Camping on Lake Burera

Though there are many getaway options for a weekend trip from Kigali, visiting the twin lakes in the Musanze region is always at the top of my list. There are several places to stay on Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo (including the beautiful albeit expensive Virunga Lodge in between the lakes, Foyer de Charitie overlooking Lake Ruhondo, and Ruhondo Beach Resort). However, my undoubtable favorite has to be camping on Ile de Cyuza in the middle of Lake Burera.

La Paillotte Gorilla Place in Musanze town, in addition to running a bakery, restaurant, and several guesthouses, also owns Ile de Cyuza (Cyuza’s Island) on Lake Burera. The island covers 14 hectares, and though parts of it are cultivated, a lot of the island is still in a natural state. Vegetable patches and fruit trees, however, abound! The island is also a community-run initiative, benefiting the surrounding town with the proceeds from your stay and the produce from the island.

Getting to Ile de Cyuza

After making your reservation (email lapaillottegorillaplace@hotmail.com and call 0785 523 561 or 0722 322 066), it’s time to head to Musanze! If you’re driving (lucky you), just head northwest as if you were heading to Gisenyi (google maps has all the information). If you’re taking public transit, hop on a two hour bus from Nyabugogo Bus Station for Rwf 1,200 from Virunga Express. Upon arrival in Musanze, head to the La Paillote restaurant to meet the owner of Cyuza’s Island or one of her staff members.

Once you meet them at the restaurant, you can confirm your booking in person and be on your way! If you are driving, they will give you instructions to head to the spot on the lake where you can park your car and then boat across. If you’re taking public transport (as we did), you will walk to the Musanze bus station and take a bus to Rugarama (about 30 minutes of driving). Don’t forget to tell the driver you need to get off at Rugarama, as it is not a specific or official bus stop. The bus tickets are Rwf 500 each way.

When you arrive, you will be met by the manager of the island. The bus stop is about four kilometers from the shore of Lake Burera, and you can either walk or hire a moto for about Rwf 1,000. Be warned: this will be the bumpiest moto ride of your life. Upon getting to the shore of the lake, you’ll hop into a small boat and start paddling to the island. This takes about twenty minutes, and you might have to bail out the boat every once in a while along the way. However, it is beautiful. Like really really beautiful. Like maybe we should all move to this island kind of beautiful.

At Cyuza’s Island on Lake Burera

Upon arrival at Cyuza’s Island, you will take a short (and uphill) five minute walk to the eating area, which is really just a cement and wood open-air room with a thatched roof. It has a beautiful view of the lake, and looks out over the Muhabura volcano. Regarding sleeping arrangements, the camping area is great (and a short walk from the main eating area). It is Rwf 10,000 per person to camp, and they provide the tent, mattress, and pillows if you don’t come with your own. Do, however, bring a sleeping bag or sheets.

Since it’s Musanze, it can get pretty chilly at night, so don’t forget the cozy blankets and sweaters! Something to keep in mind: this is not a ‘luxurious’ experience – there aren’t showers, the bathroom is a (well-maintained) compost toilet, and I would advise bringing (and cooking) your own food. However – this place is lovely, good value, and a unique way to spend a weekend in Rwanda! Our view from our tent, as pictured above, is still one of the best views I’ve ever had.

Food, Drinks, and Activities

We brought our own food and drinks, but it is possible to order food from La Paillotte and have it delivered. They also have coffee and tea available in the eating area. Bring snacks and alcohol if you’re so inclined, as a glass of wine and chocolate at night tastes even better (is that possible?!) under the stars and in the foothills of volcanoes. Though we spent our time on the island relaxing, reading, and swimming, the island can also help arrange a boat ride and other activities in the area. If you’re looking for more to do during your time in Musanze, check out Kingfisher Journeys for canoeing near the gorillas, head to Virunga Lodge for a beer and a great view, hike around the twin lakes, or hike Bisoke volcano (or any of the other amazing volcanos in the area).

In love with this Cyuza’s Island yet? Checking your calendar for upcoming free weekends? That’s probably a good call – this island is the best!

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About Leah Feiger

Though Leah is originally from Chicago, she grew up abroad in Hong Kong and London and has had the travel bug ever since. Perpetually on the road or planning imminent travels, she loves short layovers, mangoes, mountains, and lakeside naps.