by Rishi Madnani ’19
This morning, we met to have breakfast at 6:30 AM and left the Friends Peace Garden in Kigali for Akagera National Park at 7:00 AM. We are spending two days (one night), Saturday and Sunday, in Akagera to do wildlife safaris in which we can see lots of different animals such as zebras, giraffes, lions, hippopotamuses, elephants, and more. The ride there was around two and a half hours- two hours on flat road and a half hour on the “African massage” road. Once we arrived, everybody was in shock. The game lodge where we are staying is incredibly luxurious, especially compared to our previous accommodations on this trip. The lodge has a pool, a restaurant, wifi, large and comfortable rooms, and incredible facilities. We got there at around 10:15 AM, and had around an hour of free time before our behind-the-scenes tour of the park at 11:30 AM. In this time, students marveled at the lodge and some even took a swim. In the tour, we learned all about the operation of the park, including the animals, finances, management, and more. Immediately after, we had lunch in the lodge’s restaurant. The options for lunch were multiple variations of personal pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers. Again, this was a huge change, because we have been mostly eating traditional Rwandan food for most of our meals. The food was great, and the view that the restaurant overlooked was even better. Then, at 2:30 PM, seven members of our group embarked on a boat safari tour in the lake here in the park. The other ten members embarked on a short game drive (in a jeep) through the park. Tomorrow morning, the seven will do the short game drive, while the other ten will do the boat tour. I was part of the short game drive today, which lasted three and a half hours. The top of the jeep opened, allowing us to stand and look out of the top for the whole drive, which was very fun. We saw many animals, including zebras, baboons, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and multiple species of birds. It was ridiculous to see them so up close in person- for once, it felt like we were in the “Africa” that everyone imagines. The hills and plains in the savannah seemed to be endless, and the sunset was beautiful. We got back at 6 PM and had dinner at 7 PM in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was in the form of a buffet, and the food was delicious. It had internationally-recognized foods and even had a dessert section. None of us have had real cake in over two weeks, and I think I can speak for everybody when I say it was a divine experience. Curfew is at 10:30 PM tonight, rather than 11, because we have to get up at 6:30 AM tomorrow for more game drives and boat rides. The Akagera game lodge is proving to be a fantastic way to wrap up our time in Rwanda.