After a day of the horrors of the genocide, the truths of which the memorials (especially at Nyamata) laid shockingly bare, we borrowed Patrick’s truck and headed out to the east of the country, to Akagera National Park. A couple of hours of driving on pristine tarmac roads (as in, nicer than the roads in Edinburgh), we got to the junction at Kabarondo and headed onto the dirt track that would take us the last 30-odd kilometres to the pack HQ.
We got to the HQ, in the usual glorious sunshine of central African mid-afternoon, and agreed what we wanted to do. We signed up for a night drive that evening, and then a self-driven but guided safari up from the South of Akagera (where we were) up to the Northern exit for the next day. Both of those, with park entry fees, came to maybe $110 each.
The hotel/accommodation options in the park are a bit limited – there are one or two camping options, otherwise it’s fairly fancy hotel-type things. We ended up in the Ruzizi Tented Lodge – some tented cabins set out along the lake, but reasonably distances apart from each other, and then with a main building with bar/restaurant/etc there. On the upside, a pretty reasonable dinner and breakfast was included in the not all that ridiculous price for the night.
We settled in, got our stuff sorted out, and sat around with a quick beer, and then quite quickly it was time to head off on the night safari. Despite the weather being absolutely perfect the whole time we were in Rwanda, it wasn’t ‘tourist season’ so we ended up having an eight seat safari land rover with driver and guide for just the two of us. When we headed off it was just starting to get towards dusk.
The night drive meandered around the southern end of Akagera, which is mostly quite dense tree-and-bush vegetation coming up from the lake on the eastern border. As we drove along the tracks and as the sun drifted into night, we saw a solid variety of animals – although not too many of the big ones – especially warthogs, roe buck and other antelope-types, cape buffalo and even a pair of elephants (which are apparently very elusive, so we did well there!), although by the point the light was a bit of a struggle!
The night drive came to an end and we were dropped back at the lodge where we had a quick dinner and headed for bed for the night, before an early start on our main day drive up through the full park on the Thursday.
Our day long game drive up through Akagera started out on the same tracks we’d been on the night before, up along Lake Ihema and through the thick lakeside bush, but it was a completely different trip – the visibility (understandably) and the diversity of wildlife is quite different in the day. This time the clear highlight were the hippos grazing and loitering along the edge of the lake. With clear warnings not to get anywhere near them, we got out of the truck a few times just to watch and get some photos of them!
As we moved up the park towards the savannah region, we came back through a number of herds of cape buffalo, a variety of bucks, antelope and other gazelle-types and eventually came out to a number of giraffes, just loitering around. One of the absolute highlights was watching two juveniles play fighting with each other, swinging their heads and necks around!
Finally the trail and park opened out into a broad, flat grassy plain with all sorts occupying different sections. This bit was absolutely chock full of zebras, who kindly stayed just alongside the driving track for us to get some great close-up pictures!
We finally reached the northern gate of Akagera National Park and headed out. First we headed back down a dirt track back to Kibarondo to drop our guide off, and then back along the pleasant roads to Kigali. It’s been my first safari (outside of those slightly odd safari parks in the UK), and while I wonder if I’ll ever make it back to Rwanda, I certainly hope it won’t be my last in Africa!