Lake Kivu is one of Africa’s “Great Lakes.” The lake covers an area of 2700 square kilometers (1,043 square miles) and is 480 meters deep (about 1,575 feet.) It sits in the East African Rift – a groove in the Earth’s crust – at the foot of the Virunga Volcano chain. The western shore is the DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the eastern shore is Rwanda. The border runs roughly through the center, with the large island in the middle going to the DRC. The lake used to drain to the north, but the Virunga volcanoes there blocked it about twelve thousand years ago, and now it drains to the south, into the Ruzizi River and then into the Congo River.
Lake Kivu is one of a few lakes in Africa that are called “killer lakes” because of their carbon dioxide content that seeps into the lake through the volcanic rock from nearby volcanoes. There are two other lakes in Africa, Lake Nyos and Lake Manoun, both in Cameroon.
Lake Kivu has an additional hazard. The water of Lake Kivu sits on top of not just one, but two huge layers of gas: carbon dioxide and methane. Bacteria have spent about 15,000 years converting dead organic matter and magma-related carbon dioxide into methane, which is a process unique to Lake Kivu. There are efforts now going on to tap into the methane gas reserve and use it to generate electricity, which Rwanda needs.
And we were off to Uganda to visit the mountain gorillas.