Travel in Kagera

Rupert Gude of VSO has kindly forwarded us this VSO Volunteers Guide for Kagera Region – lots of useful info for travellers heading this way:


Kagera is on the western shore of Lake Victoria in northwest Tanzania. Bukoba is the regional capital and largest town. Kagera Region borders Uganda to the north, Rwanda to the west, Burundi to the southwest and Kigoma Region to the south.

The climate is sunny and warm but can get cool during the rainy season. There are two rainy seasons each year from February to May and October to December. A lightweight raincoat, waterproof shoes and an umbrella are essential in the rainy season and some warm clothes for the evenings. Rains occur almost every morning from March through May. It rarely rains in the afternoon.

The region is split into 6 administrative districts: Bukoba Town, Bukoba Rural, Karagwe, Muleba, Biharamulo and Ngara.  VSO currently works in Bukoba Town, Bukoba Rural, Muleba and Karagwe Districts.


Kagera Region has a population of over one million. Bukoba Town has about 100,000 people. The main ethnic group of the region are the Bahaya who speak Kihaya. Most people in Bukoba town speak Kiswahili, and basic English is understood at many shops. The main occupation throughout the region is farming. The number one commercial product is coffee, and the main food crop and dietary staple is matoke – large green bananas. There are many NGOs, volunteers and other wazungu (ex-pats) working in Bukoba and the surrounding area.


Kagera is home to beautiful parks.  The best source of information about these and other sites of interest is probably Kiroyera Tours next to the Market in Bukoba. VSO volunteers have worked there in the past. William Rutter, Tel. No. 0713568276 takes care of all reservation at Kiroyera and is very knowledgeable about the region. Below are summaries of Kagera parks.

  • Rubondo Island is located south of Bukoba in Lake Victoria. It is home to giraffes, elephants, sitatunga, hippos, crocodiles and dozens of bird species. This is a great weekend destination for relaxing walking, vehicle and boating safaris.  William at Kiroyera can make all travel arrangements.
  • Ibanda Game Reserve is worth  a visit but you need to book and it’s best to provide your own transport.
  • Burigi/Kimsi, Biharamulo are mentioned in some travel guides. However do not expect to see animals and you may require a police escort to travel through these parks.
  • National Parks outside Kagera – Travel to National Parks outside Kagera, such as Serengeti can be arranged through Serengeti Safaris in Mwanza. They are very reasonable.


Power Tanesco (Tanzania Electric Supply Company) supplies the region’s electric. Their offices are near the Red Cross in Bukoba and near the NMB bank in Muleba.  Their electricity is imported from hydroelectric dams in Uganda. Infrequent power cuts should be expected but they do not last long.

Phone – Mobile service is available from Vodacom, Zain, and Tigo. Text messaging or SMS is the most common form of contact between volunteers although the email is gaining ground.  It is possible and inexpensive to SMS to Africa, Europe, North America and the Philippines.  Mobile phones can be bought in many shops around Bukoba.  If you brought a phone from home that is locked to your old network, there are local fundis (literally ‘fixers’) who can unlock them. See Mr. Majid in Bukoba to buy a new phone and/or to unlock old ones.  His number is 0713238808.

TTCL, Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd, operates the land line service.  They have offices in Muleba and Bukoba.  The area code for Kagera and Mwanza is 028, Dar is 022. The international code for Tanzania is +255. Note: If people back home are calling you, have them drop the 0 of your phone number. Thus if your number is 0784777822, people back home should dial +255784777822.

If you have a phone which is able to connect to internet then both Zain and Vodacom provide this service. It is best to buy an unlocked 3G or 4G phone and bring it with you. These phones are expensive in Bukoba.

Banks –In Bukoba there are three banks: NBC, CRDB and NMB. NMB also operates in Kayanga and Muleba and CRDB has a branch in Karagwe and a travelling branch that goes to Nshamba every Thursday.  Ask other volunteers about their choice of banks.

National Bank of Commerce (NBC) – Box 843, 2220398. This is located near the Catholic Cathedral and post office. They provide savings accounts, forex accounts, foreign exchange services, wire transfers, cheque cashing, and a 24 hour ATM that accepts NBC, CRDB and VISA cards. To start an account, bring three passport photos, at least 50,000 TSH, your working permit (incl. a copy of your letter of exemption), your passport and an introduction letter from your employer. Open M-F 8:30-3:00, S 8:30-12:30.

CRDB – Box 1804, 2220909. CRDB is located near the bus station, Cyber Centre and Danico. Services are similar to NBC including a 24 hour ATM machine that accepts VISA.  To start an account, bring three passport photos, at least 50,000 TSH, your working permit (incl. a copy of your letter of exemption), your passport and an introduction letter from your employer.

National Microfinance Bank (NMB) – This is located near the NBC bank in Bukoba and on the main road in both Kayanga and Muleba. They offer basic banking services and their ATM machine only accepts NMB cards.

Kagera Farmers Bank – This is a farmers’ Bank situated only at Bukoba opposite the Regional Administrative offices along Aerodrome Road. Services are limited and there is no ATM facility.


Travelling in Tanzania changes all the time. There is currently a tarmac road from Mutukula on the border of Uganda that runs 40 kilometres south of Bukoba to the village of Kagoma. With the ongoing construction work, it is expected that by the end of 2010 it will connect Muleba to Mwanza. The parts that are finished guarantee a smooth ride, but the rest of the roads are rough, so prepare for a bumpy ride. Travellers to Biharamulo need to be to be aware that there have been reports of cars, dalas and large buses being attacked by bandits hiding in the game reserve. Its advisable to complete your journey before it gets dark.

Below is a summary of the basic options available.


If you are coming to Kagera from elsewhere in Tanzania, you can travel in a variety of ways. The most common are:

By Air: The Bukoba airport is on Aerodrome Road near the Lake. The airport facilities are currently being upgraded possibly to international standards. Bukoba is connected to Mwanza via Auric Air. They operate three to Four return flights daily. Flights to and from Mwanza on Precision Air connect Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Nairobi and recently Entebbe. ALWAYS confirm your flights two days in advance.

The Auric and the Precision Air (028 22220545) shared office is near the bus stand. If it is difficult for you to get there, call William at Kiroyera (0713568276). He can make reservations for a fee.

By Boat: The ferry MV Victoria leaves Bukoba on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9.00pm (after the horn sounds twice) and arrives in Mwanza the next morning around 6 to 8 am. It leaves Mwanza on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at about 9 pm and arrives in Bukoba the next morning around 6 to 7 am. The boat stops first at Kemondo Bay, so make sure you don’t get off too early. First class costs 35.000 TSH, with two per cabin. Second class sleeping costs 25.500 TSH with six per cabin, second class sitting costs 20.500 TSH.  Third class costs 15.000 TSH and is seating only and very crowded. Passengers in third class are vulnerable to pick pockets and thus this is not recommended. Book tickets in advance at the port when the boat is in or have William at Kiroyera make reservations (0713568276). Note: William is very good at getting tickets even when they claim to be sold out but charges $5 commission a ticket

By Train: Trains do not come to Bukoba, but there are trains from Mwanza to Dodoma which take at least two days (out of action since December 2009 but being repaired.) You can also travel from Kigoma via Tabora. First or second class is recommended; book well in advance.

By Bus: The bus stand is in the centre of town. Book tickets in advance at Bukoba bus stand. Dolphin, Falcon, and Gateway Buses run to Kampala and back on daily basis. It takes 5 to 6 hours single journey. They leave town between 6 am and 7 am and costs 15.000 TSH. Buses also run from Bukoba to Nairobi for TSH 44,000 and Dar for about 65.000 TSH. There is a bus service fron Bukoba to Dar that takes 28 hours via Muleba. But if you want to go to Nairobi, the best way to travel is to take the ferry to Mwanza and from there the bus which costs around 30.000 TSH. NB When travelling to neighbouring countries, establish Visa requirements and costs.


Minibus (daladala): Bukoba is the hub of all public transport in Kagera. Daladalas form the core of this basic network. They leave when full, which can often involve a very long wait. Unless you have access to a car or a lift, you will need use dalas throughout your stay in Tanzania.

To/From Muleba, Rubya and Nshamba: Daladalas run daily from Bukoba to Muleba (2500 TSH ). You can change dala in Muleba and travel on to Nshamba (1000 TSH ), and Rubya (1000 TSH ). There are three dalas that run from Rubya to Muleba to Bukoba every morning (3500 TSH ). They leave Wamata near the hospital in Rubya Center at 6 and 6:30 am.  You can also get the dalas from the post office or in Nyakalembe.  If you miss the morning dalas, you can catch slower ones throughout the day.  From Nshamba you can travel to Muleba or Kamachumu and then on to Bukoba. Wait at the crossroads in the centre of the town. In Muleba the dala stand is north of town. From Muleba you can get dalas to Bukoba, Nshamba/Rubya and Biharamulo.

Kamachumu: Dalas go from Bukoba to Kamachumu to Ndolage to Nshamba everyday. In Ndolage wait for dalas outside the hospital gates. In Kamachumu, get the dalas at the crossroads in the centre of town.

To /from Karawage: Dalas and buses run daily from Bukoba to Karagwe. From Karagwe daladalas go from the market area to various destinations within the district including Omrushaka which is about 6 Kms away and all the journeys start here. The road is tarmac for 50Kms from Bukoba to Kyaka but changes to earth road for the rest of the 55Kms to Kayanga. The 6 Km section between Kyaka and Omrushaka is bitumen. The rides are bumpy. To Bukoba (2-3 hours ride) – 5000 TSH (buses go about 4 times a day and dalas operate through the day)  Please note that dalas in Tanzania leave when they are full and have no set times.

Taxi:  Taxis can be found at the market, near the bus stand and at the port. Short journeys in Bukoba cost at least 2,000 to 3000 TSH regardless of the number of passengers.  A taxi to Rubya is between 40,000 to 50,000 TSH, to Muleba usually costs 10,000 less.

Personal cars: It’s not unknown for volunteers to buy their own car or motorbike. Be careful. Talk to a good mechanic and get it looked over before you buy (See Naushad’s Toyota Garage near the post office or the ELCT Garage).

There are petrol stations in Bukoba, Muleba, Nshamba, Kamachumu, Kemondo Bay, Kyaka, Kayanga and Nkwenda.  Fuel costs 1,650 TSH a litre.


Kagera borders Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. It is advisable to check the security situation of your destinations  before travelling.

From Bukoba to Kampala, Ugandat takes about 6-8 hours. The exchange rate is approximately 1,000 TSH to 1,300 USH.  The visa costs 50 USD for any length of time including transit. It is however free for members of COMESA. Kampala is a great getaway place. There is a lot of good shopping. You can hang out at the mall, go to the cinema, visit the Belgian butcher/deli, go clubbing and have a good meal.  It is also easy to fly from Entebbe to Europe with BA, Emirates and KLM.  The Dolphin Bus runs from Bukoba to Kampala 7 days a week. From there you can go to Nairobi and Dar.

You can also get to Kampala from Karagwe. This is however a more adventurous route involving a ‘shunting shunting’ to Kyaka (which means getting on and off various daladalas stopping in many places) and from there take a daladala to the border. From the border you can either get a bus to Kampala. However, the easier route would be coming to Bukoba, spend the night there and take the direct bus in the morning.
Kenya is easily accessible via Kampala, Kampala to Mombassa is about 24 hours changing buses in Nairobi.  Direct flights are also available to Nairobi from Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Entebbe.

Rwanda (Land of a Thousand Hills) is only a day’s travel away via Rusumo Falls at the Tanzania-Rwanda border.  At the moment travel to Rwanda from Tanzania is not as safe as via Uganda because of local bandits in the game reserves. When the new road from Muleba to Biharamulo is complete, the security situation is expected to improve. Most people choose to enter Rwanda through Kampala, Uganda. Kigali (Rwanda’s capital) is 9 hours by bus from Kampala (Regional Coach) and costs about 15.000 USH.  Exchange rate in Rwanda is 1,000 TZ = 500 Rwandan Francs.

The country is currently stable and is home to over 50 VSO volunteers.  There are many things to do there. Visit the beautiful Lake Kivu and the Mountain Gorillas, made famous by Diane Fossey in her book ‘Gorillas in the Mist”. In Kigali the Genocide Memorial Centre is definitely worth a visit. Here they can also refer you to some actual genocide sites in the country that you can visit.  If you want to know more about the 1994 genocide, the book written by Romeo Dallaire (the leader of the UN mission in Rwanda) ‘Shake hands with the devil’ is a good reference.


The regional information packs were originally written to give new volunteers a better idea of where they are going to be living as well as what is available locally.  Basically they try to answer the question, “What do I need to buy in Dar before I go to my placement?” This is a hard question to answer. The best advice is to bring with you anything essential health wise (medicines etc…) and any special items you must have. After that between Bukoba and wherever you are placed, you should be able to find all the basic things needed to set up your home: pots, pans, plates, knives…  All electrical good can be bought in Bukoba: kettles, ovens, hot plates, fridges, Christmas tree lights, computers, printers, stereos…  If they are not there, they can often be ordered.

Kagera is a fertile region, growing its own potatoes, sugar, beans, bananas (lots and lots of bananas), and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Beef is widely available, as is chicken, pork, and Tilapia and Nile Perch fish from Lake Victoria. Beer and soda are found almost everywhere. Imported items such as pasta, chocolate, spirits, Heinz ketchup, sausages, ice cream, mayonnaise, Pringles and much more are found in the small supermarkets in Bukoba. In Bukoba there is a factory making Tanica Instant Coffee, at Kamachumu they bottle their own Kabanga Spring Water, and in Kyaka there is a cheese factory that makes Gouda type cheese (also found in Bukoba).



Market (Soko Kuu)

The Bukoba market is fairly large and in the centre of town. There are sections for fruits, vegetables, matoke (green bananas), grains, meat, fish, clothing, and assorted items both in and around the covered market area. Most food items are sold by the kilogram. Prices do vary according to seasons.


Most are open daily 9.00am to 8.00pm and closed 1.00 – 3.00pm

  • Fido Dido Supermarket – Many packaged and some refrigerated western goods, including bread and many types of biscuits and soft drinks. Customers themselves select items from shelves like in most Western supermarkets. Prices are expensive as most items are imported from Uganda and Kenya.
  • Dollys Cash and Carry, at the corner of Fupi street – Many western goods. Prices higher than Fido Dido.
  • Hussein, opposite the market on Kashai Road open all day – Many western goods, cheaper than Fido Dido.
  • Blue Shop – On road to ELCT Bookshop, fair prices, packs and stocks Basmati rice.
  • Mayawa Shop – Opposite the Lutheran church sells mushrooms, vanilla and rosella leaves.
  • Me and Yu – opposite Lutheran Cathedral – Many western goods

Office Supplies

  • Kagera General Traders – Many office supplies including stationery, art supplies and diskettes. On the main street across from the market.
  • Migini Secretarial Services – One office is across from the market, and another is near the Lake Hotel. Sells many basic office supplies. Photocopies are 100 TSH each.
  • Benny Bazaar – Many office and computer stationery and supplies including diskettes and ink cartridges.


  • ELCT Bookstore – Located in town near the Ismaili mosque. A variety of stationery, English and Swahili school books, office supplies and local handicrafts.
  • Catholic Bookstore – On Sokoine Street near the Net Pharmacy.
  • Bukoba Public Library – Near the NBC bank. Many books in English and Swahili, though many are old and musty. Good selection of African history and literature. To borrow books you need to become a member.

Computer Supplies and Services

  • Bukoba Cyber Centre – Repairs computers and sells computers and computer supplies, including floppy, CD-R and Zip disks, modems, printer cartridges, etc. Hussein and Hasnain are the town’s computer experts and conduct computer training but are usually very busy.
  • Danico – Sells office machines, computers and computer supplies and conducts inexpensive computer training. Has branches in Mwanza, Dar and Arusha.
  • Other computer training centres – Bukoba Computer Centre near the post office (run by Hussein of the Cyber Centre), Scientific Business Training Centre near the bus stand, Computer Training Centre behind the market.



Rose Café – Next to Cosmopolitan. Pilau, matoke, beans, sambusas, mchicha, fruit juice, etc. Run by Zully and Moshi who both speak good English.

ELCT Café – next to ELCT bookshop. Excellent breakfast (pancakes, milk coffee, sandwiches) and quick lunches (buffet set up).

Kashozi Snacks – Inexpensive fish, rice, bananas and pilau.

Ujirani Mwema Restaurant – Near TTCL. Inexpensive meat, fish, rice, matoke, beans, mchicha. Breakfast includes eggs, chapati, cake, omelet, tea and juice.

Space Bar (formerly Soft Rock) – Around the corner from the Red Cross. Chicken, mshikaki, chipsi mayai, many drinks, TV.

Immigration Café – In the Immigration Office on the road to the port. Inexpensive fish, beef, rice,  matoke, beans, sodas.

Regional Office Café – Outside the Regional Office near the Lake Hotel, marked with Pepsi symbols. Inexpensive fish, beef, ugali and matoke. (Sodas available across the street.)

Maendeleo Café – Next to Kiroyera tours.

Hesseki’s – near the market sells ice cream

888 Café – One block up from Hussein’s Shop on Kashai road.


Lake Hotel – TV, music, indoor restaurant and outdoor beer garden. Popular for parties.

Walkgard Hotel – on hill above the lake.  Swimming pool 3000 per day. Excellent Chinese and Indian foods and good vegetarian options.

Walkgard Annex – next to Victorious Perch. Pleasant surroundings, good food.

Yaasila Top Hotel – Next to Spice Beach Hotel.  The service is slow, the food varies from pretty good to not bad!  A nice beach location, with pool table. Fantastic for watching the full moon rise.

Bukoba Club – Popular hang out near the Lake Hotel for both Wazungus and locals. Mshikaki, chips, chipsi mayai, Fish, Chicken, outdoor beer and sodas. Tennis, table tennis, snooker, darts.

Kolping Hotel – Quiet, on the hill overlooking the beautiful lake. Good food but slow service. Try their buffets, fish, Rosemary Chicken, pizza and vegetarian dishes. Accommodation and good conference facilities.

Victorious Perch Hotel – Tourist hotel near Linas Night club. Hospitable and good food.

Smart Hotel – The other side of the North side of Bukoba airport. Nice food and surrounding.

Spice Beach Hotel – OK food, nice location on the lake, conveniently near the port.

Kiroyera Campsite – 300 meters past Bukoba Club Bridge towards Yaasila. Good food, although can take a long time to prepare. Book your meals well in advance. Excellent view of Lake Victoria, relaxed setting (hammocks, beach), beach camp fire – give advance notice. Accommodation is expensive for the standard supplied.

Prince Motel – on Uganda Rd almost opposite Walkgard Annex. Good food but long wait. Good place to watch sport on big TV.



The Bukoba Club has tennis, snooker, table tennis and darts. Locals play different games eg volleyball and football on the open grassy area near the Bukoba Club most afternoons.  The Kaitaba Stadium hosts football matches and other events including concerts. The Red Cross has an indoor basketball court, Swim at  the pool at the Walkgard hotel. Watch the football at Space Bar, near Bukoba hospital and the Red Cross, Lake Hotel and Prince Motel.


Two discos in town are Lina’s (near the immigration office) and Casino (on the road to Muleba). Lina’s is more a ‘mzungu’ place (open all weekend) and attracts many concerts, whereas Casino is a very local disco (only open on Sundays).


The town boasts a number of historical buildings dating to the German colonial period.  There are a number of nearby beaches worth a visit, including Bunena rock beach which is within walking distance of town, south of the port and great place to watch the full moon rise. The lake is infested with bilharzia, so swimming anywhere is risky, but some places are relatively safe eg Maruku Beach. Visit Bukoba Museum – good wildlife photos. Visit Rubale Forest waterfall and cave along the Bukoba Maruku Rd. Lots of lovely walks can be made from the town.

There is a picturesque fishing village about a 20-minute walk from town, on the other side of the airport and Nyamukazi.  Musila Island is a short distance from the shore and accessible by boat. It has a small fishing village and is enjoyable to visit.

Kiroyera Tours can help you out with any tourism information about the region like the rock paintings and the Lourdes shrine or a tour of Bukoba town.


Accommodation can vary from 15,000 to 30,000 – check prices

  • Lake Hotel – Expensive rooms – about 20,000 with fans and mosquito nets.
  • New Upendo Lodge – on road opposite CCM headquarters. Lounge, bar, TV. About 18,000 for double room.
  • Walkgard Hotel – On hill above the port (approx 30,000 single, 60,000 double) rooms are nothing special.
  • Walkgard Annex – expensive (approx 25,000) but clean and central
  • Prince Motel – good service
  • Kolping Hotel – On the hill overlooking the lake. Bed and B/fast (30,000 single, 40,000 double, suites  available
  • Victorious Perch Hotel – Opposite Linas night club (40,000)
  • Smart Hotel – The other side of Airport. New 30,000 and 40,000 for singles and doubles. Suite available.
  • Yasila Top Hotel – Next to spice beach.  Nice location.  Ask for room at the front (budget rooms 20,000 )
  • Spice Beach Hotel – On the lake between the Lake Hotel and the port. (20,000)
  • Bukoba Hotel (ELCT) – Near the Lake Hotel. Reasonably inexpensive rooms (about 14,000). Comfortable, clean, relatively safe, hot water, AC, TV room. Alcohol free.
  • New Banana Hotel – On Zam-Zam Street off Kashozi Road. (15,000)
  • Kiroyera Campground (20,000 -26000) – traditional Haya huts. Camping available.
  • Invite Lodge – behind the Catholic Cathedral near 888 Cafe. Recently renovated. 15,000 -18,000


In Bukoba you have Vodacom, Zain and Tigo (the first two most commonly used). Internet you can find at Bukoba Cyber Centre, the Post office, Dan’s Internet Café on the Jamhuri Rd nr CCM HQ, New Upendo Lodge (run by Majid) and TCCIA (chamber of commerce) rates are 1,000 TSH per hour. Emails and internet will work on your mobile if you have the right phone and is not very expensive. Bukoba Hotel (ELTC) has it’s own usually more reliable internet connection but charge a minimum 1,000 for half an hr. Hotels often have their own internet connection.

Tanzania Telecommunications Company, Ltd. (TTCL) – Near the Nyumba ya Vijana and Red Cross (and has a tall tower). International phone calls from one of two phone lines. A fax to Europe is about 3,500 TSH per page. Less busy in the late afternoon and evenings.  They will install a pay as you go telephone and internet for about 100,000.

The Post office is near the NBC bank.  It offers all basic postal services, you can rent your own post office box there (10,000), send parcels and EMS money.


Government Hospital – Near the Red Cross.

Ndolage Town Clinic – Near the NBC Club.

St Therese’s Bukoba Medical Centre – 2220510. Zam-zam Street off Kashozi Road.

Net Pharmacy – Box 1662, 2221400. Sokoine Street near Mosque Street. Modern looking and fairly well-stocked.

MK Pharmacy – opposite Rose’s Café



Karagwe District is one of the five rural districts in Kagera Region with a population of approximately 400,000 people. The district borders Uganda in the north and Rwanda in the west. The Kagera River runs through the district. Kayanga town is the main administrative town in the district. It is located on top of a ridge so there are spectacular views from the town. The valley is swampy wet lands.

The town is fairly quiet and has limited resources and communication; however one can get the essentials food and household goods. Weather is variable and can get very cold and mist rising from the valley early morning and night time. The district council headquarters are based in Kayanga and there are various NGO’s who have their offices around the town. It has a post office, police station and two banks, NMB and CRDB (has an ATM machine which takes VISA card as well as local Tembo card).

People of Karagwe are very friendly and helpful. The main languages spoken are Kiswahili and the local Kinyambo. English is spoken by office staff at the NGO’s and district council, but little at the market and shops although people will try and understand you. Basic greetings are very important in this area.

Currently there are 3 VSO volunteers and couple of volunteers from other agencies in Karagwe. There is a mission and couple of NGO’s who have short term volunteers on a regular basis. Weekends and evening can be quiet and one has to make their own entertainment. There are some great scenic walking areas around Karagwe as well as a dala ride away. Transport is available to most destinations around Karagwe district, and daily services to Bukoba.

There are two Game Reserves in Karagwe. These are Kibanda & Rumanyika.
1. Write a letter to the Manager of the GR to ask permission to visit, giving details of date, number visiting, whether a day visit or staying etc
2. Await answer before arriving.
3. If staying overnight, they will prepare tents for you. There are no vibanda. There is no food or supplies of any sort, except firewood. You would need to take all supplies & be self-catering.

4. Manager Game Reserve Kibanda
PO Box 47,  Karagwe.

Tel: 0784 460260 or 0754 460260

5. Better have a vehicle of your own. If not, you can use their vehicle inside the Reserve if you supply diesel. If you have no transport, arrange to be met at roadside. Its best to take spare diesel.
6. Visits are free!!!
7. Game: all sorts, & it’s a shooting park too if anyone wants to book shooting.

Much the same, but not much in the way of small animals, & no accommodation overnight, only day visits.

Don’t forget there are ‘hot springs’ in Ntangata, Mabira. Interesting, very hot, very natural ie totally uncommercialized. Need transport to get there.


You can buy most basic food and household items, including electrical goods, in shops around the Market area. For mzungu type items, one has to go to Bukoba. The market is best for fresh fruit and vegetables although it lacks variety. Market days are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Green bananas are the staple diet in Karagwe area and available all year round. Fruits include pineapples, sweet bananas, tomatoes, avocados etc. Other shops include hardware, fabrics, stationery and services such as printing and photocopying… Omrushaka, which is 6Kms away and a taxi ride (500 TSH) also, caters for similar things.
EATING and drinking

The restaurants and bars will only serve local food such as matoke (cooked green bananas), rice with meat or fish, and beans. These café and restaurants are open during the day six days a week except for Sunday. At the Bar’s one has to orders food in advance. Places to eat and drink include:

  • Tonya’s Bar  – as you enter town from the Bukoba road on the right hand side
  • Diana’s Bar – near the football ground
  • Zebra Bar – on the main road opposite Tindamanyile Guest House
  • Roiders café – near market place
  • Upenda café – opposite Roiders cafe
  • Kahindi’s Café – Inside the market place around the edge, its walls are painted blue
  • Mama D’s – entrance around Dala dala area


  • Dutch Guest House (expensive – 15,000  per night)
  • Side View Guest House – opposite the Lutheran Church around the back of the market area of town
  • Misha guest house – about half hour walk but has great scenery


There is a Public Telephone at the Post Office. Mobiles get a good reception and there is an internet café near the football ground.


Nyakahanga Hospital, 7km South of Kayanga
Malaria testing place – on street on outside of market area.
Dispensary – find ACCORD offices ask in there!


Muleba District, a former division of Bukoba District, gained its autonomous status in 1975. It started operations as the fifth District of Kagera Region in 1984.  The District Council Offices are situated at Bomani on Boma Street near the Posta. Muleba consists of 5 divisions: Muleba, Kimwani, Nshamba, Izigo and Kamachumu. The geographical area covers an area of 3444 km² of land and 7925 km² in Lake Victoria which includes more than 20 islands.

The 2002 National Census counted 386,328 people in the District with 10,732 in Muleba town.  Muleba is situated in the eastern part of Kagera Region. It is bordered by Lake Victoria to the east, Biharamulo to the south, Karagwe to the southwest and Bukoba to the northwest. It is comprised of low hills, escarpments and savannahs. The Ngono River runs through the District from south to north and joins the Kagera River before entering Lake Victoria. The average temperature is between 25°-33° C, and the rainfall ranges between 800-1500 mm per year.

Currently there are no volunteers at Muleba town but the district has eight volunteers stationed at Nshamba, Rubya, Ndolage, Kamachumu, Katoke Teacher Training Callege and Kagondo hospital.

Muleba was known throughout Kagera for its Mali Juice. This was a local product made from fresh fruits. This Belgian funded project supported Muleba farmers and the community in general. The factory has since closed down and the farmers are trying to revive the same.


Muleba’s main street has been decimated due to the construction of the Bukoba to Mwanza road. Currently most shopping occurs one street over to the west on a parallel road.  The merchandise varies from kangas/kitenge to groceries. There are also more specialised shops like the vet shop, liquor store, stationery, car spare parts, pharmacy and mobile phone voucher cards providers.

There are two markets. The central market in town is open from Monday to Saturday.  The Saturday market is located south of town in large field. Both these markets have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including eggplants, avocado, ginger, peppers, passion fruit, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and egg. Fresh fish, brought from the Lake, and live chickens are plentiful. New and second hand clothes and materials can be purchased. More fancy articles like pasta, wine, newspapers, dishes, soaps, bicycles, condoms, sanitary napkins, and Ngao can be found in special shops west of the market.


There are many places to eat and drink local foods. The New Bingo serves a standard fare of rice/matoke and nyama. The New Generation has small eating area outside. The Upendo Bar is just next to the liquor store in town. Kantanyayo Hoteh and Guest House offers fair local dishes of beef, chicken, fish, rice, matoke etc and drinks. Mama Gamas is a bit out of town and it is best to call ahead to order. Their menu consists of chicken, matoke, mishkaki, and delicious kachumbari. The kibandas add to the nice atmosphere. Drinks can be had at any of these restaurants. There are also some local pombe bars selling the traditional banana beer and gin. Ask around.


  1. Kagera has a history of Kingdoms and Chiefdoms. Before Independence, Muleba had its own chiefs. Opposite the Posta, there is still an old house which was the residence of the last chief. Many important visitors have been given a tour there, so make sure to ask for yours.
  2. From Muleba you can easily walk to the escarpment and then down to the Lake. It takes about an hour and a half.  From the Kiholele Escarpment  you can enjoy the magnificent view and after a rest continue for another hour and a half down to the lakeshore.
  3. Other walks can be taken to Rubya/Nshamba, crossing the Ngono by boat (+ 4 hours). If you have a piki piki or a bicycle, you can easily travel to nice surrounding areas. South of town is Kimwani where there is a small beach. Red dirt roads and lush green valleys are common and also the occasional herd of Watusi cows. Bring your camera!
  4. There is an official football field and training place south of town. Youngsters are often found playing net ball next to the Bomani Offices. The new Youth Centre (under construction) has many sports activities planned for both indoors and outdoors.
  5. E-mail services are now available and there is a public phone at the Posta and Vodacom and zain have coverage in the area.
  6. From Friday to Sunday, discos are staged at Mali Bantu. California is another joint for entertainment. Try them also for celebrity functions and concerts.


Muleba has a big dispensary at Kaigara, about 2 km north of town on the Bukoba Road. Complicated medical cases are sent to Rubya District Hospital. Ndolage and Kagondo Hospitals are a bit out of the way, but offer good services including dental and optical treatment.

It is wise to use malaria prophylactic while staying in Muleba since there is a high incidence of malaria. Regular use of mosquito repellent, coils and bed net will help. Boiling and filtering your water is necessary since the water quality is poor. There is a high prevalence of HIV/Aids in the District and in Kagera in general. Precautions are strongly advised.

If you are driving a piki piki, be aware that the roads are steep, dusty, rocky, slippery and sandy. In all cases, use your common sense and don’t take risks.


Ndolage is situated on top of an escarpment overlooking Lake Victoria.  It is just over 1 hours drive south of Bukoba. It is located next to the town of Kamachumu.   Ndolage is built around Ndolage Hospital, an Evangelical Church of Tanzania, (ELCT) facility.  Ndolage is a small village, but there are shops with all the basic necessities of life, plus a small hotel and a couple of bars.  Kamachumu, home to many more shops and a decent market, is a 15 minute walk away.

Sunrise from the escarpment in Ndolage is superb.  Ndolage boasts some of the best examples of African bird life to be found anywhere in Tanzania.  There are a variety of habitats allowing home to a diverse selection of birds from the tiny but startling fire finch to the huge and majestic fish eagle.


Outside the gates of the hospital you can buy basic food stuffs: flour, eggs, sugar, meat, fruit and veggies.  For a larger variety go to Kamachumu  which has many more shops selling everything from food to stationary, clothes and hardware items.  Kamachumu is also home to the local post office, tailors, hair dressers, and the usual selection of Tanzanian shops selling a random range of things.  The Sunday Market sells clothes, crafts and food.


Outside the hospital gates is the Sunlight Café which serves standard Tanzanian fare at a good price. In Kamachumu check out the Kamachumu Inn which is a nice place for a drink or dinner.  Try their Kamachumu Fried Chicken.

Outside the hospital grounds there are a couple of local nameless bars. Kamachumu has many more little bars and cafes where you can partake in some refreshments.


Hike. Ride a bike. Bird watch. From the hospital you can walk to the famous Bugonzi Falls in 10 minutes. These falls can be seen on the road to Muhutwe as you begin your assent to Ndolage. If your legs are long (at least one metre) then you can climb down a vertical ladder and walk under these falls and feel the full force of  tons of water (in rainy season) dropping 120 m to the villages below.  One word of warning: the climb back up is exhausting.  Ask someone in Kamachumu to take you to visit the traditional Bahaya house a short walk out of town.


The hospital is connected by land lines. You can use both Vodacom and Zain. Ndolage Hospital has internet access thanks to a grant from the British High Commission procured by VSO volunteers in 2006.  The post office is on the road between Kamachumu and Ndolage, beside two large radio towers.


Outside the hospital is the Betania Guesthouse, cheap at 5,000 per bed. It is basic and clean. If you’re looking for an upgrade, go to the Kamachumu Inn in Kamachumu. It costs 15,000 per night. Rooms are self contained and have a TV.


Ndolage Hospital can help with all basic medical needs, malaria testing etc.  They also have a dentist and optician.


The village of Rubya received Catholic missionaries over 100 years ago. It is located on the edge of a beautiful sandstone escarpment overlooking Lake Victoria and Muleba to the east. It sits at an altitude of about 1500 metres above sea level. It is 20 Km from Muleba and about 80 Km from Bukoba.  The village is built around Rubya Hospital (District Hospital for Muleba – they celebrated their 50 year jubilee in 2006), The Rubya School of Nursing and Rubya Seminary, which celebrated its centenary in 2004. These are all part of the Catholic Diocese.  The village also has a Humura Secondary School, three primary schools, a carpentry school, a mechanics’ training centre and a builders’ school.  In Rubya Centre there is the Catholic Cathedral, the Posta, Rubya Mseto Primary School, Hawaka Store and a small restaurant.  Nearby is Nyakalembe, a shopping center where most goods can be purchased. Adjacent to Nyakalembe is the Sunday market. A15 minute walk south from Rubya centre are a Lutheran parish church and a Mosque.


Nyakalembe is a village adjacent to Rubya and is home to most of the local shops. Basic foods like bread, Blue Band, instant coffee, milk, meat, soda, beer, flour, sugar, rice, tomatoes, onions, occasionally fresh fish and pork and many other things are available.  There is a stationary shop, two hardware shops, many tailors, basic pharmacies (the Hospital pharmacy is better), hairdressers and a large number of shops selling pots, pans, buckets, string, bits of rubber and other random things.  Go and explore. The people are friendly.

The highlight of the shopping week is the Sunday market in Nyakalembe. It is a place to shop and meet friends. Things start to pick up around 9 am. The market has a wide selection of fruit and vegetables depending on the season. These include: pineapples, passion fruit, mangoes, papaya, lemons, avocado, cabbage, spinach, carrots, peppers, sometimes potatoes.  You can also buy fresh fish and meat, eggs second-hand clothes, and local crafts.  It is good fun and hassle free.

In Rubya itself, the hospital market (south of the market) sells fruits and vegetables. There are also a few local restaurants here. The parish Hawaka shop sells sugar, flour, rice, loo roll, soda and beer.  The Seminary and the Rubya School of Nursing have shops with a photocopiers and binding services.

The post office sells basic stationary as well as the standard post office fare. The postal service to Rubya is slow and may not always be reliable.  The postal service to Rubya is slow but reliable.  The staff are very nice. Make it a point to get to know them.


In Nyakalembe eat rice, matoke and nyama or chips and mayai at 3 restaurants located on the road that goes to the sokoni. In Rubya try Hawaka Restaurant, opposite the Parish Church. It serves bananas/rice with meat, not bad.  There is also a restaurant next to the bus stand by the hospital. It serves rice, matoke and nyama for 1000 TSH.

The Hawaka Shop, opposite the parish, has a friendly bar with TV.  You can also wet your whistle at the two dukas next to the bus stand. In Nyakalembe try the restaurant on the way to the sokoni. If you go to Nyakalembe at night, go with Tanzanian friends.  No volunteer has ever has a problem, but it’s best to be safe.


  1. Hike. Sit on the escarpment and soak up the view. Walk through the shambas and talk to folks. Sip a beer at one of the many bush bars.
  2. Walk to the waterfalls: they are located a two hour walk north of Rubya. To get there leave the village on the Busindi Road. Pass Busindi town and walk down the hill. Where the road forks, take a right. The road soon become a path. Follow the path until you come to a white house. Ask for directions there or continue straight ahead. When you come to fields, slowly walk down the hill.
  3. Walk to Muleba and have lunch at the New Bingo. To get there you basically walk down the hill from Rubya and go to the Greek Orthodox Church. Once there ask people where you can get the boat to cross the river. The boat looks more like a wooden box that once housed a refrigerator (Cost 100 TSH). From there walk east to Muleba. Time 3 to 5 hours depending on your ambition.
  4. Cycle to Muleba, Nshamba, or Ndolage. Jog…
  5. Visit your friends and colleagues. Once you have made some local friends, visiting them at home is always nice.  You are generally always welcome. Sunday is the Tanzania day of visitors.  If a friend’s family member dies, it is common for everyone to go and visit and pay their respects.  Your friends will appreciate it if you go.
  6. Weddings are a great way to see the local Haya traditions.  They are also a good place to dance.  Take a small present (plates, cups, a cooking pan, a small amount of money).  Don’t be surprised if before a friend’s wedding, a friend of your friend comes to you with a sign up sheet for donations towards the cost of the wedding.  It is a local custom.
  7. Read War and Peace, Anna Karina, Moby Dick, and The Complete Dickens.


The best options are at Rubya Hospital or Humura Secondary School. At the hospital you can rent a room for 5,000 a night in their guest house. Contact Mr. Nestor (0784 770 650). Be sure to call ahead for they may be full. You can also stay on the campus of Humura. They have a living room/kitchen/bedroom suite for 5,000 a night. They have weekly and monthly rates. The view of Lake Victoria from here is fantastic. Call 0178 052 090, 0785 768 353, 0681 940 003 or email to see if the suite is available.


Use Vodacom or zain. You can also use the internet at the hospital for 500 an hour.


Rubya Hospital has experienced Tanzanian medical staff, a lab for Malaria testing, a pharmacy, three X-ray facilities, physiotherapy, and an airstrip.  Volunteers will be able to receive basic medical procedures, but if it is serious, contact the IST Clinic in Dar.


6 thoughts on “Travel in Kagera

  1. edwin kabigumila says:

    Dear sir,
    Thank your for your information about Kagera Region and its town Bukoba, my name is Edwin kabigumila i bone in kitwe village Bukoba Kagera but now i leave in Mikocheni Dar es salaam Tanzania. I appreciate that your story abut Kagera and there district are true, because 1) about Rubya i’m the one how have been stay there for almost 6 years when i was functioning there at Rubya Hospital, so i know how the dala works from there to Muleba then to Bukoba town and also from Rubya to Nshamba then to Ndolage Hospital/kamachumu. At this short message i would like to thank you for keep our region in the world of internet so every one can learn and know about the short geographic of our region Kagera. But please you have forgot the short Historical of Ngara District. Please be keep it in this story.

    I’m looking to know more than about Kagera and there District via my email.

    Best regard


  2. Mike Goodman says:

    Hi Rupert, I am a VSO volunteer and have been offered a placement starting oct 2010 at St Joseph hospital Kagondo where I believe you and your wife have worked….please could you contact me? I have lots of questions of course.

  3. Lucy stephen says:

    hallow, Kagera is the best because has a lt of attractions though tourism activities conducted are low.but i am so grateful and so happy to say that together we can. Help Kagera for our future.WATER FALLS should be made in a good way absolutely clean and other things will follow.Smartness first other will follow.Thank you once again.Yours Lucy Stephen Ndibalema, From UDOM.

  4. EVE says:

    The information on Kagera region is quite extensive and so informative. I was once a student in Rubya NMTC and I loved the place. I even got to know the local language ‘kihaya’ and the people were so friendly. I plan to visit Rubya some day. Thanks for the info, keep it up, great work!

  5. marc stulens says:

    Mali juicce in Muleba is alive and kicking. They are still producing pineapple juice and have the support of several Belgian-Flemish managing teams. Please make a correct statement in your over-vews for Muleba .

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