I haven’t been to Bujumbura since 2013, with the recent layover at Bujumbura International Airport being the only exception. When we took off, I marveled at an aerial view of the capital of Burundi and reminisced about the 2013 visit.
The tourism industry in Burundi is underdeveloped. Years ago, the sector had a marginal share in the country’s GDP, contributing a dismal 2%. Unfortunately, the 2015 political turmoil erased the meager earnings. Fast-forward to 2022, the vast majority of foreigners landing at the aforementioned airport are the so-called humanitarian aid workers.
It has been almost a decade since my last visit. However, I remember details of that trip quite vividly. Upon arrival, I joined a group of middle-aged basketball players for a pick-up game. We played hoops under the scotching sun for about an hour.
To date, these veterans meet every Sunday and burn calories the best way they know how. Then they spend the rest of the day drinking beers. Although their competitive basketball days are way behind them, their passion for the game is as strong as ever.
After the game, and a few rounds of cold Amstels, I excused myself and left. It was time to take off my sneakers and slip my feet into a pair of flip-flops. Time to leave the hardwood and step on the sand. The beach was calling.
Burundi is blessed with many attractions including the evergreen Kibira National Park, Rusizi National Park, River Ruvubu and Lake Tanganyika. Speaking of Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania and DR Congo own the biggest chunk of the second-deepest lake in the world. However, when it comes to recreation, Burundi makes the most out of its undersized share.
Saga Beach was kicking but the teenage crowd made me feel out of place. My next stopover was the neighboring Bora Bora which seemed to be popular with the so-called humanitarian aid workers.
Finally, I headed to Royal Palm Resort. Unlike Saga Beach and Bora Bora, Royal Palm was serene and peaceful. I felt like I had found what I was looking for the moment I walked into the gate. I kicked back, relaxed and, eventually, had dinner with a couple of old friends living in Bujumbura. This reunion with old buddies capped the first day of my last Buja getaway.