Lake Muhazi, Rwanda
Have the water all to yourself at Rwanda’s ‘other’ lake.
Even though it’s only slightly more than 40km east of Kigali, the winding shores of Lake Muhazi see few visitors (and of these, most tend to be locals and expats escaping the city for a weekend), but the region has a laid-back, subtle charm all its own, and with such easy access from Kigali, there’s really no reason not to explore the winding shores and placid waters of Lake Muhazi.
Long and shallow, Lake Muhazi twists and turns its way through a flooded valley for more than 40km before reaching its eastern shore, not far from the northern exit of eastern Rwanda’s crown jewel, Akagera National Park.
The east end of the lake sits right along the road to Nyagatare, and makes for a perfect place to break the journey for a meal and a cold drink after long hours spent bumping along the park’s dirt roads. If you stick around after your fresh-caught lunch and let the lake breezes guide you, you’ll quickly find that the live music at the lakeside bars, dozens of traditional villages along the shore, and the fantastic birding and fishing on offer will keep you here well longer than expected.
The hilltop town of Gahini sits just opposite the lake’s east end and is a great place to soak up a bit of small-town Rwandan life, especially if you’re here on a Sunday, when services at the historic Gahini Anglican Cathedral can be heard from all around. Most people in Gahini and other villages around the lake are either farmers or fishers, so don’t be surprised to see herds of the long-horned Inyambo cows around every bend. No trip to the lake is complete without getting out on the water, and any of the low-key guesthouses that dot the lakeshore can help set up fishing and birding expeditions up and down the lake.
Wildlife lovers should keep their eyes out for a glimpse of the Spotted-necked otter, while dedicated ornithologists can expect to check off the African fish eagle, Malachite kingfisher, Pied kingfisher, Swamp flycatcher, and many more.
Though it’s only some 50km long east to west, there are more than a dozen meandering offshoots branching north and south of Lake Muhazi’s wide central valley, and there are miles and miles of tranquil agricultural villages and green, unspoilt coastline on either side of the lake simply waiting to be explored. If you’ve got a 4×4, the little-travelled dirt roads north of the lake take you through a lacustrine agricultural Eden, where the terraced hillsides tumble down to the water’s edge, and there’s a lake vista around every bend.
The two largest towns near the lakeshore are Gahini and Rwesero, and both have a couple guesthouses where you can arrange a variety of aquatic activities. Fishing, birding, and boating trips are a highlight of any trip to Lake Muhazi, but there’s always plenty of space for a cool dip just offshore if you don’t have time to get out on the water. Back on dry land, there’s no shortage of hot food, cold drinks, and irresistible hammocks to keep you occupied. Religion and history buffs won’t want to miss the brick-built Gahini Anglican Cathedral either. It dates to 1975 and still towers over the low-slung rooftops of Gahini, drawing in thousands of parishioners and pilgrims every year.