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The Singing Fishermen of Lake Kivu

Join the singing fishermen as they paddle out in their canoes at dusk to catch fish using torches and nets



Director of Kingfisher Journeys
Published on

29 Jul 2018

Updated on

22 Apr 2021

Fishermen On Lake Kivu At Sunset

Did you know that almost every day, something very special takes place on the clear, blue waters of Lake Kivu in Rwanda?

As sunset approaches, hundreds of extraordinary, three-hulled fishing boats leave villages all along Rwanda’s shores. With characteristic long poles attached to their bows and sterns, these fascinating boats become slowly silhouetted against the darkening sky. In small groups, they seek the deep water a few kilometres out into the lake from where they cast their nets and fish throughout the night.

Lake Kivu Kayak To See The Singing Fishermen

To see them leave at twilight, go to a hotel near Bralirwa (7km from Gisenyi), the inlets of Kibuye or villages on the coast such as Cyimbili or Kinunu. And listen carefully. In the calm of the evening there is no wind so sails are not used here. Rather, each team of fishermen paddle out with remarkable agility and speed, because, working in unison, they sing rhythmically to time their paddle strokes and give encouragement to each other.

Watching from the shore this makes an interesting sight. However, why not go out on the water to be right there with them? Silently paddling out onto Lake Kivu by kayak is by far the best way to see the fishing boats and hear their crews – as well as catching the sunset itself. Because only when you’re on the water can you closely approach, watch the fishermen paddling and really appreciate their singing.

Lake Kivu Kayak Singing Fishermen

As dusk turns to night the fishing boats arrive in position. They illuminate lamps to attract a type of small sardine (known as Isambaza) and the delicious, larger Tilapia that they catch in their nets. With lights from the many fishing boats spread across the water, Lake Kivu soon resembles a starry sky. From one of the luxury lodges, guesthouses or even a private island campsite that are found along its shores, it looks both romantic and spectacular.

However, for the fishermen out on the water, theirs is a hard job. Their catches are not large because the unique physical characteristics of Lake Kivu tend to limit the stock of fish that it can support. Therefore, whilst working most of the year, they all pause for a few days each month (around the full moon) as well as during September and October to allow the fish to replenish their numbers.

Sunset Over Lake Kivu With The Singing Fishermen

Witnessing the fishing boats depart for the night is one reason why kayaking on Lake Kivu has become one of the most popular activities in Gisenyi and Kibuye. So, time your visit well and, as a bonus to a superb time on the water, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing experience unlike anything else in Rwanda.

If you'd like to book this excursion as part of your Rwanda holiday, then just let the Far and Wild Team know.

Wondering when to visit? Take a look at this guide on the best time to visit Rwanda.

Looking for some more inspiration? Take a look at our best safari holidays ideas, our favourite family safaris, our big five safari guide or our top African safari honeymoon suggestions.

Watching The Singing Fishermen On Lake Kivu

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