The Congo Nile Trail in Rwanda: Biking, Cycling & Walking
The Congo Nile Trail is an incredible biking, cycling and walking Trail within magical Rwanda and is probably one of the most popularized trails in East and Central Africa. This spectacular route transverses a jaw-dropping stichwork of dirt, Lakeside route and stretches along the pristine shores of Lake Kivu within the western part of the Country, from the area of Gisenyi or Rubavu in the north, through the densely forested Nyungwe Forest National Park to Cyangugu in the south.
This Trail stretches for over 141 miles long and can be completed in 10 days (for hiking/walking) or 5 days (for biking), much as most travellers just conquer parts of the trail for fewer hours and days as part of their longer Rwanda safaris. Not only that, the southern part of the trail has been paved hence making them to only explore the northern half of the trail.
The southern part of the Congo Nile Trail was paved since 2014 and this makes it only 4-5 days of hiking as well as only 2-3 days of biking along the Northern half of the trail. However, visitors who are still interested in completing the entire trail are offered the opportunity although it is not so thrilling, appealing, natural and exciting to explore the paved part as it is with the unpaved northern half.
Picture yourself walking or riding a bike on the primitive dirt roads and single trails running through the lush jungle and cultivated farmland, exciting children cheering, waving and chasing after you while walking or riding through the beautiful countryside. You will be treated to views of coffee and tea plantations, banana trees, isolated and small fishing villages, tall and beautiful women effortlessly going about their daily activities-fetching water, carrying bundles of firewood on their heads, carrying children on their backs or selling foodstuff in the markets. On the sides of the route you will be treated to views of terraced hillsides and shoreline of Lake Kivu marked by numerous bird species.
Leaving the shores of Lake Kivu, the trail ascends into the cool air surrounding the green tea plantations where a number of busy workers can be seen hand-picking black tea leaves. The trail proceeds along the spectacular divide that separates Congo and Nile Rivers thus the name “Congo Nile Trail”. Additionally, the dirt road leads to an unclear path that goes into the verdant and dense Nyungwe forest, home to several primate species including chimpanzees, Dent’s mona monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, Angolan colobus monkeys and there are also chances of seeing forest bird species, butterflies and orchids among others.
The Congo Nile Trail was established in 2011, although in 2014 part of the route was paved to link Kabuye to Kamembe. Visitors that aren’t affected by the tarmac can complete the entire trail but the dirt seekers can always explore the northern end of the trail. You will need to be physically fit to complete this relatively difficult trail but occasional breaks along the way will be required.
Best time for biking/hiking along the Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail can be biked and hiked throughout the year but the wet season (March to May as well as October to November) comes with heavy rains hence affecting the dirtier section of the trail with mud thus difficult to maneuver. Visitors therefore prefer exploring this trail during the dry season-June to September and December to February when it is drier, less muddy/slippery and less challenging to maneuver.
How to reach the starting point for Congo Nile Trail
It takes about 3-4 hours’ drive from Kigali City to the Congo Nile Trail starting point at Gisenyi. You can either take a bus from Nyabugogo Taxi/Bus Park although you can opt for the less stressful option by booking with a Tour Operator to go and return after completing the Trail.
Places to stay along the Congo Nile Trail
There are a number of accommodation facilities along the Congo Nile Trail much as some visitors prefer erecting Tents within/near schools, villages, open landscapes and orphanages to have a more intimate feeling with Mother Nature. However, you will need to work hand in hand with Rwanda Development Board for camping equipment and supplies. All in all, the accommodation facilities along the Trail include Kinunu Guesthouse, Inzu Lodge, L’Esparance Guesthouse, Peace Guesthouse, Home Saint Jean, Paradise Malahide, Kibogora Guesthouse, Bethanie Guesthouse, Lake Kivu Serena Hotel and many others.