Flights to Gisenyi
The small city of Gisenyi is right on the Rwandan border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it continues as the larger city of Goma. Basic facilities are easy to find but there aren’t too many attractions other than the local markets and just cruising the streets to see the town. Most other things to see in Gisenyi are outside of the city but within easy reach.
Flights to Gisenyi typically arrive at the Goma International Airport (airport code: GOM) which is just across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (4km from Gisenyi). Though you will have to cross the border, it is the most convenient airport to use. There are no direct flights to Gisenyi from Johannesburg, so you have to first stop in Kinshasa. From there, you can fly with Stellar Airways to Gisenyi. Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Air Botswana all have service to Kinshasa.
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The Tourist Attractions of Gisenyi:
Gishwati Forest Reserve
The Gishwati Forest is just outside of Gisenyi to the east, and will likely be your first stop when you are out exploring Rwanda from town. Though tea plantations have encroached on its territory, this is still an important forest park and it is home to at least one large family group of chimpanzees.
The large Lake Kivu is on the outskirts of town, and there are many excellent beaches around its shores. You can also watch the many small fishing boats that are typically out on the water every day.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
If you take a drive down from Gisenyi along Lake Kivu to the south, there is a larger national park that you should see. It’s one of the largest protected parks in the country, and it’s heavily forested throughout. There are some mountain regions as well to add some variation to the terrain. Maintained trails will lead you through the park to see the local populations of chimpanzees and colobus monkeys. Several different species live in the park, as well as hundreds of types of birds. Though the hiking will be a little tougher, head to the mountains to find a few great waterfalls too.
There are a few volcanoes near Gisenyi that make great attractions. You can actually see Mount Nyiragongo from town but it is over the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo so you can’t visit without taking the time to pass through the border checkpoints (might be worthwhile if you want to shop in Goma while you’re at it). If you prefer to stay in Rwanda, head north to Mount Karisimbi instead. It’s not active, but its snow-capped profile is still beautiful. It’s right on the border with the DRC so take care if you are hiking up the slopes.
When Should You Visit?:
The temperatures in Gisenyi are very consistent and there is almost no change from one month to the next, so it will be reasonably comfortable no matter when you go. You will want to watch out for the rainy seasons though. For temperature, it will be around 23C (73F) during the daytime, with a cooler drop at nights. To avoid the heavy rains, plan your trip for June, July or August. The rains will peak in April and October so that is not a very good time to visit if you can avoid it.