Destination Kivu Belt

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Napoleon Island

06/27/2022 15:01

Napoleon Island

Napoleon Island is one of the most popular and most visited islands on Lake Kivu. Napoleon Island is located outside Karongi. The island may not be the one of the largest in Lake Kivu but it is one of the tallest. The elevation from the water’s edge to the summit is just over 100 meters giving visitors a spectacular view of the surrounding lake, islands and shoreline.

The real name is Nyamunini island, but as you approach Napoleon Island from the distance you immediately see from where it gets its name. The profile of the island closely resembles the historical hats which were popular in European army uniforms at the end of the 18th century and Napoleon is commonly seen depicted in this kind of hat. Hence the name Napoleon Island.

Napoleon Island has been declared a conservation area. There is no development, services or construction on the island. All food and drink need to be brought with you and make sure that you leave no trash behind on the island. Hotel.

Napoleon Island Bats

Animal & Plant life

The steep sides of Napoleon Island has managed to save some of the original vegetation and animal life. As most islands on Lake Kivu it is also used by the local community for farming. The steep and rocky side of the island has made it impossible to grow anything and prevents cows and goats to get to the vegetation. The result is a rather dense forest and bush cover on parts of the island, providing a last refuge to some interesting wildlife. Some interesting bird species are often found on Napoleon Island and the taller trees give refuge to palm nut vultures and fish eagles which can often be seen. Other bird species such as hammerkop and kingfishers are common.

The most well-known mammals on Napoleon Island are fruit bats. There is a colony of as many as 40,000 straw colored fruit bats living on Napoleon Island. The fruit bats are often though to disturb and create mess or to some people they are chased away because they mean bad luck. Large trees where the Fruit bats spend the day are often cut down, so the bats have found this remote island in Lake Kivu as one of their last refuges. The bats on Napoleon Island can be found resting in the tree tops at the base of the hill. One of the hiking trails leads straight underneath the colony. If visiting, take care to disturb the bats as little as possible. If the bats feel the need to move from the island because of disturbance they can very easily get in conflict with humans.

Snakes are a common sighting on Napoleon Island. No official inventory of snakes have been made but reports of snakes including forest cobras on the islands are common. Snakes are normally shy and do not seek to harm people on purpose. Snakes will normally avoid all contact with humans if possible. Remember to thread carefully and if you spot a snake move away from the snake making sure that it has a clear escape route. Never kill, touch or interfere with a snake.

Napoleon Island


One of the most popular activities on Napoleon Island is hiking. A hiking trail runs from one side of the island to the other side of the island. This hiking trail will take you to the highest point of the island. The highest point of the island is a bit over 100 m over the level of the lake and highest point on any of the islands of Lake Kivu. From here you have a magnificent view of the lake, landscape and surrounding islands.

Napoleon Island is not developed and there is no infrastructure at all on the island. This also includes the hiking trail so do not expect any signs benches or stairs. The trail has been formed through by visitors walking the same path to the top of the island over many years. The rock landscape of Napoleon Island makes it quite easy to walk. The island is steep to climb, but people with normal level fitness should easily manage to hike to the top of the Napoleon Island and to the other side in about one hour.  

Getting to Napoleon Island

The only way to get to Napoleon Island is by boat and will take around 30 -45 mins by a local tour boat. There are many companies, cooperatives and hotels who offer boat rides to Napoleon Island, often in combination with visits to other islands such as Amahoro (peace) Island and Monkey Island. Companies like Africa Green Tours offer visits to Napoleon Island as part of their 6-island boat tour. Most boat operators operate from the lake shore below the Museum of Environment and Eden Golf.

Boat to Napoleon Island

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Six Island Boat Tour in Karongi

04/25/2022 13:05

Six Island Boat Tour in Karongi

Activity Description

Explore the islands of Lake Kivu during a half day guided boat tour in Karongi with a local guide. Lake Kivu is dotted with hundreds of islands. Most islands have their own secrets and special things to see. Start the tour meeting your guide and boarding a boat in Karongi. The tour starts by heading out to Napoleon Island, one of the largest islands outside Karongi. A short hike will take you to the top of the island where you will have a magnificent view of the surrounding area and Karongi. Napoleon Island is  home to a colony of straw colored fruit bats. After visiting Napoleon Island you will continue to Monkey Island. This island got its name from the fact that there is a small group of monkey inhabiting the densely forested island. After seeing the monkeys you will continue to peace island. Peace island is perfect for swimming and has a nice walking path all the way around. After peace Island you will continue to volcano island. This island is to small to go on board but can be seen from the boat. Volcano Island got its name from the fact that it was created by a volcanic eruption. Next is  a short drive to prison island which got its name because it was used as a prison for women who got pregnant outside of marriage in historical times. The last island is farm island. This large island is used for farming by the local community. Watch macadamia nuts, banana beer production and other crops being grown here before returning back to Karongi. 

About the Organizer

Bwishyura Kivu Boat Cooperative is a cooperative of young recent graduates. Their main mission is provide visitors to Karongi with information tours at proffessional rates while supporting themselves and their families.

From 45 USD / Boat


  • Visit 6 islands in Lake Kivu
  • Hike to the top of Napoleon
  • See Rwanda’s largest fruit bat colony up close
  • Learn about the local way of life on the islands of Lake Kivu


More information

Contact the organizer


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