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Visiting Nkombo Island

Visiting Nkombo Island

Covering 23 km², Nkombo is the biggest island I have ever visited in Rwanda. It is home to 1,800 natives who speak a dialect mainland Rwandans barely understand. Life on this Lake Kivu island is a subject of interesting social dynamics — that’s a story for another day though.

I made a decision to visit Nkombo while having lunch on a rooftop restaurant of the Centre Diocesain de Pastorale Incuti. It was the alluring view of the island that influenced this decision.

Upon arrival, I started strolling along the streets. As I did so, I felt the heartbeat of the local community. I did my best to fit in but Nkombo people stared at me like I was a strange creature from Mars. Some kids called me muzungu. I must be the blackest muzungu ever created.

Nkombo dwellers are laid-back. They are never in a hurry. Scenes of idle young men hanging out and teenage girls as young as fifteen breastfeeding their own babies are common across the island. In the barbershops, radios are usually tuned to stations broadcasting from the South Kivu Province of DR Congo in a mixture of Swahili and French.

When I saw the premises of Nkombo Sector, I walked in and spoke to one public official who recommended a visit to Gisunyu forest. Following the directions he gave me, I proceeded to the forest on foot. Again, my experiences in this forest is a topic for another day.

On my way back to the dock, I dropped by the workshop of a cooperative known as Agaseke k’Amahoro. A group of women were weaving their way out of poverty. After a brief interaction with them, I bought a souvenir and kept walking.

My next stop was a small kiosk across the street. I tried to buy drinking water but the only beverages available were alcoholic ones. "I have never seen anyone on this island buying water. We drink free water from the community well." The shopkeeper told me. Unlike aliens from Mars, the inhabitants of Nkombo spend their money on real drinks.

The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has in store. Follow his awe-inspiring expeditions on Twitter @GeoExposure.

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