Rumonge, Burundi

Photo: Tanganyika BlueBay Resort
Photo: Tanganyika BlueBay Resort

You’re relaxing on a golden-sand beach. Small waves lap against the shore. The blue-green water is calm and clear. Two canoes silently, but swiftly, pass by. A coconut palm provides a little shade from the direct sunlight. While behind you, tangerine and banana trees somewhat hide the two-story, thatched-roof huts.

This little paradise could be in the Caribbean or Southeast Asia. It’s not, though. It’s in Africa. But it’s not even in Kenya or Mozambique, where everyone knows that gorgeous beaches run along the eastern coast. You’re not even looking at the ocean. Welcome to the African Great Lakes. These are some of the largest, the longest, and the deepest lakes in the world. They ultimately flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

Lake Tanganyika borders Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Zambia. Two famous World War I battles were fought here, and Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara later used the DR Congo’s shoreline as a training camp in the mid-1960s. It’s now quiet and peaceful. Lake Tanganyika sardines, snails, and freshwater crabs live in the warm water. Locals’ lives—and livelihoods—depend on the lakes. While recently, tourists have started to take notice of the area’s beauty.

Photo: Worldtraveller [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Worldtraveller [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Rumonge sits on the lake’s eastern shore in southwest Burundi, one of Africa’s smallest countries. Bujumbura, Burundi’s busy capital, is 75 kilometers to the north. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, rarely seen except on the clearest of days, is across the lake. While the Tanganyika BlueBay Resort is an oasis to relax and decompress.

Sip lemongrass tea from your balcony and watch the dhows head out on the lake early in the morning. Your conical hut has bamboo chairs, a eucalyptus table, and pops of orange. Play tennis before the hot sun reaches its midday peak. But try not to get distracted by the water view from the court. Go kayaking along the shoreline, passing white houses and women busy with their housework. Find a chair under a coconut palm to relax—and probably nap—on the beach. Eat mukeke (grilled fish, beans, and cassava leaves) with your fingers. It’s messy, but delicious. Then watch the shadows dance across the beach while sitting around a fire after the sun sets.

This may not be the beach trip you’re used to. Or even the one you had in mind. But if you’re looking for a location that few have discovered yet, keep the African Great Lakes in mind. They’re beautiful, secluded, and untouched by mass tourism, so far.

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