(R)Wanderer Diaries: Things to do on a 1 day trip to Karongi (West)


This is the second last installment of this series. Hope you enjoy!


On my trip to Rwanda, I was only able to have a total of one day in Karongi, located in the Western province as the rest of the time was spent traveling. However, it definitely wasn’t a wasted trip. In that time, my friends and I were able to visit two places:

  1. Museum of Environment

Located a few minutes from Karongi city centre, the museum opened in 2015 and is the only one of its kind on the continent. It lives up to its name, with a pristine green compound teeming with all sorts of plants and trees, all carefully selected, both for decoration and for their medicinal purposes. To top it all off, the entire building is strategically positioned on the shores of Lake Kivu, and from the roof, once can see the sun reflect on the calm waters. It makes for a perfect photo-taking session with friends. The whole tour costs 1000RWF, however, one is not allowed to take pictures inside the museum itself, only outside and in the reception area.

Inside the museum is a lesson on geography, history, environmental science etc. It is an information hub presented in three languages (Kinyarwanda, French and English) on energy sources on earth and how human beings should use them while still conserving the environment. The study is not confined to Rwanda, but draws examples from all over the world.

On the rooftop is a garden with a variety of exhibitions of traditional medicinal plants, all neatly labelled with the scientific name, local name and its uses. The guide is friendly and will answer any questions you might have about all the things on display. The traffic is slow so you will probably have the museum to yourself when you visit.


Guide explaining uses of plants on roof garden, Museum of Environment, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya


Museum of Environment, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

  1. Lake Kivu – 15 islands

Another trip to The Lake. But it is well worth it as from this point, one is able to take a boat ride for 10,000RWF per hour and visit the islands littered around the lake.

This is an activity best done with friends as there are many opportunities to take photos. The views are spectacular as you can see numerous hills in the distance and the lake extends beyond where your eyes can follow.

The boat makes stop-overs at some of the islands, depending on how many hours you are able to pay for. Examples include Napoleon island which is a bird watching site and we got to see bats circling around at 12 noon. The island is in the shape of a mound and takes a bit of work to walk up. However, its white shores are magnificently beautiful as the moss and algae gather where the land meets the water to create a green ring around the shore.

Another island is Monkey island where we got a glimpse of a rare, newly discovered breed of monkey called the Lesula monkey. It is only the second new species of monkey to be discovered in Africa in the last 28 years. Its unique feature is its brilliant blue testicles, noticeable from a distance. It came to our boat with the promise of bananas from the guide then quickly ate and scurried away.

The last island we docked at was Peace island which used to have a bar that was closed down by the government. The trees at its shore make for a brilliant canopy to take pictures.

The whole journey is a very calming experience as one can doze while the boat steadily moves through the waters.


Fresh waters of Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga


Lesula Monkey on the shores of Monkey island on Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya


On a boat visiting the 15 islands on Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga


View from top of Napoleon island, Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

Catch my last piece on Kigali city in the Involvement Newspaper.

This marks the end of the series 😀


(R)Wandarer Diaries: 5 must-see places in Musanze (North)


Let the journey continue. To the North we go!

Musanze is a cosy agricultural town in the Northern part of Rwanda. Compared to Kigali, life is more relaxed and the inhabitants of the town are friendly and accommodating. Things are cheaper, especially food and one can tour the town, even on a small budget. The best forms of transport which are all affordable are motorcycles, minivans and bicycles, which are fun to take, especially if you’re in a group. The weather can get chillingly cold at night, though, and it is advisable to travel with a couple of heavy jumpers or sweaters.

Out of the several scenic places to visit within the town and its outskirts, these are the 5 must-see places:

  1. Lake Kivu

You haven’t seen Rwanda if you haven’t gone to Lake Kivu. From Musanze, you must take a 1 hour bus ride to Rubavu City for about 1500RWF. The public beach is easily accessible in Serena Hotel, Lake Kivu Beach where entry is free. The view of the Lake is best seen at sunset or sunrise but one can go at any time. Boat rides are also available for a reasonable price (about 1500RWF). On the Lake, you will get to see small islands that litter the lake. Also, if you don’t have a camera or want a professional one taken, there are photographers who can take you pictures and even print them for you for about 800RWF per picture. The sea breeze is relaxing and if you can find a quiet spot to rest along the beach, it can prove to be an emotionally stimulating experience.

Lake Kivu at dusk, Rubavu City. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Congo Border

This is also in Rubavu City and can be seen on the same day you go to the lake. The bustling border is flowing under a constant stream of Congolese crossing over to Rwanda. The difference between the Congolese and Rwandese is distinct, mostly in their dressing style, destroying the notion that Africans all have basically the same cultures. When allowed through to go see the border itself (it is advised to go with a Rwandese who knows the area), you can see the gate that separates Congo from Rwanda and stand in the no-man’s-land between the two countries. It’s quite a sobering experience to see how different the two countries are, even at their borders. The border security is tight, though and you might not be allowed to take pictures.

Suzan Kinyanjui in front of the Congo Border. Photo Credits: Alvin Ngugi
  1. Rubindi River

This is a great chance to witness the domestic life in Musanze. It is located in Byangabo Centre and is a short walk off the main road. One can see the locals as they plant various agricultural products such as sorghum and dry them in the sun. The river snakes through various settlements where the farmers take full advantage of it. The area is rocky, making it necessary for them to gather the volcanic soil form surrounding areas and pack it onto rocks so they can plant. There is also a natural spring that bubbles up from the ground and is used as drinking water. The river ends in an unseen underground waterfall that can be heard if you stand near it. Lots of legends and myths surround this wonderful phenomenon.



River Rubindi. Photo Credits: Soila Kenya
Natural Spring near Rubindi River. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Caves

For those more daring, visiting the various caves available at these caves are a great delight as you enter the pitch blackness with torches and find your way among the slippery muck to the other side. Children in the area are willing to guide you for a small fee (about 100RWF depending on how many help you). The cave varies between wide echoing caverns to narrow barely-there spaces that you have to squeeze through. It takes about 10 minutes to traverse the whole cave and the pictures you can take are well-worth the trip.

A couple of friends in one of the caves. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Hot Springs Massage

These are located near Lake Kivu (but in a different section from the beach). It costs 500RWF for East African members to enter. The natural hot spring bubbles up near the lake and the masseuses use it to give customers an herbal massage for 1500RWF. It lasts about 15mins and by the time they’re through with you, your legs and feet feel amazingly refreshed. Also included in the treatment is a foot mud bath where they encase your feet in hot mud for 5mins. It’s great fun, especially with friends.

There are lots more places to visit in Musanze such as the volcanoes etc, and if you have time you can explore more places.

Daphne Bochaberi enjoying a foot mud bath at the side of Lake Kivu. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
Suzan Kinyanjui at the hot springs

Join me next week for a trip to the West!


Black and White: Blessing or Curse?


So, I’m back again.

Started school today.



Any-who, today I’m ranting about an issue that’s been nagging me for  awhile now. Like, really bugging me.

The black and white effect.


Forget sepia and all that other stuff. Black and white is the in-thing. Funny how we moved out of the era when we could only take photos in black and white but we STILL crave for it anyway. Is this a case of the grass is always greener on the other side or…?

Ok, fine fine I get it. I can already hear your arguments even from all the way over here. And I agree with you, mostly.

Black and white is good because it allows you to add an element of drama and depth and intensity in a very simplified manner. Just click one button and PAP! Your photo immediately looks like it could rival that of those on the cover of Vogue magazine.

Sap the colour out of a picture and somehow, things generally go from ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ to ‘Bourne Identity/Ultimatum’.

Case in point.

IMG_5898So here we have a photo I took of my boot on a crumpled Monopoly note. It’s really nothing special, at first glance. Just a boot and money but…

IMG_5898Do this and it transforms into something else, something with more meaning. Now this one could make you think of a dozen different things like the dangers of wealth etc.

It’s cool, I get it. I do it too…

But is it really worth it????

If overdone (which it has been!) it gets a little old.

Ok, a LOT old.

Ya feel me or ya feel me?

Think about it…and now with the oh-so-helpful idea of hashtagging, people have gone wild with it. The black and white selfie challenges haven’t helped either.

So, the next time you find yourself about to click that button, rethink your decision. Put sepia or lomo or whatever. You might even find it better leaving the picture as is. That’s what I try to do. I try as much as possible to take really nice pictures that can survive on their own WITHOUT the need for editing. I find editing a pain! ‘Cause I’m lazy. And don’t even get me started on the problems of figuring out Photoshop!

Le sigh.

Hope I’ve given you something to think about, though.

Big Love!