My first mission as a humanitarian worker was in D.R.Congo, where I was based for 6 months in Bukavu, the capital of the Province South Kivu in the East. The city is located along Lake Kivu, one of the Great African Lakes and a small heaven on earth, perfect to release all the stress and pressure that such a job can make you feel.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is mostly famous for its war which resulted to 5 million casualties between 1998 and 2003, and for being called the “world capital of rape”. South Kivu is one of the smallest provinces of the country but not the most quiet, (with tension) due to numerous armed groups and constant armed conflicts, movements of populations etc.
But this is not what this article is about. I’d like to show you the forgotten beauty of this damaged place of the world, also called the “Switzerland of Africa”.
My first mission as a humanitarian worker was in South Kivu, where I was based for 6 months in Bukavu, the capital of the province. South Kivu, although one of the smallest provinces of the country as I wrote earlier, shares borders with Rwanda and Burundi, and also shares two African Great Lakes with them: Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika. South Kivu, in addition to its two different lakes (while Lake Kivu is very quiet, Lake Tanganyika resembles a sea, with agitated waters and sand beaches) has a beautiful mountainous and green landscape.
Bukavu is located along Lake Kivu and is 10 minutes away from its border with Rwanda. It’s located in an altitude that’s around 1200m above sea level, and unlike the rest of Africa, the weather can be quite chilly (I was often in long shirts/light jackets and I even got a cold…yes, in Africa). During the rainy season (around October ’til June), it can rain A LOT. But anyway, that’s the charm of the equatorial weather!
Lake Kivu is a peaceful place, perfect to spend weekend afternoons away from the tough work. You can go kayaking, swimming (sometimes along with a couple of otters!) or just relax in the grass next to the lake, listening to nothing but the huge variety of birds singing in the trees. Also, if you want to see gorillas, you can visit the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of the two homes of the Eastern Lowland Gorilla. The park is close to Bukavu.
And if you want to get away for a weekend, you can easily spend a few days in Rwanda or Burundi and chill out on their side of the two lakes in nice hotels and lodges or visit the busier capitals like Kigali or Bujumbura to dance the night away!