Sam Waldock writes:
We hiked the Northern stretch of the Congo Nile Trail in March 2016 and the Southern Stretch in October 2014. We found it almost impossible to book guesthouses in advance as they don’t have an internet presence, so we wanted to share some hotel reviews and contact details for your readers use. There is probably no need to book unless you are travelling in the high season over the northern hemisphere summer. We were delighted to find functional guesthouses each evening (with the exception of the last day in the South near Kamembe/ Rusizi) which is great and meant you didn’t need a tent.
Rubavu/Gisenyi Town Centre to Inzu Lodge 7km
Inzu Lodge to Cyumbiri 25km
Cyumbiri to Kinunu 16km
Kinunu to Bumba 29km
Bumba to Kibuye/ Karongi 33km (16km to the main road where you can get a bus to Kibuye)
Contact: Jean Nepo is the Manager 0788412982 firstname.lastname@example.org
Excellent welcoming staff. Rooms basic but clean with ensuite bathrooms. We all got hot showers. Decent African buffet for dinner. Right by the water with a small beach. Around 5 rooms. About 1km off the main road. Right in middle of coffee plantation. Coffee tours available. Rooms fr10,000 and dinner fr5,000 per person.
Kinunu: Rushel Kivu Lodge
Contact: Placide is the manager 0788825000 https://www.facebook.com/rushelkivu/?fref=ts
The lodge is 3km off main trail. Very manicured grounds. Great place to hang out as day 2 from Cyumbiri is shorter (15km). Rooms were 45,000. Around 4 ensuite rooms. Hot water hit and miss (3 people got cold showers 1 got hot) with ensuite bathrooms. Dinner nice African buffet but very over priced at 9,000 per person. Well furnished rooms aiming for a mid-range market with high quality beds and nice chairs. Nice beach to swim.
Kinunu: Kinunu Gueshouse
Contact: Diana is the manager 0789744932
There is a second guesthouse at Kinunu which is more basic but also much cheaper. Rooms (ensuite) are 20,000 and buffet dinner is 5,000. It’s not on the lake but has a nice view. As you go down to the lake shore the choice between the guesthouse is well signed and they are 5 mins apart.
Kinunu: Catholic Church
There are some reports of a third even more basic guesthouse in Kinunu, much closer to the trail. We weren’t able to verify this but it seems it is located at the large church just outside the village.
Musasa: Base Camp (campsite)
Musasa is marked on the Congo Nile trail map as a place to stay. There is no guesthouse but there is a small campsite at a coffee washing station. By walking from Kinunu to Bumba you can stay in a guesthouse and avoid carrying a tent.
Bumba: Bumba Base Camp
Contact: Father Patrick runs the guesthouse 0788466179 email@example.com along with Jackie 0788762883
Bumba base camp is run by father Patrick. He has built a very basic accommodation block. It’s got 4 rooms with basic beds and a separate building has additional rooms. There are ensuite bathrooms have flush toilets and a tap but are unfinished concrete so don’t yet have tiles/ showers/ wash basins. They provided warm water for bucket shower. Room 15,000 and dinner 3,000. They also host volunteers. The Bumba Basecamp is signed off the main trail. You’ll then need to walk about 3km up a big hill into the village of Bumba (which is on the Pfunda to Rubengera road, currently being tarred). Once in the village you will need to ask for the basecamp or father Patrick’s house as the basecamp itself is not signed. It’s directly behind the Sector office at the top of the village.
Other Options near Bumba:
There is an alternative guesthouse near Bumba which we think is called Congo Nile Divide Lodge. A large new hotel is also under construction in Bumba village.
Karongi/Kibuye – Options are covered in the Bradt Guide. Rwiza Lodge is new and a good option. http://www.rwizavillage.org/
The Southern stretch was last visited in October 2014 so this information is less up to date. The full route is tarred road but is relatively quiet at the moment. The stages follow the Congo-Nile Trail map.
When we visited the L’Esperance orphanage was being converted into a womens’ vocational centre (in line with Rwanda’s policy of fostering orphans). L’Esperance had lots of volunteers staying and gave us a basic room, a warm shower and a communal dinner. Payment was by donation.
We stayed at the secondary school in the village. They had a guesthouse (the home of a former missionary). In stark contrast to the northern stretch of the Congo Nile Trail we were one of the first to stay at the school (despite it being on the map). We ate at a local restaurant in the village. Payment was by donation. You can pay into the schools bank account at the small bank in the village.
Contact: Julie 0788232766
There is a ‘basecamp’ at Kibogora but we stayed at the hospital guesthouse. It was a real gem. Run by the Free Methodists the rooms are in large single story houses overlooking the lake. Ensuite bathrooms. The guesthouse was basic but with some really nice communal areas and gardens. Well worth a stop.
The Congo-Nile Trail map says there is a basecamp here but we didn’t find it. We ended up walking a 45km day as a result. You could cut down the distance by staying at one of the basic guesthouses in Nyamasheke or catch a moto/ bus to Kamembe and then go back to the place you left in the morning.
– We found the GPS tracks available online reliable and useful at ambiguous junctions. Most people seemed just fine with the map, asking directions at junctions. The tracks would not work for a 4×4 as there were two bridges that were missing (on the Kinunu to Bumba stretch) which would be impassable in a 4×4. Tracks available at: www.bikepacking.com/routes/congo-nile-trail/
– Food (bread, avocado, banana, chapatti, biscuits etc) and water were available along the trail. Lunches of bread and avocado were great but we found bringing a knife, spoon and jar of peanut butter a real help.
– The Rwanda Development Board in Rubavu/Gisenyi is a great source of information on the trail, particularly the Northern half.
– There are some reports that the route of the Congo Nile Trail may be amended to pass through the new Mukura Forest Reserve.