Burundi is a country with a sad history of genocide and much socio-political instability.
I spent 3 days there and I was lucky that the situation was not so bad when I was there. It´s a difficult country to go to and also to get a visa for. Check some facts about it in my previous post: „BURUNDI: Part I: The crazy and funny story about how I got the visa to my country 81“. There you can read about why this country is not often visited and how difficult (but not impossible) it was to get the visa to go there.
I have to admit that I was surprised about how nice people are there and how far we are from the reality everytime we judge Burundian people.
The only friend I had in this country promised to take care of me if I made it to Bujumbura and yes, that was what happened. From the moment she picked me up at the airport until the moment she dropped me off there again, 3 days later, I was treated like a princess by her and all the friends she introduced me to. And let me tell you something… I didn´t spend a single Euro there. Yes, you read it right. I didn´t spend money there at all. My friends didn´t allow me to pay anything because they wanted to show me their hospitality and to make me feel like their guest…and it worked! I changed €20 at the airport on arrival, thinking that the exchange rate would be better if I change the rest of the money at the city center but I never went to the bank, haha.
In case you decide one day to go to Burundi, here are my recommendations of places you could visit there.
My friends Arielle and Phillip welcomed me with a nice breakfast and a whole afternoon at the beach as the weather was perfect for beach time. It was a little bit too windy for me but still hot. It was a Sunday. This means that many people prefer to chill at the beach which is good to get a better feel for the local atmosphere.
There are a few beaches you can visit there. Many people talk about Saga beach but I´m presenting you here with Bora Bora beach (no, it´s not the island in French Polynesia, haha).
For me it was a magnificent relaxing day with good food, drinks and music at the beach right after all the stress that people were transmiting to me with „are you sure you wanna go to Burundi?“, „please take extra care in Burundi, you don´t know what is going on there“ and „you must be crazy if you wanna visit this country“. So… my first day was perfect and the lunch was even better. My friends ordered the Burundian traditional fish called Mukeke for me to taste. It was delicious!
At night, after drinking together with Arielle a whole bottle of Amarula that her friends insisted on buying for us (after I told them that this is my favorite drink in Africa), we went to Cristal club for some dancing.
My friend Arielle took 2 days off from work in order to spend time with me and show me her country. We started the day driving around the capital city. In the morning stopping at the Rue L´Lmbo Friday mosque. Next we went to the main square where you can see the names of all 16 provinces written. Then we visited the local market for some Burundian souvenirs. (Don´t miss the story of what happened with the police the day before when we also stopped at the main square for a picture…coming soon in my next post)
We had lunch at the Baobab restaurant in the city center with an African buffet for around 10.000 BIF (less than 6€ per person)
In the afternoon we went to Lake Tanganyika and then to the Livingstone–Stanley Monument at Mugere. This monument is 12 km south of the capital Bujumbura overlooking Lake Tanganyika. It marks a location where explorer/missionary Dr. David Livingstone and journalist/explorer Henry Morton Stanley met on 25–27 November 1871 when he said the famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”. (But some people claim this actually took place in Tanzania).
At night we met with some other local friends for dinner at La Paprika.
I did some research about what I wanted to visit in Burundi and I found 2 amazing places that you can visit together in the same day. My friend Arielle told me that she has never been there before, so I was glad that my visit helped her to see some other parts of her own country. She arranged everything and I was glad about it because getting to those places is an impossible mission without either renting a car, taking an organized tour or having a local guide driving you there. She talked to a friend who was also a guide and he knew about these places (not everybody knows about them).
First we went to the Source of the Nile. It´s actually the southernmost source of the sources of the famous Nile River and it´s located in Bururi, 115 km from Bujumbura. It is currently viewed as the origin of the Nile. It was discovered in 1934 by the German Waldecker. How cool it is to drink this fresh water directly from the source!
We saw the pyramid that symbolises this long discovery process and was set up in 1938 on the top of Mount Gikizi at 2088m of altitude.
After this we went to Chutes de la Kagera waterfalls (also called the Kagera falls) in the south of Rutana. It was less than an hour drive from the Source of the Nile. There you will find 3 main waterfalls and of course we visited the 3 of them. You need to hike a little bit to get to the last one but it´s not a big hike.
This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on May 9, 2007 in the Mixed (Cultural & Natural) category.
The fees to visit the waterfall are 20.000 BIF (ca. $10 for locals) and $20 for non residents.
We had dinner with friends at night to say good bye to all of them. Who knows if I’ll have the opportunity to come back to Burundi and visit them again one day, but I do appreciate that I had the opportunity to go there this year and meet them.
Other places to visit:
Here is a list of a few more places that I didn´t visit because I only had 3 days there but you can consider going there if you have extra time:
National parks: Hippos and birds are the main natural attractions in Burundi, so try to go to Rusizi River National Park or Ruvubu National Park or one of the many other national parks in Burundi.
Drum sanctuary: Traditionally the drums were played to announce major events for the ancient kings such a royal birth, wedding, coronation and funeral. Nowadays you can see the integration of history culture through these drum sanctuaries at the Gishora Drum Sanctuary. I was sad that I missed seeing one. I can only show you a picture of a painting representing this drum sanctuaries that I took at the local market in Bujumbura.
Hiking: If you like hiking go to the highest mountain in Burundi, Mount Heha. This 2.864 meter high mountain is popular for trekking.
I hope you guys are now motivated to visit these sights one day.
A last post about my impressions about Burundi is coming soon.
For more pictures check here: Burundi album.
Enjoy it and stay tuned!!!