Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Primal Wilderness Rambling From Kasubi Rwanda

It was nearing sunset. We had been paddling on and off for two hours without yet reaching our destination, which was one of the many remote islands that looked deceptively close ahead. Without food, water, or a flashlight in the canoe, we were out on Lake Kivu in the middle of nowhere when we noticed the time. Our colleagues Stefani and Apollo were expecting us for dinner at any minute.

We were a group of American students studying in Rwanda. Fortunate souls, we spent the weekend in Kasubi, allowing nature’s beauty to calm our minds. It was a getaway planned by Apollo and Stefani, giving us needed time to process a recent visit to the Murambi genocide memorial. On our last day in Kasubi, four of us rented a canoe for paddling to a chosen Island.

Reaching what seemed to be halfway, I looked back to see our guest houses appearing quite small. We were all-too determined to reach the far off island, so we checked the time on a phone someone had brought along. Found out we wouldn’t even be close to making dinnertime. We warily dialed Stefani, who sounded frightened and simply couldn’t believe what we were telling her. She sternly insisted that we get back to the mainland immediately.

Nevertheless, we just had to finish our adventure and explore the island. After two and a half hours of paddling, we arrived, tying the canoe to a tree leaning over the water. It was a lushly overgrown island with a seriously steep incline. I was unable to share in the rushed climb to the top, due to an injury. While the others vanished into the thick brush, I took a relaxing dip at a remote location.

With pristine islands all around me, I swam out a good bit. Floating on my back and enjoying the colors of the clouds above, I spotted a swarm of black dots coming over the top of the island and rapidly increasing in size. For some reason, I assumed they were birds. When the swarm got closer and their features appeared pointier, I realized the unknown flying objects were bats! The thing was, they just kept coming. Thousands and thousands of bats arrived with some landing on trees but most continuing past just a few feet overhead. 

I was all alone (except for the unknown critters surely swimming beneath me) on Lake Kivu, somewhere between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was at peace with the world. Surrounded by an orange-blue-yellow sky and hordes of bats, I felt so incredibly connected in a raw moment where nature took its course in such an untouched way. The bats, the sunset, the water and the air ignored my presence. I was a lucky pebble, witnessing the everyday beauty of our everyday earth.

My friends eventually made their way back down the island. When Jeremy saw me in the water, he immediately jumped in headfirst. We swam until the moon and stars shown brightly. On the journey home, we sang songs from our childhood with spirits unbreakable. Having no lights in our canoe, we used the starlit sky as our guide home. Just when I thought we couldn’t get any higher, I turned around to see a glowing volcano behind us. Take the time to discover nature. Open your eyes to the beauty that is all around and within you.

Tonia Hauser grew up in Michigan and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in photography. She enjoys traveling, writing and taking photos like those shown here. Her passions include nature and documentary projects that try to capture aesthetic moments in time.


  1. This story is interesting for my, because i like to travel and know new places...

    I like to travel to that place for swin and have an venture....

    Jeronimo Hernández Mendoza

  2. I've heard of some of these places, though not in a pleasant context, mentioned in passing in accounts of the genocide. This is much more pleasant, Tonia.