Rwandan Wildlife: Akagera (Part 1)

Rachel shares about the team’s trip to Akagera National Park:

Sunday morning we awoke to the sunshine lighting up our rooms in a fiery golden atmosphere. Nearing seven o’clock am, we all scrambled out of bed and down to breakfast, where we would eat and then have team devotions at nine.

Our buffet consisted of the usual breakfast with cereal, eggs, fruits, soup, bacon, beans, potatoes, cauliflower, and other varieties. Our team listened to the 8 am CLA church service from the outdoor patio of the hotel, the loud worship music drifting up to us from the valley below.

Rwanda is full of churches that are always ready to sing and declare their praise to God, no matter how loud. It is a good thing, and it’s cool to hear the worship drifting through the valleys of Rwanda.

After breakfast we walked inside to our meeting room and had devotions with each other. It was a bit quick as we soon had to depart for Akagera National Park, but we took the time with that sense of community together in Jesus to talk and meditate on him and the purposes of our team.

Moments later our awesome bus driver Placide pulled up with the Coaster Bus, and we loaded our bags into the back. It would be a three hour drive to Akagera National Park and we all got comfortable in our seats.

Some slept while others talked, we considered making a music video to “The Lion sleeps tonight” but unfortunately we didn’t get around to it.

The last hour of the drive was on a dusty red bumpy road, taking us out into a rural area of Rwanda where we could see many cows grazing and children fetching water from nearby wells.

At length we pulled into Akagera, which is a large protected game park surrounded by an electrical fence to keep animals in. Lions, and rhinos had been reintroduced to Akagera, making the park a big 5. We hoped to see elephants and giraffes and maybe even lions, though the chances were rare because there were only a few who hung out in the Northern part. We had entered the Southern gate.

We drove the 10 minutes to reception where we checked in and then drove the 5 minutes to Akagera Lodge. This lodge is beautiful, overlooking two larger lakes and on the other side of the biggest one, Tanzania.

We ate a late 1:30 pm lunch of optional pasta, beef, or chicken, along with salad and soups. Then we found our rooms.

One wing overlooked a dry forested area where a large group of young and old baboons liked to hang out, sitting in the shade with the babies playing in the trees. They were fun to watch for a bit, but some of their behaviours are less than ideal…

About half an hour later we were driving back out to reception to pick up our guide Mariam, for our first safari. She took us down to one of the smaller lakes, and along the way we saw many giraffes, zebras, topi, and gazelle. We even spotted a mongoose and many beautiful birds.

After that Miriam took us to a place where a herd of elephants had been spotted not long ago. Holding our breath with anticipation we kept our eyes peeled until the elephants were spotted.

They were about thirty or forty feet away, pushing at trees and lumbering amongst themselves. There were a few tiny ones that you could barely see above the long grass, as well as some larger bulls and guard elephants.

We drove as close as possible and then turned off the bus, watching the animals in fascination. They curiously watched us, moving closer and making sure we weren’t going to bother them.

Our group watched the elephants for about half an hour before we had to begin the drive back to the lodge for dinner. The drive back was quiet, as everyone was in awe of what we had just encountered.

We dipped out feet in the pool and watched the baboons play as we waited for dinner to be ready. When it was, we all walked up to the lodge and ate. Fish, beef and salads were the main courses, with a pumpkin pie with red vanilla sauce for dessert.

Later on that night we tucked ourselves in with our mosquito nets, listening to the baboons running around on the roofs and creating a ruckus.

We eagerly awaited the sunrise of the next morning.