After two exciting but also quite exhausting days of Train the Trainer, we felt like we did deserve some free time over the weekend. That “free time” meant getting up at 4:30am in this particular case did not thrill everybody but hey, there was a clear mission, to visit the newborn baby-rhino in Akagera National Park.
So as joyful and animated as one can be that early in the morning, stocked up with gallons of water, as well as breakfast and lunch-packs (prepared by the wonderful chef Alphons of the Yambi guest-house), 20 of us packed up into 4 Safari-SUVs and began the trip to Akagera.
While some were still catching up on a bit of sleep on the 2 hour drive east, others were able to see the sunrise over the many hills which do Rwnda rightfully give the addition “Land of thousand hills”. Also the way to the national park was a good opportunity for us to gather some impressions of how the people in rural areas were living, as this was our first trip outside of Kigali.
Once in Akagera – after a short stop to pick up our guides from the national park – we got a quick introduction to the national park and some urgently needed cups of coffee… and then the fun began. While we were able to catch some great views of the parks ‘Lac Ihema’ which borders to neighbouring Tanzania, it did take a little while until we spotted the first inhabitants of the park. A couple of curious Dik Dik antelopes was hanging out on the side of the road, patiently posing for our first pictures. Soon to follow were smaller groups of Impala, water bucks and eventually Zebras.
The first highlight was probably a large group of hippos, cooling themselves off in the lake on a quite hot day. Some of us were certainly tempted to go for a dip, but were convinced otherwise by our competent guides 😉 Speaking of competent guides, it should prove that the best animal-spotter was the driver of one of the cars that did not have a personal guide. This driver certainly spotted one of the absolute highlights of the day: an elephant taking a luxurious mud-bath!
We can already foreclose that we were unfortunately not able to see the baby-rhino, and also the lions decided to not make an appearance, limiting the animals that we would see out of the notorious ‘Big 5’ to only three. And for those already wondering, besides the elephant and multiple groups of buffalos, one group was lucky enough to spot a leopard hanging out in a tree. Unfortunately this only lasted for a few seconds, which is also the reason why it had not been decided yet, if Jason’s picture of the leopard will be added to this article. If it is but you cannot see the leopard, let us just re-confirm: it was there!
The sightings were complimented by multiple giraffes, looking even bigger “in person”, families of the funny looking/ running and apparently not very intelligent warthogs (still one of the favorites of our group), large groups of baboons and other monkeys, fish-head eagles, hammer-heads, a lizard close to our lunch spot, crocodiles (well one…) and many more.
So overall, we were able to overcome very quickly the slight disappointment about not finding the rhino or the lions and it was an absolutely amazing experience for the whole team!