically
- Lake Burera power station
duration: 5-6 hours; difficulty: moderate
area: Birwa, Munanira and Cyuza Islands and the Gitare area
departures: daily at 8am and 12pm from Musanze
Price: USD 70 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes car transport to and from, professional guidance, all activities and donations, a soft drink on Cyuza Island, a meal with fishermen on Munanira Island and snacks in Gitare Village.
Optional add-ons available:
– 2-hour night boat session with fishermen (USD 40 per person)
– 2-hour walk to Uganda’s border (USD 20 per person)
Our car will collect you anywhere in Musanze to bring you to the spot where Lake Burera almost touches its sibling Ruhondo and generates hydro electricity, a 20-minute drive. We will then take you onto the water in an engine boat, allowing us to cover the whole lake.
The first island, officially called “Birwa 1”, has a steep shore so please be ready for a little climb to the primary school perched above. (Your guide will help as much as he possibly can.) The pupils will meet us with singing and dancing and there will be colourful baskets on sale by local women — do bring some pocket money, this will be a good deal!
If this is an afternoon trip, we will first continue to Munanira Island where Burera fishermen will have cooked lunch for you (there will be a fish option and a vegan one) before driving to Cyuza Island. (We reverse this order for morning trips.)
Cyuza’s inhabitants have been moved to the shore by the government to ease service provision: 3-in-1 houses were built, a cow and a small plot of land were given to them on the mainland. The island has been turned into a true backpacker paradise and is a magnificent site for our bottled refreshment.
The journey then proceeds northwards, to the mountain of Mweru under which a famous king reportedly walked on water and played table games. After a short but intense climb and a 30-minute lakeshore hike we will reach the village of Gitare. (If the mountain and the trek sound too demanding, just inform us in advance and the boat will drop you closer to Gitare).
Don’t be surprised to run into helmeted men everywhere… Wolfram is being mined in Gitare, something Belgian colonisers initiated many decades ago. The mine itself is not very safe for visitors but you will feel its atmosphere clear enough as we join workers during their leisure time. Sorghum and banana beers are their drinks of choice and you will hear everything about ther preparation – and even taste the brew if you are courageous enough!
Other trades in the village are farmers, tailors, carpenters, hairdressers and mobile phone airtime sellers. Your guide is, as the locals say, a son of the soil — he was born in the very same village and can thus show you its real life. It won’t be a problem for you to approach and photograph anyone! Feel like milking a cow? He can make that happen for you as well…
At this point you can happily return to Musanze with our car or:
- Continue walking towards Cyanika on the Ugandan border and encounter a primary school, an innovative farmer and other aspects of rural life. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs USD 20 per person.
- Join the fishermen when the day turns to night… You will follow the traditional catamaran-like vessels in a motorboat, to see the ancient techniques they use to catch fish. Burera has plentiful Indagara, tiny fish that are a popular dietary supplement, especially for little children. This 2-hour adventure is priced at USD 40 per person.