Float in one of the world’s most biodiverse ecozones
Rwanda is known to most travelers for its mountain gorillas and for the wildlife—including the “big five”—that you can see on safari. For those who want to see a rarer side of Rwanda, try this new luxury houseboating cruise on one of Africa’s biggest lakes.
Lake Kivu is a Great Rift Valley freshwater lake on Rwanda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It’s the largest lake in Rwanda and a relaxing way to see the range of what Rwanda has to offer. Hippo- and crocodile-free, Lake Kivu is safe for kayaking and other water sports.
The brand new Mantis Kivu Queen uBuranga offers the first luxury cruise on the lake.
Your voyage begins on the lake’s northern shores, in Rubavu, the former colonial beach resort (once called Gisenyi) with its historic mansions lining its promenade and red sand beaches. In the south of the lake, you’ll visit the Nyungwe National Park, one of Africa’s oldest rainforests and home to chimpanzees and the rare Angolan colobus monkey. You’ll also stop at the DRC island of Idjwi—Africa’s second largest lake island, about the size of Malta. Called “Africa’s Forgotten Island,” here you’ll learn about the Bambuti group. Marginalized, displaced from their traditional way of life, and pejoratively called “Pygmies,” tourists buying their pottery and crafts is an important source of income.
On your lake cruise you’ll also go hiking, bird watching, and see how coffee and tea are grown at a lakeside estate (tastings are an essential part of the experience). And you’ll soak up the gorgeous lake views, seeing small villages, picturesque fishing boats, and several of Rwanda’s thousand hills with their eucalyptus and pine forests and terraces of banana trees.
You’ll want to add other Rwanda experiences on to your cruise since travel in tiny Rwanda is fast and easy. Lake Kivu’s northern edge is just an hour from the home of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, for example. Alluring Africa’s luxury 11-day Rwanda’s Hidden Gems itinerary has you visiting Kigali and three national parks—the savannah, hills, and wetlands of Akagera; the mountains of Volcanoes; and the chimpanzee rainforest of Nyungwe.
The Mantis Kivu Queen uBuranga
This new ship is solar-powered and will be the first motorized yacht to sail Lake Kivu.
The Mantis Kivu Queen uBuranga has three decks and just ten cabins, in addition to a swimming pool, hot tub (ideal for admiring the views), wellness center, restaurant, and bar. Each cabin has an ensuite bathroom, satellite TV, mini-fridge, and air conditioning. You can choose from six luxury cabins, two deluxe cabins, and one VIP and one presidential cabin. Complimentary wifi is available on board. The entire ship can be booked exclusively. The Mantis Kivu Queen uBuranga is expected to launch in July 2021.
The ship’s crew are local to the area so as to provide essential income to local communities and to help you learn more about Rwanda’s cultures and traditions. On board you’ll admire the decor’s local art and sample ingredients grown in Rwanda. Sustainability of the environment and local communities is central to the tailor-made experiences.
The ship is operated by Mantis, an international conservation-focused hotel group affiliated with the Accor brand since 2018. Mantis’s collection of luxury boutique hotels, eco-lodges, and luxury eco-houseboats are in Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Cape Verde, the island of St. Helena, as well as in Antarctica, Costa Rica, and London, England. The brand aims to take travelers off-the-beaten path and provide unique and sustainable experiences.
Mantis and Accor take responsible tourism seriously and formed the Community Conservation Fund Africa. It’s both a registered non-profit and a grant-giving organization and its projects protect wildlife and their habitats as well as empower local communities. A stay in any Mantis property—on land or on water—supports these initiatives.
Rwanda open to travel
Rwanda has had one of Africa’s most successful Covid responses—including vaccinating its most vulnerable citizens—and started reopening its arms to international travelers in August 2020.
For now, Rwanda’s Covid entry requirements include proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. You’ll receive a second test upon arrival and then stay in a designated hotel until the results are confirmed negative, which usually takes about 24 hours. Additional tests may be needed depending on how long you stay in the country and the national parks you plan to visit. A negative PCR test is also required to fly out of Rwanda.
This article was published for the first time in Forbes