Hiking Napoleon's Hat Island
July 23, 2019
by Bruce Mugwaneza
considered as the Singapore of Africa, Rwanda is one of the fast-developing and cleanest countries in Africa since the tragedy of 1994 where thousands of people where killed. Know as the country of thousand hills, Rwanda is home to different wildlife living in beautiful untouched forests, parks that house a diversity of animals and volcanoes that are home to several families of gorillas. Rwanda offers many different activities to do for tourists like sightseeing, hiking, birding, gorilla trek, and other various activities, Napoleon’s hat island offers three of these.
Munini Island mostly known as Napoleon’s hat island is one of the islands of Lake Kivu which is a lake that is at the border between Rwanda and Congo. Napoleon’s hat is found in the part of Lake Kivu that is in Kibuye which is a city in Karongi district in the Western province of Rwanda.
The island is called Napoleon’s hat due to its shape which is like the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat bicorne hat. Among the animals that live on the island, there are snakes, giant millipedes, birds and many more, this makes Napoleon’s hat island a perfect place for sighting, birding, and hiking.
My Journey to Napoleon’s hat Island
My Journey to Napoleon’s hat Island started in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, I was with a nice travel agency named Sharama Events and tours and we departed from a place Nyabugogo in Kigali. before any journey, it’s always good to make sure to buy snacks in case you get hungry along the way and bring lots of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated, so in Nyabugogo shops we brought snacks and drinks before departure. From Nyabugogo is where our Journey started heading west to Karongi, it was around 8 am.
On our way to Karongi, we stopped at a nice waterfall named URUTARE RWA NDABA in Muhanga where we were greeted by friendly local kids that told us the story about the rocky waterfall in Songs. We descended the bridge where the waterfall passes and we went down to get a closer look and take pictures, it was magnificent.
We finally go to Karongi district in the Western province and headed to a hotel named GOLF HOTEL that is near Lake Kivu. At Golf Hotel, we had a very beautiful sight of the lake Kivu from the view of their Restaurant, we took our lunch there and prepared for the hike at Napoleon’s hills.
After the Golf Hotel, we were ready to go to Napoleon’s hat island, we took a boat from Karongi shores and the adventure began. Lake Kivu is very enjoyable and fun, the view of the lake was beautiful, we saw other islands located in the lake of Kivu, I hope my next adventure will be one of them. After 3 hours of on the boat, we got to Napoleon’s hat island and began the climb.
Things to do in Napoleon’s hat Island
Hiking napoleon’s hat for me was a bit of challenge, it was one of the highest altitudes I’ve climbed and the distance was long due to forestation, trees, vines and all sort of plants. In some areas, the ground was muddy and slippery so it’s better to bring hiking shoes and a stick just-in-case.
When we hiked the island we had only one guide, and when we got in the middle the group separated into two by accident and we got lost in the middle of the hike but thankfully we found our way with the rest of the group, so I think it’s always better to try to stay together or hire an extra guide because it’s easy to get lost.
while hiking Napoleon’s hat island, we encountered a large number of birds, some of the birds could be called by clapping, it was amazing.
Napoleon’s is home to different wildlife but most common ones are the fruit bats and the giant fire millipede.
The giant fire millepede is a beautiful species of millipede that can reach up to 17cm long, the ones I saw at Napoleon’s were almost everywhere in the forest, you didn’t have to look hard to see them. They were long with red and black segments in the back( dorsal), they were scarily huge, to be honest, I was a little afraid to touch them at first.
Napoleon’s hat is also home to a colony of fruit bats, we first saw them at noon like 5 pm when we were coming down from the island, the sky was full of them, it was splendid. They were not like the small indoor bats, these were big with large wings and they would scatter whenever someone would whistle or clap. These bats feed on the guava trees and enormous cactus trees of Napoleon’s Hat.
it was not easy to find a path to the top, the climb was challenging and we took time to get there, but once we got to the top, the sweat and energy we spent were worth it because we welcomed by a beautiful sunset and an amazing view of the lake that was breathtaking. Once we were at the top some of us sat down resting and admiring the sunset while others were taking selfies to immortalize the moment.
since Napoleon’s hat island is located in Lake Kivu, to get there we had to take a boat from Karongi shore which is between 10$ to 30 $. The boat ride was enjoyable, we were singing, telling stories and taking pictures. The rides lasted like 3 hours but it was mostly because we were not going direct, we were sightseeing and we got to see some of the other islands on our way back. On one of the island people were camping, it looked nice I hope I get to do it sometime.
From giant millipede and bats to beautiful sights Napoleon’s hill island has a lot to offer and I doubt we experience everything, it was quite an adventure, full of joy, unique, challenging and full of discovery.
Lastly, for a better experience it’s always good to have a tour guide that will show you the great places to see and keep you from being lost in the forest, before the tour you have to be prepared and were comfortable shoes for hiking, wear loose clothes, bring water and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.