The Kivu Serena Hotel is situated on the lake shore in Gisenye.
Lake Kivu Serena Hotel: Our full report
The Lake Kivu Serena Hotel sits on the shore of Lake Kivu just on the outskirts of Gisenyi, on the western edge of Rwanda. It’s a large, international style hotel with a range of facilities and activities on offer.
The 66 rooms all share broadly all the same features: neutral décor, air-conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities and safes in the room, 24 hour power, DSTV and WiFi access. The rooms also have a private balcony which has views of either the lake or the garden. 6 of these rooms are slightly larger ‘suites’ with a small lounge area with sofa, minibar and flat-screen TV, larger bathroom with a double shower. The rooms are as you would expect from any Serena property – finished to a god standard, but lacking somewhat in the character or individuality which you might find at a smaller or independent property.
The rooms are all set in a diagonal line facing over the communal areas below towards the lake. All have some degree of lake view, although some are better than others. The hotel bar looks out over the same view from the ground floor. Whilst the open breezy room has lovely views, it does lack a little in atmosphere.
The facilities at the Lake Kivu Serena are excellent. There’s a large swimming pool as well as a smaller baby pool on the beach edge, with plenty of sun-loungers and umbrellas dotted around. A long beach runs in front of the hotel where some loungers and umbrellas have been set out. There are some tennis courts which guests can use, as well as a watersports centre with catamaran, jet skis and more. A spa provides Elemis treatments, with prices starting from $US65 for a 90 minute massage.
There is a little shop selling trinkets and souvenirs from Kenya, Rwanda and the Congo, as well as useful items such as toothpaste and sun cream.
One thing that guests should bear in mind, is that as the Lake Kivu Serena is quite popular with ex-pats visiting from Kigali and over the border in the Congo, the atmosphere does become quite a bit livelier at the weekend. On our last visit in September 2011 we found that on Thursday night the hotel was very quiet and there were very few people around, but on Friday night there was a lot more going on, with a big buffet dinner, and live music.
The staff at the hotel were certainly friendly, however, unfortunately, like most places in Rwanda, the service was very haphazard and often very slow.
Our viewThe Lake Kivu Serena is the most comfortable option along the shores of the lake. What it lacks in character and individuality, it makes up for in facilities. For a few days relaxation before or after gorilla trekking – this is a lovely option.
Ideal length of stay: Stay here for up to 3 nights to relax and enjoy the lake views.
Directions: Gisenyi is about a 2-3 hour drive from the Volcanoes or about 3 hours from Kigali.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: Breakfast at the Lake Kivu Serena is served between 06:30 and 10:00 and compromises of a varied buffet selection of cereals, fruit, meat and cheeses, as well as various hot cooked items. Tea, coffee and juice is also available.
Lunch and Dinner are usually a la carte, but if they have big groups in (for example if there is a conference) they will often do a buffet.
Pizza is available at the bar throughout the whole day.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: No drinks are an extra cost.
Further dining info: Room service is available 24 hours a day. On our last visit in Sept 2011 dinner cost around $26 per person (or $30 if you wanted to have a special beach dinner).
Attitude towards children: The hotel welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: The hotel can offer a babysitting service, however this will just be a member of the housekeeping staff. They can also provide children’s meals.
Equipment: They have cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: The Lake Kivu Serena has a good sized pool, including a special children one. They also have good lawns for kids to run around and let off steam in.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is free WiFi in all the rooms. There is also a business centre guests can use if they don’t have their own computer.
TV & radio: There are TVs in each of the rooms and also in the bar.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first aid kit on site and also a resident nurse. There is a hospital in Gisenyi.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are guards patrolling 24 hours a day. There is also CCTV in operation.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each room, and fire hoses around the lodge which the staff are trained to use.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is possible for an extra cost.
Money: There are safes in each of the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: The hotel accepts Visa, Mastercard and Amex with a 2.5% surcharge. They also accept most major currencies (including US$, €, Rand and £). They do not accept travellers cheques.