Akagera Game Lodge: The Favoured Spot

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Akagera Game Lodge

Mid the month of february, almost the whole Government of Rwanda was holed up in a lodge in the far off bushes of Kayonza district set in the Eastern Province, attending the third annual government retreat, a time when the government retreats to re-examine and re-strategise as regards the matters of running a state, in the atmost tranquility only the wild can provide.

This game lodge set off in the southern part of the Akagera game park, two hours drive away from the capital Kigali has grown to prominence ever since its re-opening and now it attracts government retreats and throngs of tourist like it had never before but why is that ?

Before the 1994 war ravages that left this hotel stripped bare, it provided accommodation and catering for tourists participating in a safari in the savannah-park and it was also the scene for various national conferences and seminars. This was at the time in the late 80’s when Rwandan tourism was at its peak and Akagera National Park was the most visited of the national parks in the country.

Principle among the attractions of this hotel, was the park that is next to it. The Akagera National Park, Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, and believed to be the remotest source of the river.

Amidst the meandering swamps is home to herds of elephant and buffalo that one might chance on emerging for a drink at the lake, Giraffes and zebras milling in the savannah, and more than a dozen species of antelope which include the chestnut-coated impala, the diminutive oribi, the ungainly tsessebe, the secretive bushbuck as well as the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland all inhabitants of the game park.

That is not all as camping around the lake guarantees a sight to withhold, Grunting and snorting pods of hippos basking in the sun in the park’s eight lakes, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape.

Not to be missed also are the unforgettable high dueting of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Lining the lakes are also some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, which include Storks, Egyptian geese and dazzling white egrets poking through the shore waters for food while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork perhaps the most eagerly sought after of all African birds.

Given all the above exquisite beauty, it was imperative that the hotel be renovated and as it were, a group of Rwandan businessmen bought the Hotel Akagera, renamed it Akagera Game Lodge and approached South African-based GDB Hospitality and Leisure Management Services Ltd. to run it.

Between last July and December 2003, the new management got rid of the unwelcome guests-the baboons and black-faced vervet monkeys, who stubbornly refused to vacate the 60 rooms, bar, stairway and wherever else they had made themselves at home-and spent $2 million replacing the roofing, reinstalling electrical and other fittings that had been looted and hanging banana leaf collages in the rooms in time for the grand opening of the lodge on December 19.

Now as it stands, Akagera Game lodge is more of a hotel than a traditional safari lodge, it has fantastic views, with a pool perched on the edge of the savanna, with 60 en-suite rooms the hotel offering adorable views over lake Ihema.

The wild excavations aside, the hotel offers to its clients digital satelite television, restaurant-bar and banquet hall, a large circular swimming pool and a small swimming pool for children, plus tennis facilities.

The hotels also has electric power generators in case of power outages, and water reservoirs so the guests rest in the utmost comfort of guaranteed water and power in the deepest of an African savannah bush.

Whats more, the hotel also gives back to society. The majority of workers originate from the nearby villages and most of the short-term employment opportunities are availed to the villagers around. More to that the hotel also gives away its old furniture to needy people in the neighborhood alongside the various ways in which the hotel interacts and helps out the neigbhouring villages.

With such a gem in the midst of the savannah, touring and travel agents have not hesitated to include it on top of the-must-see-sights in the country and it has thus been included on the varing itineraries there are to offer. This way the tourist and other guest get to see baboons in the vicinity or the premises of the hotel, totally non-chalant of human activity. After all the hotel is in their territory and they have been the un official guests at the venue for as long as the hotel has existed.

However it is sadly noted that the authorities after the war, had to hive off about two-thirds of the park’s 1,000 square miles to resettle the returnees from Congo, Tanzania and Uganda who now graze their cattle near — and often inside — the unfenced park and the park is also faced with further encroachments on the park given Rwanda’s population set to increase.

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