Friday January 22
The alarm clock went off early again this morning. We departed our hotel at 6 AM with a packed breakfast. We were headed to Akagera National Park. As we were eating our fruit, eggs and potatoes we turned off of the paved road and onto dirt. A trail of dust followed us to the manned gates of Akagera National Park. I was reminded of something like Jurassic Park. (Was the fence keeping people out or something in? How strong are the sides and roof of our Toyota?) Akagera National Park runs along much of the shared eastern border with Tanzania.
At reception we paid the $35 entry fee per person and $40 for our guide, Emanuel. We all piled in the Land Cruiser and headed to explore the park. Over the course of the day we saw zebras, crocodiles, hippos, cape buffalo, antelope, impala, several types of deer, elephants, a giraffe, wart hogs, velvet monkeys, baboons, and several types of deer. It was a lot of driving on rough roads. An electric fence runs the length of the western border of the park (The Rwandan side). Our guide explains this keeps the animals in the park and the farmers out. They used to have problems with the farmers killing some animals that were attacking their livestock or eating their crops. Since the fence has been put up the number of incidents has fallen greatly. The eastern border of the park is the Akagera river and the animals are free to cross into Tanzania as they please.
Emanuel, our guide, was born in Uganda to pastoralists (raising livestock). He came back to Rwanda with the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) during the genocide. He has a safari type outfit on with tall black boots with his pants tucked inside of them. He had a baseball cap on. He seemed to enjoy his job and was very informative.
There are over 500 species of birds in the park with about 300 being permanent and the balance migratory. The topi is the fastest antelope in Africa. The park has about 130 elephants and 75 giraffes. There are a few, newly introduced lions but the grass was tall so we had a slim to none chance to see them. (Update: In May 2017 rhinos were reintroduced to the park)
We ate lunch at a rustic campsite on a hill at one of the highest points in the park. We had a type of sausage, bread, pringles and candy. The small area was heavily fenced so when campers stay there they are undisturbed by inquisitive animals. The views of the lakes and hills were gorgeous.
We saw all kinds of animals. My favorite was a giraffe. We also saw elephants right at the end of our tour. We also learned that hippos are dangerous and not to be trifled with so we gave them plenty of space.
We stayed at a hotel inside of the park. It was fairly modern. They had a pool and a small 3 legged monkey named Jess or something like that. She stole some peanuts from us and got a sip of some of our beer. She wasn’t shy and would sit in your lap but usually moved on when she realized you were not going to offer food.
We ate our most expensive and fanciest dinner that night. There was a company retreat at the premises so it was a buffet dinner. The staff unfolded the napkins and put them in our laps which was a strange experience to say the least. Then we took them off and got up to get our food from the buffet. A band was hired for the company event. The New Beats Band was from Kigali and played reggae and other similar music. I headed back to the room and did some writing in my journal. I had the best night of sleep of the trip.