Sunday, August 16, 2009

Akagera Park, Rwanda

With a colleague and his son, we travelled to Akagera Park yesterday. It was a 2-hr drive from Kigali, border to Tanzania on the east.

We stayed at Akagera Game Lodge, the only hotel situated inside the national park. The official website of this Lodge (last update was in 2008) gave a complete false data of room rates. It was stated USD60 and 80 for a single and double room respectively, instead we were shown the revised rates were USD110 and 150. Ok, fine… we didn’t mind. We checked-in the room, not larger than 3x5m, acceptable clean, but my toilet was partially flooded and a small spider was lying in my bathtub. The only complimentary item – soap, smelled like detergent.

The tourists were countable. The facilities were poorly maintained, the moss-coloured milky opaque pool water was obviously not changed for weeks. Baboons wandered inside the hotel compound, mainly around the restaurant, attracted by the scent of the foods.

We paid the park entrance fees, USD40 for 2 days (or USD30 for 1 day). The park ranger, Charles guided us to the game drive. He said lion has been extinct in this park after 1994 due to unregulated hunting by the farmers to protect their cattle. Unlawful poaching was still happening occasionally. The park was not immense, game (wild animals) was not plentiful. We could get close to the giraffes, impalas within 10m range, but the highly alert zebras, wild hogs and waterbucks fled instantly when our vehicle was approaching.

Hippos and crocs could be seen around the lake and islands. Unfortunately the weather was a little cold, we were told these beasts wouldn’t come ashore for sunbathing, boat trip (USD20 per person) was thus canceled. We saw a few hippos immersing themselves in the lake with their tiny eyes emerging an inch from the water, a few were staring at me when I was standing close to the lake taking photograph.

We drove in the valley this morning and saw a herd of approx. 70 buffaloes drinking at a muddy pond, but a stupid car got too close to them and scared them off back to the bush. Idiot driver!

Elephants could still be seen in this park, but they used to wander far away and hard to be spotted. By chance we saw one… one big pile of fresh elephant shit, but no trace of him.

I never thought of making a safari trip in this mountainous landlocked country. With no high expectation, I enjoyed the trip quite well. Of course the size, variety, organization, quality and value-for-money were no way to compare with my previous Kenya visit.

In general, without the gorillas in the mist, the tourism in Rwanda would be much neglected.

(photos will follow soon)