11 things to do in Gisenyi

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1. Lay on the beach at the Serena Kivu hotel : For the price of a drink, you can have a towel and use their pristine beach.Dine at the same hotel on Saturday night —it features a delicious spread of Rwandan, Ugandan, and Western food, and the dessert table is always so appetizing that you almost want to skip the main courses! Eat the salad here—all the water used to wash the raw produce has been superheated, treated, and filtered.

2. Walk down the Avenue of Cooperation : From Serena Kivu down the waterfront to the border with Congo, the Avenue of cooperation,  in the middle of of long trees and wonderful palms, goes around the Kivu beach up to the Congo border. Check out the Rwanda-DR Congo border which is a fascinating insight to the cross border foot traffic and market trading that goes on here, a local guide can tell you all about the financial and commercial goings on between the two countries.

3. Have brochettes and sautéed potatoes at La Nouvelle (also called Chez Sadro). The potatoes are unrivaled.

4. Drink a beer at the open air bar La Bamba:  It is located in town near the Auberge de Gisenyi. Certainly the loudest place in town. There is always music and televisions are alwaystuned to the day's soccer game. For a quieter drinking experience, have a Uganda Waragi and Fanta Citron at the Bikini Tam-Tam bar on the beach, past Kivu Sun.

5. Walk 6 km to Nyamyumba, near the Bralirwa Brewery : You can also take a taxi for 3,000 Frw. I compare the road to California's Highway 1, as it hugs the picturesque coast. The best grilled tilapia in Rwanda is in Nyamyumba. For the young or deal-savvy traveler, go to Maman Chakula's, on the road before Hotel Paradis. Pick your fish from a bucket of the day's catch (prices range from $1.50-2.50 for the fish, depending on the size) and for $0.80, have it grilled while you wait. It has great tables down by the water, and you can watch the fishermen. For the luxury traveler (or if you want to eat your fish around a bonfire at night), head to Hotel Paradis—but make sure you ask whether the tilapia was today's catch! And be adventurous and try the Sambaza--they're minnows/lake smelts that are deep fried and served with pili pili. Delicious.

While In Nyamyumba, negotiate with a fisherman's boat to take you to the hot spring or out to the island just offshore. For $5, they'll be happy to take you around. Otherwise, Hotel Paradis has a boat, which costs $20 for a go.

6. Go to the Video Club downtown and have a CD of modern and traditional Rwandan and East African music burned according to your taste. Buy some traditional fabric in the Gisenyi market—it's great for tablecloths, throws, wall hangings, etc. Prices range from 2,500 Frw-9,000 Frw ($4-$17). For female travellers, get a cheap manicure and pedicure at the Vogue Salon, across the street from the nightclub. Have your hair braided here—but don't come in on a Friday or Saturday, because brides awaiting stylists occupy all the seats!

7. Have dinner upstairs and then go downstairs to dance at White Rock (also known as Chez Nyanja), the best nightclub in Gisenyi, reputed to be the best in Rwanda. On the edge of the lake, the DJ spins a mix of R&B, reggae, and African music. The place is always full on Saturday nights at about midnight.

8. At night, check out the Nyiragongo volcano from the centre of town . On a clear night, you can see the red smoke! It's a wonderful view.

9. Visit KIAKA : an artisan cooperative in Kanama, a town about 15 minutes outside Gisenyi on the Gisenyi-Ruhengeri road, to buy art made on site and historical art. No bargaining here, but there are plenty of bargains! Pick up a statue for $1.50 or a traditional Igisoro game for $6.

10. While you're in Kanama, make a trip to nearby Nyundo, about 5 minutes away, for roasted chicken arguably chicken in Gisenyi. A restaurant run by a church, I Nazareti strangely produces the best banana wine in the province—tasty and made in sanitary conditions. Pick up a bottle for 1,500 Frw ($2.50).

11. Take a taxi to see the grave of Madame Carr, an American who ran an orphanage for genocide orphans called Imbabazi. The road that leads to the orphanage is near the UNHCR Nkamira refugee camp (on the left, if driving away from Gisenyi; on the right, if driving toward Gisenyi).