When my parents were here in January, we spent the whole day out with our tour guide Emmanuel in Akagera National Park. We started the day with high hopes of setting our eyes on the giraffes we didn’t see on our last trip and the lions that were re-introduced into the park.
We immediately got off to a great start. As soon as we arrived at reception, our guide jumped in the jeep and rushed us toward the entrance of the park. He had left a family of elephants by the entrance the night before and hoped they were still there. As we pulled up, we saw other cars stopped. We came up on a group of elephants. We couldn’t believe how close we were to them, only about 50 feet or so away from us. With such ease, they just tore down tree after tree leaving a path of destruction behind them. It was so incredible to be able to watch them as they moved about and ate in the early morning.
Up close with a group of elephants – what a way to start our game drive
With the lead of other guides on the radio and cars we passed by, we headed off for another area to find other park inhabitants. Along the way, we saw giraffes for the first time. One lead us down the road and stopped every once in a while to offer us a pose for the camera.
We even saw a hippo out of water, an uncommon sight as their skin is sensitive to sunlight. We learned that impalas travel in packs which only have one male; the “loser” males, as our guide referred to them, were the ones who lost their chance to be the male of the group. Instead, they roamed the park together as losers.
For the first time, we saw warthogs, or “pumbaa” from The Lion King. Throughout the day we saw a number of them and couldn’t help but sing Hakuna Matata to ourselves.
Group of pumbaas out and about in Akagera National Park
This time we traveled up to the northern of the park which offered a different landscape and more opportunities to see water buffalo, giraffes, zebras, topis, kudus, impalas, oribi, antelopes, and much much more.
Our guide Emmanuel’s enthusiasm was infectious for my husband. What started as a spark of excitement for birds on our sunset cruise, transformed into a new love of knowing the types and even starting to recognize them on his own. With at least 525 species of birds, Akagera is a paradise for bird watchers.
After all that we saw and the great day we had exploring the park, it really was the perfect start to my family’s visit and a memorable time with my parents as they experience their first safari.
View from our lunch break stop
My mom loved these thistles