Week 41- Rwanda and the Serengeti

The last post I left off in Kisoro where we went to see the famous mountain gorillas. This week would be characterized by learning about the atrocities that happened in Rwanda and game drives in the Serengeti. The morning we left Kisoro, I woke up early with Kylie and Cole and we went for a run. It was fun because many of the local kids were heading to school and so they began run with us. They were adorable! We also saw a giant bush rat dead on the side of the road which was disgusting. It was so big!

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Lizards in a lantern at Red Rocks

That day we had a short drive to Ruhengheri in Rwanda. The border crossing from Uganda into Rwanda was the worst one of the trip. It took forever and there was no order. We were there first, but all of the locals kept trying to cut in line in front of us. They were really rude about it and it was annoying. Additionally, the teller kept leaving and there was no one to stamp our passports. TIA man. (TIA = this is Africa, watch Blood Diamond)

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Sunset at Red Rocks

Our campsite in Ruhengheri was one of my favorites. It was called Red Rocks. The grass was really nice and they had a volleyball court. Also, they had amazing wifi! It was nice to get to a campsite really early and have time to just chill. I took advantage of the internet and was able to get out a couple of blog posts. Also, we got an awesome game of volleyball. We played many games and we played if you messed up you were out until someone else messed up. That night, there was also an amazing sunset over the mountains.

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Driving through Rwanda was beautiful!

The following day, we woke up and drove to the capital city of Kigali. Here we would go to the Genocide Museum. It was really hard to digest the atrocities that happened here in such a short span of time. Also, its terrible that the UN knew what was happening here and decided to do nothing to help. The general summary of what happened is that they have two ethnic groups in the country, the Hutus and the Tutsis. Historically the Tutsis had more money and under colonial rule they were favored over the Hutus, who were majority population in the country.

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The city of Kigali, Rwanda

When the country gained independence, the Tutsis were then prosecuted by the Hutus. The Hutus distributed lots of propaganda against the Tutsis and many had to flee the country in the 20 years leading up to the genocide. On April 7, 1994, this rose the peak. The government trained Hutu militia groups in private and planned a mass genocide of the people. They killed the president in a plane crash and then all hell broke loose. Hutus killed their neighbors, friends, and even family members who were Tutsis. Teachers killed their tutsi students. Hutus also feared if they helped Tutsis they would be killed as well so they joined in. For four months this type of organized killing was carried out largely with things like machetes, fire, and rocks. It was horrible! What surprised me was how the country has bounced back. They held courts in the townships where Hutus could confess their crimes. The country is the cleanest I have seen yet in Africa and I was pleasantly surprised by their progress. 

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Dancers performing at a local mall

After the genocide museum, we drove to this weird camp at a community center where there was a pool and a bar. It was my night for cook group and we cooked macaroni and cheese, ratatouille, and rice crispy treats. It was really good! The following morning we would lose Corinne, Helen, Meegan, and Nicole who had only joined us for the gorilla portion of our tour.

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Mac’ n’ cheese for dinner!

The following morning we had a border crossing into Tanzania, which was much more civilized that our previous border crossing. Yet, they took ages to get our passports back to us and for us to get money at the exchange. It was a long drive day and when we arrived in Nykhanazi. When we arrived there was a massive amount of people standing outside of our accommodation. Derek told us to stay in the truck and it was awkward because they were staring at us and we were staring at them. Evidently what happened was that they had a party that had gone over by two hours and since we now arrived they were making everyone leave. 

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Bird taking flight off of a table

At this accommodation, it was so nice because for the first time I had my own room! It wasn’t a great room, but it was nice to be by myself for a bit. We threw around the frisbee for awhile, ate dinner, and I went to bed early to enjoy my own space.

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Weaver birds in the tree

That night and the following were just stop off points on our way to the Serengeti. Again we had a drive day and stopped in Mwanza. Along the way we had to take a ferry across Lake Victoria and it was very beautiful! They had all these rocks piled up on the shore line and the water was so blue. Also, we had our first chips mayai which is famous in Tanzania. It is french fries that are fried with egg. Its ok, but its a bit greasy.

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The beautiful landscape at our ferry crossing

We arrived the campsite around 5 and it was the most beautiful campsite. It was right on a beach next to Lake Victoria. The sunset and the sunrise were absolutely beautiful over the water. That night we did a nice long workout which felt great and we had a dinner of teriyaki chicken, which was so good!

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Sunset at our campsite in Mwanza

The following day we were off on our final drive day to the Serengeti. We would be arriving in the Grumeti that night. It is an area right outside of the Serengeti, which is basically just an extension of the Serengeti. It was a really long drive day and it took us much longer to get there than we anticipated. Along the way, we also stopped because we found a local bus in the ditch on the side of the road. It had been raining heavily and the bus slipped in the mud off the road. So, we helped out and towed the bus out of the mud.

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Local bus stuck in a ditch

Leading up to the park we saw lots of wildlife including giraffes, mongoose, and big herds of elephants (even two elephants having sex), yet we couldn’t stop because we were running late, which was a shame. We arrived at the bush camp and set up our tents. Since it was a bush camp, there were guards there with bow and arrows that would take us to the bathroom. The reasoning behind this was that if any animals attacked us, then they would protect us. I’m not exactly sure how a bow and arrow would save us from a charging elephant or lion, but this was the system…

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Sunrise over the Grumeti

That night we had an amazing dinner of small plates of various things and then all sat around playing games and telling riddles. We played going fishing and this frustrating game called the hat hat game that I couldn’t figure out for ages.

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Morning trek in the Grumeti

The following morning we went on a game walk through the bush to see what we could find. The walk was a little disappointing because our guides weren’t very good and didn’t give us much information, but it was really nice to get out and stretch our legs. We saw a herd of zebra, wildebeest, and topi from a distance. These animals stick together because zebras have really good eyesight, wildebeest have good hearing, and topi are really smart, so they can all look out for each other. We were also able to eat a cactus fruit which was really good!

Ready for the Serengeti!

When we returned to camp, we showered and packed up and then headed out for an afternoon game drive through the Serengeti. The Serengeti is an amazing place! Its basically an extension of the Masai Mara, but the park names are different because they are in different countries. The thing that struck me most about the Serengeti was the beautiful scenery. We went on a beautiful sunny day and the clouds were perfect. Everywhere I looked I had a stunning landscape photo and add a rainbow to the mix and it was the perfect recipe.

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The Serengeti was beautiful!

Ready for some wildlife!

We quickly stumbled upon wildlife as soon as we entered the park. As we were driving I was so proud that I made my first great animal spot from the back of the truck. I looked out and saw cats in a tree. At first I thought it was leopard, which we hadn’t seen yet, but it was four juvenile lions in a tree. Not quite leopards, but still amazing to see! It is rare to see a lion in a tree and we saw four! we watched them climb down out of the tree and it was really cute.

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Juvenile lions in the trees!

During the drive, we saw lots of evidence of what they call the Great Migration. This is when herds of wildebeest and zebra move between the parks based on the season. Predators, like lion and hyena, also follow the herds. We saw huge herds! There must have been thousands that were all banded together and moving. We sat on the truck and just watched them keep coming and they were as far as the eye could see in both directions. I love watching zebra walk because they bob their heads up and down as they walk. It was fun to see the wildebeest as well because they are constantly making this grunting noise.

Herds of wildebeest and zebra on the Great Migration

We stopped for lunch and at the lunch spot we spotted at least ten rock hyraxes. These are the little groundhog like animals. Fun fact, they are the closest relative to an elephant. These little guys were really bold at the spot and came right up to us. They are so cute!

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Rock hyraxes are so cute!

After lunch, we kept driving and came across a male and female lion lying in the middle of the road. Evidently the theme of the park is that it was mating season. When a lion is mating, he chooses a female and then has sex with her every 20 minutes for a week! So, they were lying there and then we saw them go at it for a little bit. Then, they laid down again and without fail 20 minutes later they were back at it again. Unfortunately, lion sex only lasts about 30 seconds.

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Lions procreating in the road

While we were there, there were other safari vehicles as well and the male lion was not happy with one of the guys in the vehicle. We had been told specifically do not put you hands or cameras outside the car because then the lion can see them. This guy had his lens way outside of the car and the lion growled at him and even mock charged at one point. I was a bit angry that the guy kept doing this and upsetting the lion.

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Lion angry at the man in the car

On the way out we saw three giraffes eating from a tree near a river. Just to watch a giraffe move is always a treat because they are so graceful. We also saw saw a couple of hyena. That night we camped in the Serengeti in another bush camp. Surprisingly, this bush camp had real toilets! We saw a beautiful sunset as we were setting up camp and had hamburgers for dinner.

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Giraffes in the Serengeti
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Sunset over camp

That night we sat around the fire playing a game called mafia, which was really fun! It’s a game that is always good with a lot of people. We changed the name of the game to the Serengeti and all of the characters were animals instead. Then, Chris pulled out his camera and said he could take some amazing night photos of the group. So, we tried a couple of different poses and they turned out awesome! Yet, it was hard because you could move for 30 seconds because of the light exposure. I really wish I had a camera that could do this because the stars have been amazing this trip!

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Amazing nighttime photos – photo credit: Christophe Van der Mensbrugghe
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photo credit: Christophe Van der Mensbrugghe

The following morning we were treated with yet another amazing sunrise! Then, we packed up and hopped back on the truck for a morning game drive back in the Serengeti.

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Sunrise over the Serengeti

The first thing that we came across was 3 cheetahs! There was a mom and two juveniles. The juveniles were playing and chasing each other. It was so amazing just watching the speed of these animals and their grace.

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Juvenile cheetahs, photo credit: Annie McClenaghan

Next, we came back to the same lions from the day before. They really hadn’t moved much. As I said, every 20 minutes for a week! We were treated to another show and it was cool because we were able to get closer this time because there were no other cars.

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A closer shot of our lion couple

After the lion, we found a mother hyena with two small babies. Others think that hyenas are ugly, but I think they are adorable! Especially the babies. One baby was brave and kept coming out of the hole to snuggle with him mom, but the other one was more shy. He kept coming out and then running back in. Then, the mother left them to go off hunting and the babies started crying out for her. It broke my heart!

After we left the hyenas, we saw a huge herd of elephants of females, males, and babies. Then, later on we saw 3 more hyena. There was one lying in the middle of the road and it was fascinating because it was covered in blood. So, obviously it had just made a kill and was resting after eating.

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Herd of elephants
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Hyena covered in blood after a kill

Right outside of the park we encountered one more family of lions. It was an interesting mixture that we saw since it was two male lions, one female, and two babies. This is an odd mixture for a pride, so there must have been more lions nearby that we didn’t see.

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Two male lions right outside of the Serengeti

It was an amazing day in the Serengeti and I would love to return! It was a bit of a shame that we never got to see a leopard, but I still have my fingers crossed I will see one in Africa! See below for some more pictures!

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Lonely elephant in the Serengeti
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Baboon with baby
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Lilac breasted roller- beautiful birds!

 

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