27 Jul

Akagera National Park’s rolling hills, vast plains and swamp-fringed lakes form a remarkable attraction for safari enthusiasts. From carnivores to herbivores, primates to birds, this wildlife habitat has a lot to offer.

Game drive is the most popular activity in the park. However, there is much more in store. Hot air balloon flights are ideal for adrenaline junkies. In addition, spending a night in an electric-fenced campsite, surrounded by wild animals, is otherworldly.

Having a barbecue on the shore of Lake Shakani, birding at Magashi Peninsula and sampling coffee at Mihindi Café are stories for another day. Today, allow me to write something about thrilling boat rides in a crocodile-infested Lake Ihema. Before we get to the boating part, let’s revisit the past and put history into perspective.

While camping at Ihema View Campsite, I was informed by my hosts that Lake Ihema derived its name from a tent. This campsite is set up on Nyagakonji Hill, overlooking the lake.

Upon arrival in 1876, Henry Stanley reportedly pitched his tent on the shore of Lake Ihema. His tent became a monumental landmark along the shoreline. Eventually, the lake was named Ihema, a Kinyarwanda word that means tent. This was Stanley’s second expedition in Africa. The objective of his tour was to map out major lakes and rivers of East and Central Africa. His journey was part of the grand exploration project designed to circumnavigate lakes Victoria and Tanganyika in a bid to trace the source of the Nile.

Speaking of exploration, boating around Lake Ihema enables tourists to see both aquatic and land animals while enjoying the thrill of sailing. This activity is also an opportunity to take a closer look at Nyirabiyoro Island. Named after an 18th Century fortune-teller, this stunning island boasts rich biodiversity. Legend has it that Nyirabiyoro ended up on the island, in the 1740s, after being banished by King Kigeli III Ndabarasa. His dismissal was a result of an unpleasant prophecy.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t squeeze a boat ride into my adventure-filled day. All I did was wave at the riders on their way back to the dock. As I did so, I felt their contagious excitement.