We decide to take a day trip to Akagera National Park, this is along the eastern border of Rwanda with Tanzania and it is an approximately 1200km2 park with savannah grasslands. It follows the course of the Akagera river which arises from a spring and has been identified as the source of the Nile.
We have a very knowledgeable guide, James who has gone through the ranks of ranger and anti-poaching guard in the park, to a guide hired by the park and now 14 years on a freelance guide. He is full of information about the history of the park, its animals and how after the genocide it had to be carved back to allow for some additional land being released to help with the unrest. The animals had gone through serious poaching including hunting for bush meat by the poor surrounding farmers. It now boasts a very stable and increasing population of wildlife with a family of lions having been recently introduced.
It is a stunning park with a landscape that varies from large lakes, open plains and high ridge mountain tops, so just experiencing a drive through its length gives a real flavour of its biodiversity. It is matched by the weather with mist lying in the low valleys as we leave Kigali for the 14 hour day, to a rainy season downpour midday and a brilliant blue sky with puffy clouds to finish off. We see lots of zebra, giraffe, topi ( a curious large antelope that has longer front legs than back for greater speed), waterbucks, impalas, hippos, warthogs ( Hakuna matata ), water buffalo and crocs.
We see trees that are loud with busy loudly chirping, brightly yellow coloured birds , all males busying themselves making nests in specific trees ( photo above). They are all competing for the female to pick their construction. She will fly inside , inspect if she likes the egg chamber and will either accept the male and it’s house or reject it. A rejected male, destroys the nest and starts again , hoping for better luck next time. It is not uncommon that while a male is out searching for his next perfect grass , his neighbour will steal an attractive blade for his own construction.
The mode of transport is a bicycle, there are even designated “taxis” , the driver of the bicycle wearing a jacket to indicate he is free to offer a ride. No one has lights on their bicycles and the road is a main artery into Kigali. Single lane each way , so when we notice at the last second that there is a man with two doors strapped horizontally to his bicycle jutting into the road it is a narrow miss. We also get a fully black cat run across the road in front of us, André and I instantly applying a well known Polish remedy for the bad luck that brings , by spitting three times over our left shoulder. It works, we arrive at the hotel with no incident:)