When deep night fell, the fishermen paddled out and we watched the horizon slowly fill with little orange lights, kerosene lamps swinging from the bows of their boats. It soon looked like a whole city out there, or like a constellation of stars that had fallen lightly on the surface of the water. It was a pretty lie the fishermen were telling the fish. The fish liked to feed on nights with a full moon; the light of the lanterns drew them from the depths.

That’s Jeffrey Gettleman’s description of night fishing on Lake Kivu from his memoir, Love, Africa. I like it.*

The above marvel is also described in this literary masterpiece:

During my third month on the job, on a cloudless, moonless evening with delicate astral illumination, I discovered night fishing. I left the residence to walk down to the office, and saw that the lake was speckled with faintly glowing dots. Abdoulaye explained that the army had lifted the curfew and permitted fishermen once again to go out at night. The lights were from their canoes. I can’t remember if he said they were from actual fires built in the vessels, or from lanterns, but the resulting effect was dramatic: the blackness of the lake was an inverted sky filled with stars. Viewed from the hillside, it was as if the heavens lay above and below.

Smitten with this discovery, I spent the next few evenings seeking the best vantage for the spectacle. I found an excellent location not far from our house, on the dirt road that zigzagged down the hill to the main road by the lake. In order to get the optimal view, I tried sitting on the hood, and then on the roof, but the slope of the hill made for a precarious perch. Finally I settled on the driver’s seat. Now and then I would try to pick up a shortwave broadcast, but mostly I’d just sit in silence, sip my beer, and contemplate the parallel galaxies.

It really is the most beautiful sight. Apparently now you can go out with the fishermen as a tourist, although it sounds far preferable to regard from a hill.


*The description, that is. The book, yes and no. In obedience to this site’s strict No Book Reviews policy, I’ll only say that Love, Africa oddly reminds me of A Bit of a Blur by Alex James.

(Photo credit: MONUSCO / Myriam Asmani)