Nkombo Island

Nkombo Island: Rwanda’s hidden getaway

Nkombo Island, in Rusizi district, western province of Rwanda is a perfect place to relax after chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest national park. Found in Lake Kivu, the island is reached by a 28-minute boat ride from Cyangugu town, which is 36km from Kitabi, the park’s western entrance gate.

Cyangugu is the 8th and last stage of the Congo-Nile biking trail. Visitors can take biking excursions on the island, on the lakeshore’s dirt tracks or to explore tea plantations in Gisakura. Sexantorio Lodge will open soon to provide a luxurious island getaway.   

Stretching for 23 sq.km, Nkombo is inhabited by over 18,000 people, who speak the Mashi language. Distinguished from Kinyarwanda by features of vocabulary and pronunciation, the Mashi dialect is closely related to the Masi people of Zambia and Namibia in southern Africa.

Rwanda has successfully recovered from the devastating genocide of 1994 and now welcomes visitors to enjoy the country’s peace, hospitality, unity and patriotism. The capital Kigali is now regarded as one of the cleanest cities in the world and this attracts many visitors to the to the Land of A Thousand Hills. Nkombo island has remained a rural and authentic place, the side of Rwanda you hardly see on TV.   

Welfare initiatives and tourism on Nkombo Island

Nkombo island became a focal point of the national hygiene and global hand-washing campaign in 2014. Given that diseases such as cholera, typhoid would stem from poor sanitation. The objective was to train locals on how to improve hygiene, wellbeing, increase food security, and eradicate poverty.

The island has since become a better place to live in for both locals and visitors. Several organizations including the Church of the Holy Spirit have also brought relief and hope by building churches and schools. As a traveler coming to visit Rwanda, you still have time and chance to make a positive impact on the people. Nkombo island can be added in a Rwanda wildlife safari including Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes national parks. 

In addition to improving the livelihoods of people, tourism development is giving Nkombo island a facelift to host luxury travelers visiting Rwanda for safari.

New luxury lodge opening up soon on Nkombo island

Sextantio is set to open soon to boost tourism and culture by supporting local fishermen, women, and children living on the island. 

What to do in Nkomba island

Nkombo island offers a wide range of water sports including boat rides, standup paddling and kayaking. 

Water sports 

Visitors must use a boat to reach the island, which is an experience in itself. Boat rides, kayaks or paddle boards are available for hire through a tour operator or guide.

Make a donation

If you visit local villages, schools, or farms, you are likely to meet children, and elderly. Prepare in advance what to give them through your tour guide. Ask about the places and things that suit the people’s needs. Whether you want to donate money, stationary, water filters and purifiers, or hand washing soap. Besides, you can also support the local business from food and beverages to arts and crafts. For instance, the pottery made by the Batwa minority can be found around Rwanda from markets in Cyangugu town to shops in Kigali city. 

Coffee and tea tours

Coffee along with sorghum are major cash crops and appear on the national court of arms. Almost every household in rural areas grows coffee and there are beautiful tea plantations near Nyungwe forest national park including Gisakura tea estate. You can either visit a farm or a farmer’s cooperative group to learn more about the coffee experience. Right from how it is grown to how it is harvested and finally put into a cup for consumption. By doing a coffee tour in Rwanda, you will be supporting the small-scale farmers. 

Lowland gorilla trekking

Nkombo island is also a perfect island retreat for those intending to visit Kahuzi Beiga national park, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for harboring lowland gorillas. Cyangugu town is situated on the banks of River Rusizi where Rwanda borders with the DR Congo. There’s a bridge that links the two countries and just across the border is the town of Bukavu, capital city of South Kivu Province. Since Virunga national park isn’t open yet, the only option available for the DR Congo gorilla tour is to visit Kahuzi Biega for lowland gorilla trekking. This is to do from Cyangugu town rather than from Goma city in the North Kivu Province.

Biking the Congo Nile Trail

Cyangugu town is the 8th and end stage of the Congo-Nile trail, making for perfect biking excursions from Nkombo island. You can rent a bike to explore the island or the lakeshore dirt tracks with a local guide. The start point of the Congo-Nile trail is in Gisenyi resort town on the northern end of Lake Kivu. 

Chimpanzee trekking 

Nyungwe forest national park is 55 km (1-hour drive) east of Cyangugu town, making for a perfect island retreat after chimpanzee trekking. In addition, the park offers a canopy walk and over 10 nature trails for keen birders and hikers to explore the rich biodiversity including over 1,000 plants, 350 birds of which 16 are Albertine Rift Endemics, and 13 primate species including chimpanzees, Hamlyn’s monkeys, red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, and blue monkeys. Nyungwe is 220 km (5-hour) southwest of Kigali capital city and can also be reached by air through Kamembe airport.  

Tourism has made it possible to access remote areas and revitalize the economy particularly in the western province. Given the relatively smaller area, the country seems to no longer have remote places. She has gone through a sharp development curve.

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