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Visiting Gihaya Island

Visiting Gihaya Island

Water bodies may be fountains of our amusement, but they are workshops to others. When we kick back and relax on sandy beaches while sipping beverages prescribed for holidaymakers vacationing in exotic destinations, someone happens to be looking for his daily bread offshore.

When we indulge in exciting water sports on those ruffled waves, someone is grinding there in an effort to provide for his family. When we call it a day and retreat to the warmth of our resort rooms, someone is reporting for duty aboard a chilly fishing boat.

During my recent trip to the southern flank of Lake Kivu, I was keen on the way members of the local communities utilize the lake we escape to whenever we feel the need to take a break from our fast-paced urban life.

To learn more about the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, I chartered a boat to Gihaya island. On my way to Gihaya, I bypassed a couple of stunning isles whose allure can entice anyone yearning for a tropical getaway.

If you have been reading my stories for a while, you must be aware of my obsession with Lake Kivu. However, chilling at the beach and admiring those dazzling waves isn’t enough to quench my thirst. Any offshore activity does the trick. Boating is definitely one of them.

Upon arrival, I was treated to a heart-warming reception by a group of women doing business under the umbrella of a cooperative known as Noza Ubukorikori. I didn’t have enough time to gather specific details of their endeavors, but our brief interaction gave me a preview of their daily routine.

They always wake up at dawn and paddle their small wooden canoes to different fishing spots. Then they buy fish from fishermen and proceed to the market.

Delivering fish to the market is not the only thing these proactive women do. They are also traditional dancers. Entertaining tourists is a way of expanding their business portfolio and diversifying their sources of income. In addition, they weave and sell souvenirs to visitors.

Canoeing is physically taxing, but Gihaya women do it effortlessly. It’s amazing how easy their strokes look. I was surprised to see them traversing the lake without life jackets. I know their swimming prowess is superb, but I thought the regulations enforced by the authorities elsewhere apply to them too.

A visit to Gihaya changed my preconceived impression that islanders are slow and idle. I came back to the mainland with a different perception and a deeper appreciation of the resources we are blessed with. 

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