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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
“Cyuza’s Island on Lake Burera” I have to try this one out. Sounds adventurous and interesting. Does the owner of the island accept money in foreign currency and if yes how much is it in US dollars.
This sounds amazing! A couple questions, the 10,000 rwf a person includes the boat to get to the island? You said you brought your own food, was is pre-prepared or did you also bring cooking supplies, and could you make a camp fire?
I have been there. Amazing place!
Hi leah! We are planning to do thus trip! Looks amazing! Is it safe to park the car there somewhere?
I have been trying to contact the owner(Bell) since saturday but in vain. 0785 523 561 seems to be unavailable and this one 0722 322 066 seems to be out of service. E-mailing doesn’t work as well. I have contacted twice in a course of a month but no reply. Can somebody help me out please?
I just noticed that you never got a response to your inquiries about Cyuza island. I would like to help, should you still need help with visiting this island. My name is Jackson and I am a rwandese national living in the USA. I currently operate a new boat on lake Burera and am in touch with all the people who live on the islands of Burera, including Cyuza, Munanira and Batutsi (formally known as Birwa I). Please feel free to contact me at +1 412 944 0014.
My name is Jackson, and. I am a rwandan national living in the US. I operate the boat that takes tourists to Cyuza island. I can help you with everything you need concerning camping on this island or any other island in lake burera. Please let me know if you still need help with this matter. My number is +1 412 944 0014
I have gone twice now- and I love it. I almost don’t want to share to keep it secret 🙂
Per person price for camping (with your tent or theirs) is RWF 12,000 per person (est. $14-15, I don’t know if she accepts forex). Boat trip is RWF 6,000 each way. They have water, beer and soft drinks to buy on premise at reasonable prices but no ice, so recommend bringing your own. They have basic cooking pots and pans and plates, silverware, etc. They have a gas stove and a BBQ (double check before if you need to bring coal). They will make you a camp fire and help clean up (but please tip nicely, the guys are great help). They have a few lounge chairs but recommend more if you are a bigger group and a hammock. They also have a guest cottage but I haven’t stayed in it.
We went swimming and kayaking and walked around the island. It was blissfully relaxing and despite a bit of rain I have had great weekends there.
Hello Everyone. My name is Jackson and I am a rwandan national living in the US. I operate a boat that takes tourists to Cyuza island and can answer any questions you might have concerning camping on Cyuza or any other island on lake Burera, such as Bushongo island, Munanira island and Batutsi island. My number is +1 412 944 0014 and my email is email@example.com
how many days did you hike? Would you say there’s a nice route for a 3 days hike? Can you do that on your own in that area or is it now allowed?
how many days was your hike? Would you say that we could do a three day trip on that island?
Hi everyone, I am planing a visit to this place, but how did you get in contact with the owner?