15 September 2018

Rwanda: Akagera Park Teems With Birds and Wildlife

"The population of lions in the park is rising faster than we expected," said Joseph Karama, Akagera Park's community liaison manager.

"The park can hold up to 30,000 lions. We could reach these numbers sooner than expected."

The current lion population is just over 20, up from the seven that were reintroduced in 2015.

Wildlife is thriving in Rwanda's Akagera National Park, located in Eastern Province. From birdlife, to herbivores and carnivores, animals abound.

It is said that there are more than 500 bird species in Akagera. Our guide Peninah said she has spotted 320 in her 14 years of working at the park.

On an evening boat ride in Lake Ihema last week, the African fish eagle and the African darter were plentiful. Hippos in the lake warned us not to approach by baring their teeth.

On a game drive the following day, the frisky impala were out and about, the waterbuck curious about the vehicle passing through their territory.

Driving down Mutumba Hill, one of the highest points in the park, we spotted a vulture.

"This means there's a lion close by," Peninah announced. We looked around -- nothing.

We stopped for lunch at the hippo picnic site. Quietly munching our sandwiches, watching the hippos snort loudly and contemplating when the rain clouds hovering across the border in Tanzania would reach us, we heard a loud trumpeting from behind a bush to the right.

An elephant was close by. Not waiting for it to appear, I quickly made my way back to the car. But Peninah and the others in the group stayed outside, seemingly unfazed. I inquired if there really was an elephant close by.

"Yes," Peninah replied. "We're just waiting to see if it will come out of the bush." I stood by warily, and was relieved that it chose to remain hidden.

Reports of lion sightings, close to where we had seen the vulture, sent us back the way we had come.

Lying across the road was a male, about two and a half years old. He seemed unimpressed by our interrupting his afternoon nap.

He got up and went to lie in the grass with his sister and brother. We watched each other for about 10 minutes, until, bored, the lions sauntered away.

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