If you follow me or Jambojet on social media, you already know that Jambojet launched its inaugural direct flights to Goma in The Democratic Republic of Congo from Nairobi,Kenya, on the 10th of September 2021 in a colourful ceremony held at the Goma International Aeroport and later at Goma Serena Hotel in the DRC.
Why the route
The Goma Nairobi route was an idea whose time had come. Initially getting to Nairobi from Goma and vice-versa was an uphill task considering one had to visit a third country say, Rwanda if you are flying Rwandair or Ethiopia if you were flying Ethiopian Airlines. In addition, to catch the flights one had to fly either to Kinshasa or to Kigali first to connect. Not only were these detours unnecessary and time-consuming, but they were also so costly and most travellers found it cumbersome.
Requirement for Kenyans to Enter the DRC
- As a Kenyan traveling to the DRC, you can not travel with a temporary passport, because DRC is not in the East Africa Community. So you need a passport valid for 6 months beyond the intended date of arrival to DR Congo. The passport should have at least two blank pages for visa stamping.
- A valid negative PCR COVID-19 test result. The test needs to be taken at least 72 hours or less before the time of travel. Remember the same applies when you are traveling back to Nairobi from DRC you need a valid negative PCR test before you enter the country.
- A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate.
- Visa is given on arrival to the DRC especially if you are only staying for up to 7 days.
- There is a USD 55 that is paid on arrival as airport entry fee and another USD 55 as airport exit fee.
- Fare from Nairobi to Goma start from USD 397 return with Jambojet.
Goma is the capital of North Kivu, a province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, and just is 12 km south of the active Nyiragongo Volcano. Goma borrows from the rich tropical qualities that are synonymous with DRC. Healthy tropical indigenous jungles, vast lakes, and great mountains. The town has seen difficult times between volcanic eruptions and rebel wars. However, it has since been retaken by government forces, international peacekeepers. It keeps its characteristic resilience in the beauty it has to offer and keeps rising stronger.
Its proximity to the Great Lake Kivu and the Virunga Mountains make it indispensable in the tourism of Congo, However that is not all that Goma has to offer.
The flight to Goma from Nairobi was approximately 1 hour 45 minutes and there was a good 25 or so minutes that were spent crossing over Lake Victoria. We arrived late morning, and after a warm welcome by government officials, a brief ceremony was held at the Goma International Aeroport before we were picked by Goma Serena Hotel, who was our host for the rest of our stay in Goma.
Transfer from Airport to Goma Serena Hotel
As we left the airport, I couldn’t help but notice how similar, Goma was to some of the towns in Western Kenya. The only difference was the fact that we use hand carts (Mkokoteni) while they used Tchukudus, and that they had a lot more motorbikes, their girls and women almost exclusively wore kitenges compared to us since we wear more westernized or contemporary outfits. They have very little matatus but on the contrary, have a lot more Boda Bodas which for us is a balanced mix of the two, they also sell fuel in plastic bottles on the roadside, they keep right and their roads are narrower.
Checking in and staying at Goma Serena Hotel
Goma Serena Hotel has mastered the art of positioning itself as a regional business hotel and in equal measure a leisure hotel based on the amenities and services it offers. Check-in was well organized and swift apart from a little language barrier here and there. The hotel staff was warm and professional.
All rooms had an unobstructed view of Lake Kivu and the beautiful rolling hills of Goma province and beyond from afar.
Each of them had a bathtub, separate from the bathroom, a separate washroom, and a dressing area with a wall-to-wall mirror. The shiny surfaces were sparkling, the glassy parts reflected back and the mirrors did not have a single fingerprint or water stains on them. All the bath and shower essentials were arranged on the granite countertop surface with the precision of a surgeon.
The hardwood beds were humongous and took centre stage of the already gigantic room. The colour coordination of the walls, the wall hanging, the carpet, and the curtains appealed to eyes. Each room had a workstation, and a small lounge area in case a client is hosting. A sliding door opens up to a world of natural beauty and a carefully planned and well-maintained exterior of the hotel. The picturesque gardens and pearl blue swimming pool was impossible to miss.
In addition to the already highly maintained rooms, the hotel boasted of several conference halls, a high roof ballroom, a soundproof nightclub, steam and sauna, a spacious fully equipped gym, indoor restaurants and a poolside restaurant, which was almost always fully packed during my stay.
A random google search for top things to do in Goma, the obvious will pop up; Virunga National Park, Mount Nyiragongo Goma Province Tour and probably check out Lake Kivu. Luckily, when I visited Goma, I discovered that one can do so much more!
To add to the initial list I wrote about top things to do in Goma, here is an update
Enjoy Goma Serena’s buffet breakfast
Breakfast at Goma Serena Hotel always slapped! I mean, the freshly squeezed juices, the sauces, the pastries, the mixed delicacies from a typical English breakfast to a widespread of Congolese dishes the hot beverages, the cold yoghurts and the sizzling yummies always gave a major kickstart of the day while enjoying the magnificent view of Lake Kivu.
Goma City tour
Sometimes, the easiest way to understand a place and its people is to go for a city tour with a local guide. In our case, we were lucky enough to be shown around by Mr Daniel Haanamali who is a professional guide and he knows his history and his city sufficiently well. We started from the hotel and headed straight to the CBD where a statue of a man pushing a Tchukudu carrying luggage stood majestically at the heart of the city.
Tchukudus are non-motorized two-wheeled wooden bicycles that are pushed forward by one leg as the other rests on it. Every day, hundreds of Tchukudus are used by locals to transport food and other luggage across the city. They are a big contributor to the Goma economy and that is why they erected a statue in its honour. So technically you have not been to Goma until you stop and take a photo at the statue.
We also visited Mount Goma which was formed years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption, a catholic church that was reconstructed after almost being covered up to the roof by molten lava from a previous eruption of Mt.Nyiragongo. We were also told that in 2002, Mt.Nyiragongo, which is one of the worlds most active volcanoes, erupted and destroyed about 40% of the city.
Other places of interest that we passed by included, the people’s court, the University of Goma and the major streets of the city.
Visit Mount Nyiragongo
As I mentioned earlier, Mt.Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. As recent as the 21st of May 2021, a catastrophic eruption took place that saw thirty-two people dead, and about a thousand homes destroyed. Mr Daniel Hanaamali; our guide told us that it is normal practice for the locals to go back to their land after an eruption because they have saying that goes ‘you can’t choose your neighbour’, so they have very little control of the neighbour’s (Mount Nyiragongo) behaviour.
Being at the scene of the eruption was bittersweet for me because I had always wanted to visit the volcano at night and see the molten lava(it is a popular touristy thing to do), but then, the catastrophic effect of the eruption that left some dead and hundreds homeless was a sad reality. Currently, the park and the mountain has been cordoned off by authorities until further notice.
The lava went all the way almost to Gisenyi(in Rwanda). At present, the lava is all solidified and cracked into smaller stones and rocks over the expansive land.
Lunch at Le Chalet
Le Chalet is a cosy and rustic restaurant located at 220 Avenue de la Paix, North Kivu in Goma.
Le Chalet offers a mix of a fine-dining space, with a garden restaurant, a lakeside restaurant and also has a bar. The menu is à la carte. The food is fantastic and the prices are fair.
The service was a bit slow, maybe because of the big number of guests that had booked but once the food came, it was worth the wait.
I recommend pork ribs and fries, or creamed prawns and rice from their menu.
Visit the countryside of the Masisi Mountains and enjoy the enchanting views from Malaika Lodge
Approximately 70km from Goma town is a beautiful countryside of Masisi characterized by mountains, streams, fresh air, beautiful horses that graze and trot as they wag their tails to some imaginary melodies, and a nice smooth whistling countryside breeze that gently massages your face and reminds you of small things like deep breathes that city life can make you forget.
At the top of one of the mountains lies the lovely perfectly manicured Malaika lodge. It is a perfect spot for friends and families to go and spend time together. I love the lobby and the garden gazebos with the nice wooden pergolas. nothing screams good vibes and relaxation that the countryside Malaika Lodge.
Enjoy a sundowner cocktail by Serena Goma at the shores of Lake Kivu in Kitembo Village
When our host Serena Goma Hotel , said we were going for a boat ride to Kitembo Village, I did not think they meant a huge luxury passenger boat, cruising across Lake Kivu, to set up a beautiful cocktail sundowner at the shores of Lake Kivu.
Fully equipped with cocktail tables, barbeque grill, drinks, bites and music, it is safe to say that this might be one of the best sundowner experiences I have had in the recent past.
The snacks were filling, the drinks were bottomless, service was par excellence and the mood was right.
The ride back was not without entertainment as happiness was written on everyone’s faces. Lake Kivu was such a delight.
Shop for Kitenges in Goma town
You can not go to Congo and not shop for Kitenges… I was lucky enough to have a local take me straight to a shop that sells legit Kitenge fabric. The prints, patterns, colours and variety got me so confused that they had to help me settle for something. I wanted anything and everything in that shop! They are also amazingly affordable than in Kenya. I was also told, that most Kitenge shops sell nice Kitenges and the difference lies in the quality. Higher-end Vliscos and Holland types, cost much more than the other qualities.
Apart from a not so pleasant experience at the Goma International Airport; Long waiting time, no scanning machines so you have to physically open your suitcases for inspection, no public address system, and frequent power and internet loss, every other experience in Goma is worth the experience and if you are the adventurous type, I know you will love and enjoy Goma.
The live band that played at Goma Serena Hotel got all the Rhumba lovers from their rooms to the poolside restaurant. We even thought Fally Ipupa himself was performing live! It was that good. Also, do not forget to sample their local beers, ask, for Primus, Skol, and Class.
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