Bukavu was established in the early 1900’s by Belgian colonisers who built a lakeside town called Costermansville. In the 1950’s the population numbered around 35,000 people.
The city was built on five peninsulas that reach out into Lake Kivu and are backed by high mountains rising to 2000 metres that provide a panorama of beautiful and contrasting landscapes.
The setting today is as attractive as it was in the 1950’s, but the population is now over 1.2 million people with most living in poor housing covering the surrounding hills and everyone making do with an inadequate water and electricity supply.
Just a few kilometres from the city is the border with Rwanda at Rusizi near Cyangugu. Bukavu’s strategic location at the north end of the Rusizi valley on the border with Rwanda is one reason why the city suffered during the Congolese wars between 1996 and 2004 when rapes and massacres took place here.
Bukavu is now relatively peaceful and a pleasant place to live. The people are friendly and resourceful and mainly survive by means of small businesses found along the major roads. Daily life in areas like Essence is particularly hard.
Here is a video introduction: https://vimeo.com/124916191
In the city itself public taxis are available and most travel the long stretch of Avenue Lumumba, offering a shared ride for 500 Congolese Francs. It is possible to negotiate a direct fare to most parts of the city for $5 or less. There are several places to go out and dance to Congolese rumba tunes and enjoy a drink and something to eat.