The beauty of Rwanda is not only mountain gorillas, the big five animals, antelopes and bird species but also the numerous water resources including Lakes, Rivers and waterfalls that have remained unexplored because few tourists know about them. If you ask anyone to mention some of the common rivers in Rwanda, you will surprisingly not hear about the Rusizi River yet it’s one of the most beautiful water resources in the country.
This 117-kilometer long River is sometimes spelled “Rusizi” and flows from Lake Kivu to Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa while descending from about 1500 meters/4900 feet above sea level to only 770 meters/2530 feet above sea level over its length. The river drains across three countries-the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda but its source is in Lake Kivu and mouth in Lake Tanganyika. The most perpendicular bank of the River occurs over the first 40 kilometers (25 miles) where hydroelectric dams were constructed. When getting closer to the mouth, the Ruzizi Plains (the floor of the western Rift Valley are surrounded by gentle hills making the river to flow into Lake Tanganyika through a narrow delta with one or two tinny channels breaking off from the main channel. The Ruzizi River has several tributaries that include Rubyiro, Luvungi, Muhira, Nyakagunda, Ruhwa, Kaburantwa, Nyamagana, Mpanda, Kagunuzi and many others.
Formed about 10,000 years ago through volcanism that led to continental rifting and creating of Virunga Mountains, the Rusizi River is considered a young river. The Virunga Mountains blocked part of Lake Kivu’s outlet to the watershed of River Nile, hence forcing the Lake to overflow southwards down Ruzizi and the watershed of the Congo River. Along its course, the river forms the border between Rwanda on the East with Democratic Republic of Congo on the west but as it continues downstream, it also forms part of the boundary between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo and its lowermost part flows completely within Burundi.
To the west, the magnificent Fizi Baraka Mountains stand over the river while the Bridge of Concord, Burundi’s longest and widest Bridge crosses the River close to its mouth.
Flora and Fauna within and around Ruzizi River
Ruzizi is not just a river as you may see it but an important habitat to the prominent, notorious and widely publicized man-eating crocodile known as “Gustave” that usually wanders around the banks of the river as well as the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika. This giant savage is said to be about 6 meters (20 feet) long and reportedly weighs over 900 kilometers (2000 pounds). In the 1950s, the banks of this River were inhabited by common warthogs, buffaloes and elephants but today, there are only Nile crocodiles and Hippos.
The lower banks of the main river and its tributaries are covered by reed swamps and there are riparian swamps of about 3 kilometers wide are found near the mouth while further from the river, there are grasslands especially in the lower river valley. The general vegetation of the River basin is mostly savannah grassland with scattered acacia, eucalyptus and oil palm. Ruzizi River is only 353 kilometers from Kigali City (Rwanda’s Capital).