Akagera, Rwanda

Wilderness Magashi Newsletter – March 2024

Camp news

Nicole Mathesie


Specialist safaris at Magashi

March was a rather quiet month, and some of our guests had the luxury of the whole of Wilderness Magashi and the concession all to themselves. This also meant we could roll out a lot of staff training, community visits and some big birding explorations with our fabulous guides. 

Birding at Magashi

The goal of these birding trips was to see how many different species of birds we could find in a limited amount of time. On the first outing, we ticked a total of 113 different species. Some of those that caused some havoc amongst the birding enthusiasts on that trip were green-headed sunbird, copper sunbird, Nubian woodpecker, and a fantastic up-close-and-personal sighting of a broad-billed roller. 





Of course, in and around Magashi, we always keep our eyes peeled for a particularly unique bird – the elusive shoebill stork. Later that day, when we were in the exact area where we might expect to see shoebills, we had a very long-distance sighting of a massive avian shape, which created something close to hysteria amongst our birding group. With pounding hearts and palpable increase in energy, we headed in the direction of the bird. Every time we got a bit closer and stopped to have another look, we got even more excited, and perhaps because we wished so much for it to be a shoebill, it started to look more and more like this enormous and unusual bird. 


Finally, we were close enough for our cameras to get first confirmation shots. A pause, everyone holding their breath in anticipation… One of the members in the team even ticked it on the list, as he was so certain that we’d got it. Then, a massive cry of disappointment as we realised it wasn’t a shoebill. However, it was a pink-backed pelican! A very special bird to see in itself. 


Other special sightings of the day were long-toed lapwings, a whinchat, a palm-nut vulture, a magnificent sighting of two Ross’s turacos, and finally a hepatic-phase common cuckoo, which fired up heated debates, as this rufous morph is a super rare sight, and we had to contact some of the continent’s birding specialists in order to confirm the sighting.





A couple of days later we set out on a second birding expedition, combined with a visit to the community. The day started off well, with a blue-spotted wood-dove, followed by a black-bellied bustard, thick-billed cuckoo, white-winged black-tit, a Verreaux’s eagle-owl – the largest owl in Africa – Ruaha chat, Tabora cisticola and a western banded snake eagle.  


After a four-hour visit to the community, we made our way back to Magashi, feeling a bit of pressure as we still needed 10 more birds to beat our previous score, and the light was going fast. A fly-by of a pied crow broke the record, and we were all on high alert for the next bird. An unexpected sighting of a coqui francolin sent cheers of joy through the roof, closely followed by a Eurasian hobby, African thrush and lastly, a square-tailed nightjar. We ended that day with 115 identified bird species, of which many were quite rare sightings!





And of course, the non-feathered wildlife was spectacular as always: Most of our guests saw all of the so-called Big Five, and every guest in March saw at least one leopard while at Magashi! And for the first time, the female black rhino and her calf were spotted on the shores of Lake Rwanyakazinga. Usually staying close to their home range at Lake Mihindi, it seemed the rhino mother had taken her son on a long adventurous stroll out into the blue, and the youngster enjoyed it thoroughly.

Assiat and Alphonse on tour: Magashi guides rock Tanzania

A very amazing opportunity for our Magashi guides was provided by Wilderness Rwanda: from March 2024 each of our guides has the unique chance to go to Tanzania, spending a two weeks cross-training at our partner camp in the Serengeti. The first lucky ones to go were Alphonse and Assiat. From the moment they arrived, time flew for our two guides: meeting new people, experiencing a totally different environment, seeing new species, and taking it all in. At the end of March, they returned with a bag full of unforgettable, happy memories, great insights on how the safari business works in our neighbouring country, and lots of priceless new bush knowledge.  




CITW Rwanda students receive their 2024 Eco- and YES Club t-shirts

In line with our Wilderness Impact strategy, this month, Aline Umutoni and Jean Damascene Nkuriragenda visited the seven schools that we partner with on Educate projects. 


We are very proud of the proactive CITW clubs in the schools, and wanted to celebrate this with the students by supporting them with Club T-shirts. The schools now close for a short holiday, starting the third and last term of the school year half-way through April.


The students at Bisate Primary and Secondary schools, Rushubi School close to Sabyinyo, Akayange Primary and Rwabiharamba Secondary schools close to Akagera National Park, and Gisunzu Primary and Kinihira Secondary schools situated in the Gishwati Forest area, were all so happy to receive their t-shirts, and to see Aline and Jean Damascene.





In total, 244 CITW Eco-Club students attend weekly environmental lessons at their primary schools, and 308 students attend weekly YES Club environmental sessions at the secondary schools.


Including the teachers involved, we distributed 650 t-shirts – bright yellow for the students, and black for the Eco-Mentors and teachers.


Wishing all the students and teachers a very happy holiday, and we are looking forward to following their progress during the upcoming last term of the school year 2023-24!

A beautiful experience in as many words. The people, the animals, the entertainment were perfection. 
R, California, USA

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