After our recent drive to the southeast corner of Rwanda, we backtracked and then headed north to Akagera National Park to spend the night.
It was about 4:30 p.m. when we arrived at the park’s welcome center, and I was anxious to get some photos before the light disappeared. Here, near the equator, dark comes between 6:00 and 6:30 all year round. No extra long summer days for us.
I liked the pebble border to the welcome center’s concrete floor, which had been colored red, like the surrounding dirt.
The attractive building, which for some reason I failed to photograph, was stone and stucco and had a thatched roof, like the lodge pictured below.
In a tree just outside the welcome center, there was a weaver bird nest (above) — this one with a very long entrance tunnel, a protection against predators.
The Ruzizi Tented Lodge — which opened inside the park just this year — is on a small strip of largely undisturbed land along the edge of Lake Ihema.
Boardwalks keep visitors off the native plants, not to mention away from the equally native crocodiles and hippos. (An electric fence keeps other large animals out on the inland side of the lodge.)
The camp has seven tented cabins, each with a full bath, one or two real beds (with reading lamps), and an outlet for recharging phones.
Below is our tent’s “front yard,” which was quite close to the water’s edge. That night, we heard, but did not see, hippos near our tent.
Each tent has a solar panel for lights and hot water — shown above.
Even in the dry season, there were some wildflowers catching the last of the day’s light.
In the evening, we had cocktails around a fire on the riverside deck, below.
Breakfast was also served there — while monkeys ate fruit off a big tree above us.
In the shrubby trees just beyond the deck, there were dozens of (empty) weaver birds’ nests.
Located along Rwanda’s eastern border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park presents quite a different landscape from the mountainous forests and farms of western and central Rwanda. (It is one of four large national parks in the country.)
“[I]ts undulating plains support a cover of dense, broad-leafed woodland interspersed with lighter acacia woodland and patches of rolling grassland studded evocatively with stands of the superficially cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra [aka E. ingens] shrub,” according to the Bradt guide to Rwanda.
There are also large wetlands surrounding several lakes and the channels of the Akagera River, which runs along the border between the two countries.
The game-viewing is not up the standards of the great savanna parks in neighboring countries, but every visitor I have talked to recently has seen elephants, hippos, zebra, and giraffes, as well as antelopes and impalas. (Unfortunately, we did not have time to tour the park during our stay.)
Currently, there may or may not be lions and leopards in small numbers, but there are reportedly plans to restock them — and add black rhinos — eventually.
According to the Bradt guide, the birdlife is “phenomenal.” The landscape is particularly scenic, with forests, lakes, swamps, and low mountains. Perhaps best of all, the park is fairly empty of other tourists.
Camping (in real tents) is allowed in various locations. It is also possible to take boat safaris on Lake Ihema.