The 227km trails (141 miles) winds its way along Lake Kivu, starting in Rubavu through Rutsiro via the districts of Karongi and Nyamasheke to Rusizi District where it ends. It is stretch of primitive dirty roads, single trail that goes through a verdant jungle, farmlands, communities, and beautiful landscapes with terraced hillsides and the amorphous coastline of Lake Kivu. The trail moves away from the lakeside and ascends into areas that surround tea plantations, banana, and coffee plantations. The trail is not in Congo, nor does it follow the Nile Rivers but it is near Congo and is in area that separates the Nile and Congo Rivers hence the Name Congo Nile Trail.
Gisenyi in Rubavu is the starting point for the trail, through trekkers and bikers can begin at any point. The entire trek can take 7-10 days on foot and about 5 days for cyclers and those with less time can take one of the different sections that are present. There are different ways one can experience the Congo Nile Trail, either by walking/hiking, cycling, biking, kayaking or by vehicle. Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Walking, kayaking, and cycling maybe tiring but they are the best ways to explore the area. You explore at a slow pace, connect with locals, you can be joined by other travelers and they give details that are often missed on vehicles and motor bikes. If you are to do the hike for the 10 days or ride for the 5 days, consider the rainy season of March to May and October to November because they make the trail hard to maneuver and also camping in the storms can be disturbing.
The trail was opened in November 2011 in attempt to create diversity of attractions because unlike most of the other East African Countries, it has the fewest parks and mountains gorillas are the prime attraction. The trail has 8 official campsites in addition to Guest houses and some upmarket facilities that offer cozy accommodation along the trail.
The Congo Nile trail is well sign posted with every major junction having a signpost to point trekkers and the people on the trail to the right direction and also showing other places and can be done along the trail. This makes it better to take even without a guide and paying a permit to take on eth trail (but if you need guides they are available). You only have to pay for your accommodation and maybe hiring a bicycle if you would like to pedal the trail and meals.
For those that would like to take on the trail, these are suggested itineraries for those in decent physical shape.
-Rubavu/Gisenyi to Kinunu (42km)
-Kinunu to Kabuye (64km)
-Kabuye to Nyungwe (45km)
-Nyungwe to Ishara Beach (64km)
-Ishara to Kamembe (45km)
-Gisenyi to Cyimbiri (25km/7hrs)
-Cyimbiri to Kinunu (18km/6hrs)
-Kinunu to Musasa (15km)
-Musasa to Bumba (14km)
-About 3 days from here to Kibuye (74km/20 hrs.)
The trail is an incredible scenic stretch of trails with epic climbs, getting you to interacting with local and getting immersed in a culture of Rwanda’s subsistence farmers, fishermen and wildlife of Nyungwe Forest.
There are always children and locals on the trails and some of them when they see tourists they will request for money, please always ignore their requests. Giving them money promotes begging thus harming tourism. If you feel like donating to them, you can do it through organizations that promote social responsibility and community development. Also, being off the beaten path and in villages, when most make stops, onlookers will gather around and sometimes it may bother you. So, better know how to deal with them.
Those from Nyungwe Forest to Volcanoes National park or vice versa can opt to drive through the trail as they transfer.