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Chutes and Spiral Staircases: Lwiro Waterfalls & Natural Science Center

October 8, 2012

About an hour’s drive from Bukavu, past the airport and skirting Kahuzi-Biega National Park, is the small town of Lwiro. I might have even called it a village, with it’s dirt road and mud-straw houses… except that it has more (potential) tourist attractions than any one village could have.

Jamie and I spent two weekends in a row in lovely Lwiro recently.

First, we paid a visit to Lwiro’s very own “Research Center for Natural Sciences”. Built in 1940s, the fact that the research center is still maintained and running is an inspiring example of tenacity in a country where, in the past few decades, the norm leans more toward pillage and decay.

Thanks to recent funding donations and the hard work of the dedicated Lwiro scientists, this giant compound is still home to a diverse array of educational exhibits and natural science laboratories.

We visited first a museum of local cultural artifacts- kitchen tools, hunting tools, musical instruments, and, my favorite part, a showcase of chief hats.

We were told that the hat covered in buttons was indicative of the chief with the most power. Personally though, I think the woven, feathered fedora is much more hip by today’s standards.

Another tour highlight was the “Biodiversity Center”- a taxidermy tribute to the many unique animals that call Congo home, including a giant pangolin, which looked like the love-child of a pinecone and an anteater. From snout to tip of the tail, it was at least 6 feet long.

We also visited the ophiology lab, which sounds innocuous, but was actually full of snakes- both dead and alive. On one side of the lab, the walls were lined with glass jars filled with thousands of dead snakes. On the other side, in glass cages, 2 huge vipers cuddled in a peaceful yin-yang, and a small but agitated cobra, hood taut, struck in the direction of anything that moved.

But forget high fashion, stuffed animals and feisty cobras. For me, the most stunning part of our tour was the library.

The research center maintained a gorgeous wood-paneled, spiral-staircased, double-decker library, complete with a card catalog system, brass chandeliers and a massive fireplace. It reminded me of the library that Belle loved so much in the castle in Beauty and the Beast.

The library is home to an eclectic mix of scientific and historical volumes, not all of which were particularly politically correct by today’s standards, including “My Pygmy and Negro Host” and “My Dark Companions and their Strange Stories”. One jewel of a find was “How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa”, the 1911 publication of a travel book written by Henry Morton Stanley, one of the first European explorers to venture through Congo.

The following weekend found us back in Lwiro, for a hike to “Les Chutes de Lwiro”- the Lwiro waterfalls. The hike wasn’t too long, but it took us through fields and forests, ending at two big beautiful waterfalls. The mist from the crashing water made the whole area lush and muddy, and the water was surprisingly freezing cold when we dipped our feet in.

On the way back to Bukavu, we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant on the lake called “Le Ciel”. It’s supposed to have the best chicken in town, but it was the giant brochettes that actually stole the show.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Melodee permalink
    October 8, 2012 3:34 am

    So glad to hear from you guys! Those skewers look amazing, I might even be tempted 😉 Love you both!

  2. December 19, 2012 4:02 am

    Nice pictures at Lwiro!
    Visit the site of the new university to be running october 2013:

  3. July 3, 2013 4:08 pm

    Great,that it is bad in action! All the “chercheurs” who worked there would be proud.
    My parents,brother,sister and I use to live there from 1952 to 1059.
    Going to school in Bukavu coming back on weekends and of course all the vacations.
    Going to the movie at the guest-house,swimming at the pool.
    Going to Tsibati,to the water fall,looking for the gorillas…..we did it all !
    And we have lots of photos from those fantastic years.

    • Katie R permalink*
      July 3, 2013 5:28 pm

      Hi Jessica,

      Thanks so much for your comment and I’m so glad you found this post. I would absolutely LOVE to see some of your photos of Bukavu and its surroundings from the 50’s!!!! I came across a great blog called Kinshasa Then and Now ( that has, you guessed it, photos and history of Kinshasa. But I have always wanted to see more of what Bukavu was like compared to now. Do you have any photos you might be able to send me? (I could even try to do some then and now shots if I can find the same buildings!). If so let me know and I’ll get in touch via email.

      Thanks and take care,


  4. July 3, 2013 11:05 pm

    visit the renewed website of the new university:

    • July 4, 2013 12:20 am

      Hi Katie,
      The best site to see pictures of Bukavu from the past is;
      from one of my friends, Pierre Gallez, and if you have not seen his blog yet,you will be
      surprise,it is very complete, a lot of the people, whom like us use to live there,are constantly sending him photos.
      We have mainly family photographs.
      Thank you for your email.
      p.s. previously in my email….. “back in action”… not…. “bad in action” sorry !

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