Nyamasheke District is found in the Western Province of Rwanda. It is one of the five districts located along the Kivu Belt. This sub destination is divided into fifteen administrative areas known as sectors.
In July last year, I spent two weeks in Nyamasheke and learned a lot about this beautiful district. Below is a list of five things you probably didn’t know about Nyamasheke.
Nyamasheke is sandwiched by Lake Kivu and Nyungwe National Park
As mentioned above, Nyamasheke comprises fifteen sectors. Eight of those sectors border Lake Kivu while the remaining seven sectors border Nyungwe National Park.
Nyamasheke is an agribusiness investment hub
The humid equatorial mist on the shore of Lake Kivu and the rich volcanic soil create an ideal terroir for growing coffee. While in Nyamasheke, I visited three plantations and two washing stations owned by Kivu Belt Coffee. I left the area with a deeper knowledge of this iconic product and its supply chain.
Nyungwe forest, on the other hand, creates a conducive environment for the production of tea. During my tour of Nyamasheke, I visited Gisakura and Gatare tea estates in Bushekeri and Karambi sectors respectively. This tour made me more acquainted with the entire process of turning green leaves into the magic potion that kick-starts every day of my life.
Tea is a high altitude crop that requires adequate amount of rainfall. No wonder Nyungwe mountain rainforest is surrounded by tea estates. 70% of rain watering the Rwandan soil falls in Nyungwe.
The most thrilling activities in Nyungwe National Park are partaken in the Nyamasheke part of the forest
For starters, canopy walk is electrifying. The suspension bridge made of ropes and metallic materials swings with every step you make. At some point, it seems like the whole thing is about to turn upside down. This experience will undoubtedly ignite butterflies in your stomach but that’s the beauty of it.
The canopy walkway may be the most popular attraction in the park but my favorite excursion in Nyungwe is pursuing the meandering Isumo Falls trail all the way to the picturesque waterfall. When I visited Isumo Falls, I was awestruck by the powerful stream flowing vertically and creating whirlpools, turbulence and vapor. On my way to the falls, I trekked along a narrow trail on the floor of the forest. It felt like staring in a wild adventure film, reminiscent of Tarzan in the jungle.
Crossing the canopy and rambling to Isumo Falls are arguably the most exciting activities in Nyungwe. Both activities are undertaken within Nyamasheke District.
Rich historical heritage
While in Nyamasheke, I stumbled into one of King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri’s court. Apart from the royal residence, I also visited his military base in Nyabitekeri Peninsula. During his reign, the said king waged wars of biblical proportions.
King Rwabugiri’s account of defense and conquest sounds like an excerpt from an action movie’s script. As fascinating as it is, his story is not a mere blockbuster thriller. It is a demonstration of patriotism and utmost sacrifices.
Elsewhere, I visited sites linked to colonial history at Shangi Peninsula. This is where Richard Kandt lived before his appointment as the first German colonial administrator in Rwanda. While at Shangi, I also came across remains of heavy artillery used during WWI.
Murwa Island was physically connected to the mainland in 1973
Murwa village was originally an island. It was separated from the mainland by the shallow waters of an area known as Mujabagiro.
"We used to walk to and from the other side through Mujabagiro while navigating the depth ranging from knee to waist levels, depending on one’s height." Says Hakizimana Lawrence, a resident of Murwa. "I was a strong young man. I remember carrying aquaphobic people on my shoulders and help them to traverse the Mujabagiro barrier without getting wet." He added.
As mentioned above, Murwa was connected to the mainland in 1973. This happened when a dry pathway was built. The project, which separated the water like the rod of Moses, is the reason we can drive straight to Murwa today.
The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has in store. Follow his awe-inspiring expeditions on Twitter @GeoExposure.