Comprehensive Akagera updates

Benjamin Jacob writes:

Akagera Game Lodge:  Just stayed two nights there: good wifi, hot showers, great view of the distant lake (allow 30 minutes to drive there from the lodge or reserve reception centre if you wish to do a boat trip) and swimming pool. Refurbishment ongoing. Despite the registration form clearly stating that the Lodge does not accept Visa, it does. Baboons were kept at bay by a guy with a stick. Negatives: food slightly more expensive than similar-range establishments; breakfast is (strangely) not a buffet and staff insist on bringing each part out separately which takes a long time (there is in general slow service in Rwanda) – so took nearly an hour to complete breakfast, which is not good if you want to get away quickly for game viewing. The Lodge does a packed lunch – order it the night before – however this is exorbitantly priced considering what it includes.

Restocking of the park: The perimeter fence was completed last year. Later in 2014, 8 lions are scheduled to be reintroduced (5 females; 3 males) from Kenya. In 2015 black rhino will be reintroduced so the park will, by 2016 again host the Big Five.

Community Guides: Priced at 25 USD for a day. The ‘compulsory’ nature of getting a guide – booked at the park visitor centre where all park activities (night drives, boat trips etc.) are booked – is somewhat inconsistently enforced (I saw a few cars without guides driving through the park), although if you get a good guide, it is recommended. Although there have been mixed reviews of them, the Community Guide I had – Didier – was exceptionally knowledgeable; he also brought two reference books on birds and mammals with him (in English) to offer additional information.

Boat trip on lake Ihema: This is worth doing to see Fish Eagles, Nile Crocodiles and Hippos. It takes about 25 minutes to get to the lake from the visitor centre or the nearby Akagera Game Lodge.

Notes on Akagera Safari: The ‘Giraffe Area’ is only good for seeing giraffe during the dry season (July-August), outside which they scatter throughout the park. Elephant are present in the southern part of the park, but due to the dense nature of the scrub there it is difficult to see anything in the southern area. Doing a northern loop, along the Lack Shore Road and back along the Murumba Hills offers the best opportunity to see all large mammals which the park has to offer as well as its scenery. On dirt roads and with occasional stops, you need to allow at least 7 hours to complete this circuit (took me 9). For this reason there is very little reason to book a guide for half a day; you will be charged for a whole day if you return the guide to the visitor reception after 2pm.
Short (‘half day’) circuits of the southern half of the park offer some bird watching, possible crocodiles and hippos on the lake; I also saw a couple of mongoose, but it is much easier to find larger concentrations of big mammals further north.

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