Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Akagera National Park

This past week was spent camping in Akagera National Park, a reserve located on the Rwandan savanna. We were there to study mainly baboons and vervet monkeys, but the park had a lot more to offer. In addition, we saw cape buffalo, warthogs, hippos, zebras, impala, topi, giraffes, and the infamous Mutware.

Mutware is a 42 year old bull elephant, who lost his tusks and has been ostracized from the other herds of elephants, so he roams the savanna day to day bothering as many people as he can. He has been known to demolish cars and push them into the lake, and on quite a few occasions he thwarted our attempts to observe baboons at the fishing village (he scares them all away). Another pest of Akagera were the wonderful tsetse flies. Having no air conditioning on our bus, we have to keep the windows open. Unfortunately, tsetse flies like to follow large fast moving objects, and we all suffered quite a few painful bites (they literally dive bomb you). However, it was pretty fun keeping kill counts of how many flies you successfully judo chopped (they often still lived after swatting them two or three times, one even came back to life after being smashed on the bottom of a shoe).

Camping was dirty and a little uncomfortable, but worth it. Our campsite overlooked one of the huge lakes that create the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, and the sun rose over the lake every morning. We had an amazing cook, Moses, who made the best oatmeal and french fries that I have ever tasted. We learned that fuzzy caterpillars are not nearly as cute as they look (they shoot spiky needles when scared that get everywhere), and that baboon and human children are not all that different. We're in Kigali for the night, but tomorrow we head out into the jungle to Nyungwe National Park!

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