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To Speke about Lake Victoria and the Nile. Feb-March 2024.


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Posted (edited)

Sorry for the delay in the afternoon drive but I have been deliberating over how much to reveal and comment on. As you will see I got to indulge in my passion for 'playing with ellies' and whilst it is enjoyable I would be horrified if anyone thought it is the norm on safari and got it wrong. These wonderful creatures are intelligent and in the right circumstances can repay many hours of patient watching BUT they can, and are, sometimes lethal when folks are so intent on getting 'that photo' that they ignore common sense.  So here goes.

The afternoon ,actually still morning at 11.30, drive went well and our drive along the lake shore produced one of the best 'ellie moment' of the trip and maybe 'trips'.

We were passing along a decent track that was lined with thick bush either side when we saw a large bull elephant plodding calmly along towards us with a vehicle  slowly matching its pace some yards behind.


All looked good to us so Emmy moved over and parked on the right so as not to block the animals way. (This is always safer as it reduces any chance of confrontation.)


On he came very relaxed so we watched and waited expecting him to just pass by on the other side of the road as the bush was too thick for him to enter and anyway he probably preferred some nice smooth gravel.



Then as he got closer he showed his curiosity and changed course straight for the car.


Well he has right of way and there was no sign of aggression. You can see the other car holding back which was the correct thing to do to avoid pushing him onwards and perhaps sparking a bad reaction.

You can see that I am seated in the front so getting nice head to head views albeit through the windscreen.



Having satisfied himself that we were  harmless he then started to return to his original side of the road and drew closer.


The he must have had second thoughts and decided we were perhaps worthy of investigation.

And he closed in for a good look and sniff or two. No belly rumbles or growls, no sound other than the poof of his huge feet on the track. Our engine was off of course  and all of us know to keep silent as nothing will spook an elephant more than human voices.


Ah. It's fine. Just some folks in a car taking photos.

Might as well proceed on my way.



And he did. The dust blowing is just displacement activity and his way of showing he was relaxed.


All praise due to the other car who behaved as he should in these circumstances as well as our thanks for getting some great photos of this wonderful  encounter.

Emmy had his camera on video throughout and I hope to link to it here later.


After that I think we better show a bird.


Malachite Kingfisher having a bad hair day.


But our close encounters of the pachyderm kind were not over for that afternoon.


The Park Authorities are restocking and have introduced 30 White Rhino and some Black Rhino over the last few years and they are naturally a target species for visitors. Due to dense cover the chances of seeing them are not good so imagine our surprise when we spotted two out in the open grassland.

We followed our normal habit and parked up where we felt that they would perhaps approach us closely. And waited.

Soon identified as mother and half grown calf of the wide lipped 'White' Rhino species. The calf was obviously born here in Rwanda after translocating in 2018 which is signs of the programme's success.


Slowly they made their way towards us so we got some decent photographs which I can show here without further commentary as they speak for themselves.


After that we set off back to our Lodge in high spirits and very pleased with what Akagera could offer.


Edited by Galana
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Very nice you saw Rhino - I missed them but that was in the very early stafes of their reintrocution. Very nice Elephant encounter. I remember back then they were very much on edge and it was better not to approach and retreat if possible. That seems to have changed, good to see that.

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What great elephant and rhino sightings!

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10 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

That seems to have changed, good to see that.

Thanks. The mature Bulls are fine. They are so big they just cannot be bothered to get upset. Females are the ones to watch out for especially  is there are little ones around.

We saw some shocking behaviour by other people on this trip. Stupid and dangerous.

Coming soon.

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The comments above regarding behaviour around elephants is sadly only too true.

Next morning dawned wet so our departure was delayed. Coincidently it also led to us witnessing how stupid and dangerous some people can behave around elephants. If this persists it is only a matter of time until someone gets badly hurt or worse and then of course a poor elephant will be shot out of revenge.

Take a look at what went on in wet conditions when of all times one might need good traction to avoid problems. It is not as if the elephants failed to show their concern, read their body language but these idiots just pressed in to get that all important photo. I will comment on some of this.


We met this old boy and stopped well short. Note the vehicle coming towards us and doing the same.



He was keeping position to help the herd get safely over the road. The other car acts correctly. You do NOT get too close to herds with females and especially with young ones at foot.



All safely over and he moves out of the way. No ear waggling, no threats. We can pass safely when HE says so! so we do.


Note how far back both vehicles had been. (Don't note how much clutter our dash bears.)


 The family move on their way at THEIR pace.


Further on we stop for others heading to join up.


But for the idiot who suddenly comes up behind us this is not what he wants. So he drives passed even though this then means we are blocking his escape route should things turn nasty.


Are they daft or what? (We are not as close as the zoom lens would make it seem)



White car gets a warning growl and the left leg shows she is thinking.



Now it is a stand off and the lady is NOT for turning. Note no other ellies on the left now.This is Whitecar man's final warning. We are still well clear but have moved over to the right in order to give the idiot an escape route.


All goes well and the herd move off peacefully.


Just as well as the big Bull has come back to see if he is needed.



He might have to intervene with yet another idiot who passes us intent on getting his clients a photo or die in the attempt. The track goes left here hence the change of angle. These ellies had crossed before this truck arrived too late.


Thankfully with these idiots now dashing off to find somewhere else for their undoubted talents, and missing much including a very wet and unhappy leopard which dashed off too quick for our cameras, the morning improved. The track to where we had seen the Rhino was virtually unpassable following the rain, although that did not prevent those tourons from trying and getting stuck so we proceeded to the dam and spent some time checking out various water fowl.

Too wet for ducks is an English saying and it seems as though this holds good in Rwanda too. Quite a few had gathered on the track along the dam and repaid our stopping to watch.



 White-faced Whistling-Ducks with the appropriately named Yellow-billed Duck.


Red-billed Teal.

Meanwhile a Spur-winged Goose drops by to spruce up.


Aaagh. Noting like a good stretch.


Later on the morning brightened and we had a few good sightings to add to our list.


African Moustached Warbler. A very welcome clear view.



The Ranger's chopper taking photographs. Probably of rhino that we cannot see.



Violet-backed (or Plum-coloured) Starling)



Blue Pansy.



 Sooty Chat.



African Golden-breasted Bunting.


No afternoon drive as the rain came back.

But there is always tomorrow.

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Posted (edited)

I posted this before I learned of the recent tragedy in Kafue. I don't think I need to change anything other than to comment that elephants can be lethal and should be treated with great respect at all times and by everyone.


Edited by Galana
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Posted (edited)

For our last night’s dinner at Mantis the kind and caring staff had arranged a table in  a private room for us to get well away  from those noisy ***** American guests who were acting up as usual and yelling with their mouths full.

We still managed a decent sleep and the dawn was a little brighter with a fine sunrise over the lake and some morning mist that could herald more settled conditions.


As we set off we met more buffalo on the move from their nightly foraging and heading down to the plains below. They are often up around the Lodge in the night so it pays to be wary if searching the grounds for Bush Baby or Chameleon after dinner.



Little sign of the elephants today although the signs of their passing littered the tracks.



Citrus Swallowtail


And Narrow blue banded Swallowtail.

This is a very useful source of salts and nutrients for the butterflies and birds. They are round to go around is one way of putting it.



1-DSCN4961.JPG.d95193182825be90db74bf038e0e267c.JPGDown on the plain there were lots of small game and quite a few more buffalo at a wallow but viewing was not that easy due to uneven ground and tall grass. Everywhere in this park is so green and lush and quite a contrast with the dry dusty savannahs further east. Not hard to see where the mighty Nile gets its regular supply of water from. The Akagera is now regarded as the main channel from the source of the Nile adding a further 600km to its length. (See post one.) And in doing so forms a natural and well defined border between Rwanda and Tanzania and Uganda.



After studying and scanning for wildlife I chanced to ask Emmy to change the orientation of the car to provide a glass free view of a distant area of bush where some zebra were acting oddly.

Good call.

1-DSCN4967.JPG.f79a92cff3c8262d7fbc9a49af24e7d1.JPGA suspicious bump in a low Acacia repaid scrutiny as it was a large male leopard draped casually as leopards do along a branch. Not an ideal view. Heat haze and too far off almost for my zoom lens but a leopard IS a leopard for all that. A bit shadowy but some tweaking of stops brought out some colour.



Eventually after upsetting the Zebra even more he dropped down into the grass and we lost him.


Where did he go??

Nothing much around so we headed back the scenic route and paid our daily respects to the Nightjar who was barely inches from where last seen.


On the way home we met some friendly piggies and a female Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike.



 We knocked of work early for the day as we had to relocate to our new lodge for our final two nights.

More of that later.

Edited by Galana
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Glad those idiots missed the leopard.  They are lucky that's all that happened.

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Posted (edited)

I think our final two nights/days can all be done here as there are only few photos left and I don’t like all words and no pictures.

So as stated we have now changed lodges to a smaller intimate place that is more our style of place. Ruzizi Tented camp right down on the shore of the lake that we could see from Mantis.

The booking was made direct with them and went well. Unlike Mantis they even have reduced rates for EAC citizens which is good news. The lodge is built around the main Restaurant and Bar area with the Tents on Stilts and reached along wooden walkways that are lit at night.

1-DSCN5123.JPG.a66fb0d456005952dbbf33ab9e1e3dde.JPGBar area.


Wooden walkways.


1-DSCN5054.JPG.13241579a51a2e9a228820d1fee40c6b.JPGThere is a small sitting out platform with varying views depending on situation and the roomy ‘Meru’ style tents contain bed and the usual facilities en suite. Everything worked. Electricity is by Solar power as is hot water.



Birdlife is abundant and there are monkeys around so the tent needs to be secure and nothing left outside on the platform. Crocs and hippos in the lake.



1-DSCN5058.JPG.1c1795690ccde0e070131ca68d53f12a.JPGI was lucky enough to see an African Finfoot swim by whilst seated in the comfortable chairs. Armchair Finfoots were not a first for me as the species also has been seen by me at Jacana Lodge in Uganda whilst sitting in the bar.


The first evening they had set up dinner on the platform. Very atmospheric but I have to say it was not a great success for me as we had no head torches and I do like to see what is on my plate. Soup I can eat in the dark, plate- spoon- mouth but a piece of fillet wrapped in Bacon and tied with heaven knows what, was a waste of the Chef’s undoubted talents. Shame really. We had our last dinner in the Restaurant.



Our drives were quiet and low key but we did see a few birds such as these.


As we left the lovely staff all turned out to wish us a safe journey and fond farewell.


Our flight from Kigali was not until evening so we had ample time for another Game drive before having to leave the  park.

Sadly the drive was marred by more Tourons behaving badly and spoiling what could have been another enjoyable Ellie ‘moment’.  Not going to rant again but take a look at this as it unfolded.1-DSCN5127.JPG.44e5df93eaa8986164e990839092807f.JPG


We encountered a road block.


So kept  a polite and safe distance as we could see calves and were offered only Bum shots until the herd bunched up due to an unseen obstruction ahead.



We heeded the polite request to stop.




Something is definitely not to their liking.



Ellies were coming back and spreading out both sides of the track.


1-DSCN5143.JPG.4f37194c82b9fe71ba57fdc71d5d2074.JPG Then we saw the problem.  Cars were coming up the other way and forcing the animals off the track into long grass.


We held back to let the cars through so that the ellies could relax again and guess what? One idiot turned around in front of us with a bigger idiot hanging out of the window. Hanging would be the least of his problems.

There are other cars coming up the hill and he has nowhere to go as we are now blocking his escape.


Happily the elephants had more sense than them and after a warning shake of her head 'Aunty' turned off and went back to her job as child minder. It could have ended badly but I wonder if the driver even learned from the experience.





We said our last goodbye to the loyal Nightjar who gave us a slow knowing wink as we stopped by her perch.



It was now time to head out of the park and drive 160km to Kigali for our flights home.



Traffic is awful and the security measure at the airport very impressive with the car passed through something like a Car Wash whilst we all went through the X rays. Flight was on time so after a last beer with Emmy we entered the terminal and checked in OK. Got fed in the middle of the night somewhere over Africa and landed in London in the rain. The party split up and I continued on to IOM and the welcoming arms of Lady G.

Another trip successfully completed although not without the drama at the start. Insurance claim submitted and a satisfactory outcome.



Overall? Mixed feelings. Mostly good but sadly Rwanda still does not come close to Tanzania or Uganda although much better than a few years ago. I particularly liked the NP Fee structure in shading longer term visits. (Buy three days and get seven IF you sleep within the NP makes a lot of sense. Kenya please Note.)

The airline, Rwandair, was a real pleasure from booking to dealing with helpful staff when losing the connection. Who knows? I might make it back again.



Stats. Overall we drove around 3,000 km, not counting game drives etc,


 All very good for the money paid. Costs varied markedly of course from area to area. At a guess I would say we averaged about US$100 per bed night. Beer prices varied considerably. From US$3 to $6 which was in no way linked to the liquid volume of the bottle. Local Gin was the same price although some places denied having stocks and offered imported UK brands until pressed harder to serve what we knew they had.

Birds seen.

I run lists for each country so the checklist for Rwanda shows a total of 111, and for Tanzania 254. As Rwanda only has a couple of endemics I guess the inevitable duplication gave an overall total of no more than 260.  Mammals were good with White Rhino and the two bat species and Ashy Colobus an excellent highlight.

I need to go back to explore Birugi-chato and other new parks in that area more closely.

I said it was going to be wordy.

Now it's time to think about the Hebrides with just over 5 weeks to go.


Edited by Galana
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Thank you for a really interesting report. Informative and enjoyable.

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Thanks for sharing @Galana a very enjoyable read.  I have to say very disappointing to read about the actions around the ellies at the end, but I am definitely going to use "tourons" in the future! 

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Hi again!


What are your insights about Burigi? It seems wildlife is in low numbers as compared to Akagera.



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Tourons!  Quote of the Trip.  Glad there were so many wonderful moments and sightings to overshadow the deeds of the tourons.

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10 hours ago, jeremie said:

It seems wildlife is in low numbers as compared to Akagera.

We barely got into this NP as our plans were disrupted by the cancelled flight. However author Phillip Briggs was there last year and wrote well of it. It is certainly a very beautiful area scenically with plans for a tented camp and chalets well advanced. There are two other new NPs further north towards Ugandan border that I have my eye on also. Ex hunting preserves so wildlife is shy but will settle down if visitors increase. (just hope they behave better than in Rwanda :lol:)


@AtravelynnI can only claim half of creating word. @xelasand I coined it a few years back when describing bad behaviour.I think you can work out the etymology.  :o Feel free to adopt it where appropriate.


Overall the trip was very worthwhile.

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1 hour ago, Galana said:

I can only claim half of creating word.


In South Africa many restaurants have handled the issue of gender specific descriptions by replacing waiter & waitress and calling them all 'waitrons'.

I hate it. It makes them sound like robots.

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@SoukousThen don't use it. I don't. Kelner or Kelnerin should do.

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9 hours ago, Galana said:

@SoukousThen don't use it. I don't. Kelner or Kelnerin should do.


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pedro maia

Nice trip and report Fred, and great ellies sightings in Rwanda, pity for those dangerous behaviours, we saw something like that in Kruger, in one occasion things could have ended very badly for the people in a car who didn’t gave space to a breading herd crossing the road. An€ I think that in the end the6 didn’t eve; realise the6 were putting themselves in danger.

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9 hours ago, pedro maia said:

he6 didn’t eve; realise the6 were putting themselves in danger.

This is the problem. They find the flaw in Darwin's theory.

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pedro maia
6 minutes ago, Galana said:

This is the problem. They find the flaw in Darwin's theory.


People get prizes for such actions https://darwinawards.com/.

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Another epic trip and trip report! As Emmy is in high demand, I should start planning something with him for 2025. Any ideas, Fred?!

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Dave Williams

Very interesting report Fred and an enjoyable read. I'm afraid I don't share your love of seeing Elephants, they make me very nervous and I prefer them at a fair distance and in open ground. It's scary driving through the bush when you know there is a herd grazing and they can appear out of nowhere. I certainly don't want to hang around if one is heading my direction!

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Posted (edited)
On 4/17/2024 at 10:53 AM, xelas said:

I should start planning something with him for 2025. Any ideas, Fred?!

Hard to say. He is quite busy but will usually oblige you. Why not ask him for suggestions? You have not been far in Uganda. Murchison and Kideopo perhaps would make a nice trip.


4 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

I'm afraid I don't share your love of seeing Elephants, they make me very nervous and I prefer them at a fair distance

This is how it should be if you are uncomfortable (as opposed to bloody stupid as were those Tourons.)  I would never take any of  my companions out of their comfort zone or mock them. Ellies can be quite frightening, it is their best defence, but give them every respect and it can be very rewarding.

Here is an old photo showing the missus being introduced to the other Galana, or is it the other way around?



Pleased you all enjoyed the Report.

Edited by Galana
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Thanks Fred, another really interesting report covering a lot of places unknown to me, and I always enjoy that. Also very good to "return" to Akagera via your report. I think the problem with Elephants is (especially inexperienced) people in general love them and think of them as peaceful creatures and do not realize how dangerous they can be.

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18 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

(especially inexperienced) people in general love them and think of them as peaceful creatures and do not realize how dangerous they can be.

That in itself can be handled BUT those cars were being driven by what pass off as 'qualified and experienced' professional guides when by their behaviour I would not trust them to take my dog for a walk. They should set good examples not bad ones for the inexperienced to copy.

Pleased that you enjoyed Akagera again as well as being led astray to unknown places. There are still some 'blank' spaces on my map of East Africa  that need filling in. ;)

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