The Akargera National Park was one of the highlights of my time in Africa.
We crossed the border of Uganda back into Rwanda and headed to spend the evening at the lodge in the Park. We arrived late. We checked into our rooms and then met upstairs in the restaurant. Someone was meeting with us there. He was a colleague of Edwin's.
We ate dinner and turned in for the night. Prior to leaving the restaurant, Edwin suggested that I get up just prior to dawn to watch the sunrise over the lake the lodge backed up to. He said it was worth the view.
Sunrise was at 6 a.m., so I woke up at 5, showered and got dressed. I really wanted to stay in bed, but talked myself into taking the opportunity to watch the sunrise. I'm happy I did.
As I walked out of my room I spotted a baboon walking away from the lodge. He was walking toward the parking lot and the bush.
I climbed the stairs to the restaurant and walked out the door to stand on the lodge roof. As I walked to the edge, I saw a figure below and to the left. It was still dark so I couldn't tell if it was a live baboon or a statue in the landscaping. I walked closer to that side of the roof when the baboon moved. It was alive, so I watched it for awhile. Soon I heard rustling in the trees adjacent to the roof. I think it was two juvenile baboons climbing the tree. I then saw the male walking along a roof higher than the one I stood on. It was quite a spectacle to see and hear.
When we arrived at the lodge I noticed a sign warning not to get too close to the baboons because they are, after all, wild animals. At the time I wondered why baboons were the only animal mentioned. Now I realized why. They frequently visited the lodge area looking for food, human food. Later Edwin told me a story about his time when he worked at the lodge. His first and second job was in the kitchen at the restaurant. He told me it was common for the baboons to search for human food. It was his and the other kitchen helps job to keep the doors closed so the baboons couldn't get in. Edwin's second job was in the bar as one of the bartenders. He told me a hilarious story about the night he and the other bartender left the bar to go get more liquor. There were no customers in the bar, so they both left figuring if they both went, they could get what was needed and hurry back to the bar. While they were gone, several baboons got in and began drinking all the beer. When the beer was gone, they began drinking some of the hard liquor. Edwin and the other bartender tried to chase the baboons out, but they wound up having to dodge missiles as the baboons threw empty bottles at them. The baboons had no intention of leaving. They were enjoying their libations too much. So the two bartenders called in the park rangers who wound up shooting the baboons with tranquilizers and transporting them back to the bush. Unfortunately, it took the two bartenders the rest of the evening cleaning up the bar. There was lots of broken bottles that needed to be swept up. Edwin told the story with such gusto and description that I could see the whole incident in my head as I laughed hardily.
I did indeed watch the beautiful sun rise that morning. I also became curious about a tree whose top rose above the roof and was in the front area of the lodge. It was full of what appeared to be small basket-type nests. It looked like it was dressed for the holidays. Also in the tree and flying around were yellow birds with black faces. Once the sun had risen and I spied the tree, I walked to the opposite end of the roof and realized I was right about the nests. They were everywhere on the tree as were these yellow birds with black faces.
Edwin finally arrived on the roof and told me the birds were named Weaver Birds. The males weave the baskets to entice a mate. When a female shows interest, she inspects the nest. If she likes it, she climbs inside. On the other hand, if she does not approve of the workmanship, she will knock down the nest and crash it to the ground indicating to the male that, if he intends to pass on his genes, he needs to try harder and be more meticulous about what he constructs. I have been an amateur bird watcher for decades as I have fed the birds for just as long. I have never seen or heard of a similar phenomenon in the U.S. It was quite a spectacle to see.
The breakfast room was also on the roof. We ate breakfast, gathered our bags and checked out. When we arrived at Edwin's SUV we both laughed loudly. The troop of baboons I saw and heard had painted the rear window, top of the vehicle and the front window with red clay dirt. They must have had a great time because it was covered.
We got in and drove to the safari building in order to hire a guide. The guide gave me a short tour of the displays and then we were on our way to drive through the park hoping to see as many of the animals and birds as would make themselves visible to us. We saw several baboons, as we watched a short-lived scuff break out, then calm down. We also saw several varieties of animals that belong to the Bovidae family. This is the same family of which deer belong; and, believe it or not, they 're all related to the goat. There are several species in the Park that belong to this family which includes the beautiful Impala.
What a day this was! We saw so many gorgeous animals and some of the many birds in the park.
Edwin knows how much I love elephants. He was trying his best all day long to come across the elephants. When we visited the area that had lots of hippos, we could see several elephants across the lake. They were far away, so we looked at them through the binoculars the guide brought with her. As we continued our drive, Edwin asked the guide if she knew where to find the elephants. I assured Edwin as I said, "It's okay, Edwin, I'll be back. After all, the elephants aren't here for our pleasure. I'll see them next time. Just as I said that, the guide commanded Edwin to stop the vehicle and back up. She was looking hard for the lions that had recently been introduced to the Park when she thought she spotted an elephant. Sure enough, there in the clearing stood a "massive" male elephant with beautiful ivory tusks. I momentarily got out of the vehicle but said, "I'm not about to walk closer to that guy. He's huge! So I got back in the vehicle and we continued to back up as the male walked to his left and began ripping down a tree, then began to eat all the tree's vegetation. Toward the end, he also began crunching the trunk which was loud! Edwin as was I thrilled we got to see an elephant up close and personal. Our day was complete. We saw most of the animals in the Park. We didn't, however, see the lions or the rhinos. Next time, I'll see them as I will also travel to Tanzania and even Kenya. Carmen, Edwin's friend lives in Kenya. She extended an invitation for me to stay with here the next time.