Through the window of my cottage, at Akagera Rhino Lodge, I saw the Akagera National Park, Lake Ihema, Kagera River and parts of Kagera region in neighboring Tanzania. That was a sight to behold.
Overlooking the park, this uniquely designed lodge offers memorable eco-tourism experiences. Materials used to set it up, mainly wood and stones, are locally sourced. Wood and stones blend perfectly to match the environment nature enthusiasts crave for.
Akagera National Park was founded in 1934. It was a huge wildlife habitat covering 10% of the entire country. Over the years, population growth and the advent of returning refugees led to constant trespassing and a spike in cases of illegal activities, including poaching. Eventually, the park lost a big chunk of land and a significant percentage of its flora and fauna.
The last two decades have seen successful efforts to turn the situation around. As the government joined forces with partners and members of the surrounding communities, the ensuing ecological and economic revival was impressive. Today, conservation policies are formulated to ensure nature endures human interference and the economic benefits of tourism are extended to the people.
The last time I did a game drive in the park, I pursued the eastern route and drove along Ihema’s stunning shoreline. It was cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon but average temperature was moderate throughout the day. This tour took place during the rainy season but the trail wasn’t as bad as I thought. The park’s management does regular maintenance work to ensure the track is always navigable. However, you need a 4WD vehicle that is in a good condition.
When I walked out of the door and stood on the terrace, I saw much more than the park. For starters, the view of Lake Ihema was stunning. Ihema is one of ten lakes decorating the surface of the park. It is also the biggest lake found entirely in Rwanda. Although Lake Kivu is bigger than Ihema, the former’s Rwandan side is smaller than the latter.
As I marveled at the lake, I had flashbacks of the lunch break I had at the lakeside trail’s picnic area during the game drive mentioned above. While having lunch, I saw a score of hippopotami partially submerged in the water and crocodiles basking in the sun. Munching sandwiches meters away from the nearest crocodile drove chills down my spine.
The greater wetland area is home to over 500 species of birds. The lake is surrounded by large seasonal and perennial swamps. This is the biggest protected wetland in Central Africa. It is an important source of drinking water for animals inhabiting the park and a remarkable waterbird sanctuary.
From my vantage point, I also saw Kagera River. This river is part of the upper headwaters of the Nile. It collects water from Akagera and Ruvubu rivers before flowing into Lake Victoria. Along the way, it forms the boundary line between Rwanda and Tanzania. Its upper curve forms the Tanzania - Uganda boundary line. I will share fascinating mysteries of this magical geographical feature in one of my upcoming posts. Stay tuned.
The author is currently on a tour of all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Kayonza District is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours, Akagera Rhino Lodge, Imigongo Art Center, Jambo Beach, Silent Hill Hotel and Ihema View Campsite