Finally, finally, finally I got to go night fishing on Lake Kivu! The first time I went to Kibuye, I ended up milking cows instead of going night fishing. The second time I went to Kibuye, all the fisherman were taking a night off from night fishing and I went to the Best Nightclub instead. So when I heard that the last possible day to go night fishing before the end of the season was August 28th, I jumped at the chance and headed for the first bus out of Kigali.
The interesting thing about going to the same small town and staying in the same small place three times is that the people in that place become more like friends than strangers. I was greeted in the parking lot by an employee who I affectionately call “Yes Please Bye Bye” (more on that later), and when I went down to the bar I was greeted with a chorus of “you’re back!” And if you think I wasn’t a wee bit sad knowing I’d likely never come back to Kibuye, think again.
I mean seriously, this place just makes me happy….
But things change as they must. They recently installed a television at the bar (why?!?), so now I can find the staff here. Ha!
But back to night fishing… I booked an evening of night fishing through Vayando and met up with my guide Olivier at Home Saint Jean. He picked me up in a boat just before sunset, and we headed out onto the lake to meet up with the fishermen.
Lake Kivu does not support much wildlife (due to the high methane gas levels beneath the surface), but it does support sambaza! Fishermen catch the little fish by spreading nets under three connected wooden boats. Lanterns are hung over the side, which attract the sambaza, and after two hours the nets are pulled in. This process is repeated three times in a night.
August 28th was a super moon, which was super not conducive to a bountiful harvest. Since the fishermen rely on their lanterns to attract the sambaza into their nets, a bright moon makes the lanterns less effective. C’est la vie, said me! I was still pumped to get this authentic fishing experience (and of course to eat my fill of sambaza).
Fishing in Rwanda is strangely similar to fishing in the US – lots of sitting around waiting, and then a rush of excitement when it is time to reel in the catch. Waiting was fine with me, though, because it gave me time to chat with – but mostly observe – these interesting guys. They spend all night out on the lake, and often their families live in a different part of the country.
I wondered for a hot second if heading out to the middle of the lake with a group of fishermen was a good idea for this lady, but it turns out it was! The men were very friendly and respectful, and after asking me if I was single or not the talk turned to important things – do people in the US fish with nets like this? How do you manage to spend this much time away from your families? We had a nice chat out there under the super moon.
Did I mention the sitting and waiting?
And then, suddenly, ACTION! I don’t know how they knew it was time to start bringing in the nets, but suddenly all ten men on the three boats started working in a synchronized way to bring in the giant nets that were – hopefully – full of sambaza. I used to pride myself on my arm strength until I tried to pull in one of these nets. I literally lasted 7 seconds before I had to hand it off to a pro. This is HARD work!
Luckily hard work pays off!
My new friends speared a couple sambaza and cooked the sambaza right there. It was surprisingly delicious. Talk about minimizing the distance between source and plate!
After eating a few sambaza, the men gave me a small bucket of fish to take back and we said our goodbyes – I headed to my hotel, and they stayed for more fishing before heading home to their families the next day.
Night fishing on Lake Kivu was such a fun and authentic experience; connecting with people is really important to me and this evening did not disappoint.
When I got back to Home Saint Jean, I said farewell to Olivier and had the kitchen fry up my bucket of sambaza.
I couldn’t eat most of this, so I shared it with the staff. One of the managers and I had a nice chat while we snacked on sambaza. I can never remember his name because I think of him as “Yes Please Bye Bye,” which is what he says in response to nearly everything I say. From what I can gather, it basically translates to a gentler version of “FU.” He’s a stickler for rules and enjoys enforcing them, but despite his quirks he is pretty endearing and I’ve grown fond of him.
As we were eating the sambaza at 11pm, he said: “this is really nice of you. I’m going to buy you a beer…. next time you come.” And I didn’t have the heart to tell him this was likely the last time we’d see each other. I just smiled and said, ok. And thanks.
Yes, please. Bye bye Kibuye.