“Akagera is among the most scenic of savannah reserves, with its sumptuous forest fringed-lakes, tall mountains and constantly changing vegetation” – Bradt Guides Rwanda by Phillip Briggs and Janice Booth
The most exciting part of a solo adventure is when you do not really know what awaits you. Not so sure many wanted this kind of a surprise but there are few crazy ones who will agree with me. Sometimes we win, finding the best, and sometimes we lose, getting the worst. But it does not really mean you wasted time. Every travel experience is, of course, a different experience. Imagine if they are all alike!
While browsing online what to do next after having explored Kigali, I chanced upon a beautiful lodge in Akagera which I later found out was over a 2-hour drive. Not too bad. Knowing Rwanda’s rolling hills and amazing landscape, I expected the drive to be exciting. It was!
While I enjoyed the freedom of walking around the city, which was my initial travel plan, a personal challenge was finding a place surrounded by nature. I am not so familiar with what Rwanda can offer but that’s the good part – finding them.
As Paulo Coelho puts it well in Aleph, “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage”, having traveled penniless and happy in his younger years. But of course, you still need the money, I can hear you say it.
This was how I discovered Akagera Rhino Lodge, with all of its nine lodges set in a hilltop in the middle of a bush overlooking Lake Ihema. It was an instant fascination! What can be more relaxing than this. Each cottage has a space for one family complete with a ready extra-bed and having it all for myself was almost a luxury.
My first night was quite hilarious. I never felt so alone with the nearby cottages empty. Many of the guests came a day or two after me, so I was conscious that I am the only one privileged enjoying the quiet and serenity of the lodge. I am confident I am safe but my gnawing feeling kept on until I slept soundly.
My first sunrise was unbelievably glorious. This is even an understatement. As soon as I woke up, I tucked away all the curtains and enjoyed the quiet, serene view as the dawn broke and the skies hues turned orange to yellow. I am glad it almost took forever. There I was at the wooden verandah basking on the million-dollar spectacle at around 5:30 am.
The rest of the team in the lodge led by Arlette and Chantal, the very first two friendly faces who welcomed me and made sure I have what I need for a comfortable stay, were awesome. I cannot ask for more accommodating staff. When I requested a cottage closer to the restaurant, they immediately found a way.
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. —Henry David Thoreau
Next stop: What to do in the lodge and what more can Akagera offer?