A gorgeous freshwater lake, a calm day, sunshine, blue skies and a boat. If you ask me, these are a perfect recipe for a relaxing weekend with friends! Or so it would seem.
Our group was taking a break from a two week volunteer assignment. We took a three hour drive from Kigali to Kibuye, one of the beautiful beach towns on Lake Kivu, for the weekend. From the vantage point of the Bethanie Hotel, we had stunning views of the area.
Lake Kivu is a freshwater lake that separates Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of Africa’s Great Lakes (the 6th largest in Africa), Lake Kivu was formed by volcanic activity in the Albertine Rift. You may also be interested in knowing that Lake Kivu is an “exploding lake”! Huge amounts of trapped methane and carbon dioxide are suspected to be the cause of lake overturns (that’s an eruption of dissolved carbon dioxide) about every 1,000 years. A future overturn would be catastrophic to the 2 million people living in the lake basin. Strategies to harness and utilize the vast amount of methane gas as a source of energy are continually being investigated. Here are three interesting articles.
There are many islands on the lake and one of those – Napoleon Island – was our destination on this perfect Sunday back in December 2016. We were ready to feel the breeze and set off without many expectations. Our guide was really helpful but spoke limited English and kept telling us that we would see “a lot of birds”. OK. Fine. Sounds good.
After a ride of maybe 30 minutes, we arrived on the island. Our guide points up and says “we will go there”. Um, what? Where I come from, that’s a small mountain. But OK. We climbed uphill on a dirt path for about 45 minutes – it was hot and this was not how we intended to spend our “relaxing morning” but we trudged on. And yes, the views from the top made it worthwhile!
Mind you, we had yet to see any birds…
After a short rest, we headed down in a different direction into the dense forest. Our guide followed us and when he started clapping and whistling, we finally understood. We were here not to see BIRDS but rather BATS. And LOTS of them!! You see, Napoleon Island is home to a colony of fruit bats. 🙂
The racket our guide was making woke them up from their daytime slumber and they started flying everywhere. I mean hundreds if not thousands of bats. We stood transfixed as they flew by so close that we could have easily touched them.
Pictures don’t really do it justice…
Some continued to hang from their trees, eyeing us as intruders and alternately ignoring us completely. For all of the noise, they didn’t seem too bothered by us, really.
I’ve never been in such a strange, unique and unexpected circumstance! But it was amazing. We just stood there gawking – with our mouths closed, really, there was a lot of guano flying around. Not entirely what we had expected from our “relaxing morning on the lake”. Definitely much better. 🙂