Burundi – Trip Report


Burundi Trip Report

Referred as the “heart of Africa”, Burundi is a landlocked country in central Africa and known to be one of the poorest country in African continent. I spent five days in this lush green country filled with treasures to see!

Burundi highlights on InstagramBurundi story highlights on Instagram

This trip report can also be seen on our story highlights on Instagram account @travelonthedollar.

Click the image on left to go directly to Burundi Highlights, or visit our page and under ‘Highlights’, scroll to the right and click on ‘Burundi’.

 

Planning

Visa

For U.S. citizens, Burundi has visa on arrival at Bujumbura airport (BJM) at the time of writing this report (May 2024).

It costs $90 in cash, valid for 1 month, has multiple entries and takes about 10-15 mins depending on the line at the immigration. You get a full page sticker visa.

Make sure to check if you require a visa to your destination country with these resources.

Burundi Visa on arrival

 

Important – Make sure to fill out the online entry form (and same for exit as well) before arriving at the airport, as there is no WiFi at the airport.

The form generates a QR code that you will need to present at immigration counter. You do not need to take a print of the document, presenting the QR code from your phone (either saved PDF or screenshot) is good.

Burundi Entry or Exit form
Burundi Entry or Exit form QR code

 

Sim Card in Burundi

I visited the Lumitel store in Bujumbura and got a Sim Card for 45000 BIF (approx $15) including 16GB of data valid for 30 days. You will need to provide your passport and they will take a picture of you with your phone number written on paper, which was unique!

It takes about 20 minutes for the entire process! After finishing the registration, the data network refused to turn on, and after a bit work around, I had to turn on ‘data roaming’ for it to activate.

Lumitel Sim card registration process in Burundi
Lumitel Sim card registration process in Burundi

 

Tour Company

I booked a tour with Ernest Bukuru, who is on Instagram by @when_in_burundi_tourguide. His WhatsApp number is +257-76737806 and he’s very responsive, both, on Instagram and WhatsApp. I can highly recommend Ernest as your tour guide for being super helpful, friendly and kind!

Itinerary

Here is the itinerary of five days in Burundi:

  • Day 1
    Bujumbura
    Arriving in Burundi and sights of the capital city. 
  • Day 2
    Bujumbura -> Source of Nile -> Karera Waterfalls -> Gitega
    Drive from Bujumbura to Gitega, with stopovers at the Source of Nile river and Karera Waterfalls.
  • Day 3
    Gitega
    Gishora Drummers show, Gitega city tour.
  • Day 4
    Gitega -> Teza Tea Plantation -> Kibira Forest -> Stanley-Livingstone Monument -> Bujumbura
    Visit the Teza Tea Plantations and Kibira National Forest, ending in Bujumbura and visiting the Stanley-Livingstone monument.
  • Day 5
    Bujumbura -> Batwa Tribe -> Lake Tanganyika
    Visit the Batwa tribe, Lake Tanganyika, and fly out of Burundi.

 

Destinations

Bujumbura

Here are some of the sights we visited in Bujumbura:

  • Unity Memorial – In shape of firewood tied together depicting the various tribes of Burundi in unity after the 1994 genocide.
  • Mausoleum of Prince Rwagasore (Independence Monument) – Louis Rwagasore served as the second prime minister of Burundi for two weeks, and pushed for Burundian independence from Belgian control.
  • Monument of Unknown Soldier – This three legged monuments stands in the center of a roundabout and has no name or sign!
  • Greek Orthodox Church
  • Bujumbura Central Market
Mausoleum of Prince Rwagasore (Independence Monument), Bujumbura, Burundi
Mausoleum of Prince Rwagasore (Independence Monument), Bujumbura
Unity Memorial, Bujumbura, Burundi
Unity Memorial, Bujumbura
Unity Memorial, Bujumbura, Burundi
Unity Memorial, Bujumbura

 

Greek Orthodox Church, Bujumbura, Burundi
Greek Orthodox Church, Bujumbura
Monument of the Unknown Soldier, Bujumbura, Burundi
Monument of the Unknown Soldier, Bujumbura

 

Bujumbura Central Market, Burundi
Bujumbura Central Market
Bujumbura Central Market, Burundi
Bujumbura Central Market
Bujumbura Central Market, Burundi
Bujumbura Central Market

Source of Nile River

About 70 miles southeast of Bujumbura lies the southernmost source of the Nile River. Many countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda claim to have the source of the Nile river, but this mountain stream in Burundi is likely the southernmost source of the river, which cuts a winding course through several countries before it empties into the Mediterranean.

At around 4,100 miles, the Nile is the world’s longest river. It has three main tributaries: the White Nile, the Blue Nile, and the Atbara. In 1863, English explorer John Hanning Speke “settled” the question of the Nile’s source, claiming that the terminus was Lake Victoria. But many rivers flow into that reservoir, the two largest being the Nyabarongo River, which flows from Rwanda’s Mount Bigugu, and the Ruvyironza (later Ruvubu) River, which flows from Burundi’s Mount Kikizi. It was German explorer Burkhart Waldecker who tracked down this latter source.

Waldecker identified the Burundi source in 1937. Apparently, it took Waldecker four years to trace the nearly 4,350 miles between where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean and this source in Burundi. Both then and now, the Burundi source is only a tiny trickle of water flowing slowly down from a spring on Mount Kikizi.

When Waldecker located the source in Burundi, he erected a stela on the nearest mountaintop “to remind people of the glorious destiny of the river.” He later replaced that stela with a stone pyramid bearing a Latin inscription: “CAPUT NILI MERIDIANISSIMUM,” which roughly translates to “the southernmost head of the Nile.”

Source of White Nile River, Burundi
Water tickling from the far end is the southernmost source of White Nile River
Pyramid constructed by German Explorer at Source of While Nile river, Burundi
Pyramid constructed by German Explorer at Source of While Nile river
Pyramid constructed by German Explorer at Source of While Nile river, Burundi
“Entrance” to the pyramid faces Egypt where the Nile river ends
Pyramid constructed by German Explorer at Source of While Nile river, Burundi
Latin inscription by German explorer on the Pyramid at Source of Nile, Burundi

 

Karera Waterfalls

The Chutes de la Karera is the collective name for the four beautiful waterfalls located around each other. From the parking lot, the prettiest one is the cascade Nyakai I located a few steps away.

Karera Waterfalls, Burundi
Nyakai I, Karera Waterfalls, Burundi


Nayakai I, Karera Waterfalls
 

From Nyakai I, a well-maintained trail winds its way through the green landscape, leading to a suspension bridge looking down to two other waterfalls – first one on the right of the bridge is the second waterfall, leading to a drop into the valley below making it the third waterfall.

Trail leading to Karera Waterfalls two and three
Trail leading to Karera Waterfalls two and three
Suspension bridge over waterfalls two and three, Karera Waterfalls
Suspension bridge over waterfalls two and three, Karera Waterfalls

 


Waterfalls two and three, Karera Waterfalls
 

Upstream from this is the smallest of the four falls, Nyakai II, an ideal spot for an impromptu shower. This watercourse is joined by that of Mwaro Falls before creating the namesake and tallest waterfall in the area, Karera Falls.

Nyakai II, Karera Waterfalls, Burundi
Nyakai II, Karera Waterfalls

Gitega

The capital city does not offer many sights to see, but wWe visited three main sights in Gitega:

  • Gitega National Museum – the Burundian National Museum presents exhibits related to Burundian royalty from the early 20th century, archaeologic discoveries, everyday objects from jewelry to pots and spears, and coins from the colonial era.
  • Christ the King Cathedral
  • Paroisse Mushasha
Burundian National Museum, Gitega, Burundi
Burundian National Museum, Gitega
Burundian National Museum, Gitega, Burundi
Burundian National Museum, Gitega
Burundian National Museum, Gitega, Burundi
Burundian National Museum, Gitega
Christ the King Cathedral, Gitega, Burundi
Christ the King Cathedral, Gitega
Paroisse Mushasha, Gitega, Burundi
Paroisse Mushasha, Gitega

Gishora Drummers

Just outside of Burundi’s capital, Gitega, is the Gishora Drum Sanctuary that has been added to the Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO.
Drumming in Burundi is an ancient practice that mixes combat-style dance, specific rhythms, religious rituals, epic poetry, all into one. Historically, drumming rituals were part of the enthronement of kings, agricultural sowing festivals, and funerals of kings and queens. The drums themselves have long been associated with royalty and specifically the monarchy.

Local boys and men, known as Abatimbo who descend from the ancient lineage of Abanyigisaka, have always run the sanctuary. They are the descendants of religious leaders who held senior positions within the royal court.

One of the most amazing performances that should not be missed on your trip to Burundi!

Gishora Drummers, Burundi
Gishora Drummers, Burundi
Gishora Drummers, Burundi
This drum weighs about 150kg!
Gishora Drummers, Burundi
Touching knees to the head as a part of the jump!

 

Gishora Drummers, Burundi
The pride of Burundi!
Gishora Drummers, Burundi
All men and boys team perform the spectacle!

 


Gishora Drummers, Burundi

Gishora Drummers, Burundi

 

All drums have a name and purpose. At the Gishora Drum Sanctuary, there are two important drums — Ruciteme (“the one for whom we clear the forest”) and Murimirwa (“the one for whom we cultivate”). Both names reflect the importance of farming, and the king’s association with the earth’s fertility. The sanctuary also has other drums known as Ingendanyi, or “retinue,” which are still beaten today.

two important drums — Ruciteme (“the one for whom we clear the forest”) and Murimirwa (“the one for whom we cultivate”)
two important drums — Ruciteme (“the one for whom we clear the forest”) and Murimirwa (“the one for whom we cultivate”)

Teza Tea Plantations

Burundi is well-known for Africa’s most flavorsome tea, and nowhere else does tea growing excel better than Teza. Among the most beautiful landscape in all of Burundi, Teza sits at an altitude of 4500-7000ft above sea level, and has been growing tea since it was introduced into the hilly country during Belgian occupation in 1931. A green carpet spread over rolling hills, the greenery of the estate is relaxing and tranquil!

You can have an informative experience on what happens behind the scenes of tea growing by joining a half day tour. The tour is a farm to cup experience that ends with sampling the different classes of tea.

Teza Tea Plantation
Teza Tea Plantation
Teza Tea Plantation
Teza Tea Plantation

 

Kibira National Forest

Located in the northwest part of Burundi, Kibira national park comprises of 400 square kilometers of Afromontane rainforest where an estimated 80,000 indigenous Batwa people live, widely recognized as the first inhabitants of the country’s forests. It hosts around 644 plant species, 98 mammal species and 200 bird species.

Kibira Forest crosses the border into Rwanda becoming Nyungwe National Park there. Sightings of Chimpanzees have been reported in Kibira as south as Teza tea plantations, but these are extremely rare!

We did a quick walk along the southernmost end of the forest, although unable to see any wildlife!

Kibira National Forest, Burundi
Kibira National Forest, Burundi

Kibira National Forest, Burundi

 

Batwa Tribe Community

An indigenous tribe of people in Burundi, Batwa make up about 1% of the country’s population, or around 120,000 people. They are considered the first inhabitants of the land and traditionally lived in the forests as hunter-gatherers, surviving off the land’s resources. Nowadays, the Batwa have been displaced from their ancestral homes due to deforestation, conservation efforts, and the creation of game parks and forest preserves. They have been forced to live in barren lands, cemeteries, and city dumps, and have faced discrimination, marginalization, and slavery-like treatment.

Commonly and offensively known as the Pygmies, coined by the European colonialists, this small community perform dances for tourists as they arrive to meet them. IMPORTANT: Batwa are the most marginalized community and they will appreciate if you can bring simple gifts like candies for the kids, or chicken for the elderly!

Batwa Tribe, Burundi
The amazing people of Batwa Tribe, Burundi
Batwa Tribe, Burundi
Greetings by dancing from the Batwa Tribe, Burundi

 

Lake Tanganyika

Shared amongst four countries – Burundi, Tanzania, Congo-Kinshasa and Zambia, this is the longest freshwater lake in the world extending 676 km (420 miles) in length. Two major rivers flow into the lake, Ruzizi and Malagarasi.

Boating expeditions are available starting 50,000 BIF ($18) for an hour, but it was our last day in Burundi so we decided to have lunch at Eden Garden Resort overlooking the lake, with Burundi on the left and Congo-Kinshasa (DRC) on the right.

Lunch at Eden Garden resort at Lake Tanganyika, Burundi
Lunch at Eden Garden resort at Lake Tanganyika, Burundi

Lake Tanganyika, Burundi

 

Livingstone–Stanley Monument

The Livingstone–Stanley Monument marks a location where explorer and missionary Dr David Livingstone and journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley visited and spent two nights on 25–27 November 1871 in Burundi.

It’s a controversial monument for the explorers who eventually help colonize Burundi by the Europeans. The huge stone was made to bring up from the valley below by the European colonialists, whipping the locals to carry it on their backs!

Livingstone-Stanley Monument, Burundi
Livingstone-Stanley Monument, Burundi
Livingstone-Stanley Monument, Burundi
The rock inscriptions date the meeting between Stanley and Livingstone.

 

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