Akagera National Park Rwanda is found in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania. It is dominated by swamps and small lakes with flow in the wake of River Kagera. The network of water sources and unique landscape together create very spectacular scenery. It is quite a remarkable eco-system. The Park was obviously named after River Kagera that feeds different water bodies including Lake Ihema.
Surrounded by cultivated hills, that are so much a part of Rwanda scenery, the scenery of Akagera national Park is quite simply beautiful. The landscape is low, composed of wide plains dominated by grass, cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub and both thick and thin forests although it does carry on with the general rugged terrain that is so characteristic of Rwanda.
HISTORY AND FACTS
Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation, Akagera national park is the largest protected wetland in Africa. It was named after the Akagera River which flows along its eastern boundary.
The park used to cover over 2,500 sq. km but in 1997; it was reduced in size by close to 50%. A lot of the land was reallocated to refugees returning to Rwanda after the civil strife of the genocide. Before 1997, many refugees returning to Rwanda had settled in the area and the conservation area was harmed by poaching and cultivation.
In 2009, Rwanda Development Board and Africa Parks signed a joint management agreement in which the Akagera management company (AMC) was established to help both bodies manage the park. AMC is therefore responsible for the day to day management of the park.
WILDLIFE IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
When we talk about the wildlife in this national park, the Akagera is the best savanna destination in Rwanda where you can enjoy game viewing during the thrilling game drives and boat rides during which you will get a chance to see a variety of large mammals and a profusion of birds as highlighted below.
ANIMALS IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
The Akagera national park serves as home to a great diversity of wild animals among which are: elephants, lions, buffalos, hyenas, zebras, giraffe and several antelopes like the bushbucks, roan antelope, Topis, klipspringer, Oribis, Cape eland, water-buck, duikers and impalas. There are a number of primates species found within this park such as the olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, and the nocturnal bush babies. The shallow waters of Lake Ihema are home to a large number of crocodiles and hippos which can best be viewed during boat rides.
BIRDS IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
This park is one of the places that is not to be missed by any birder along with the great Nyungwe forest national park. It harbors 520 species of birds which are found in this national park. The birders who visit Akagera National Park are always impressed by the large number and great diversity of the bird species that range from water birds to forest birds, and also savannah species as well as migratory bird species. There are also a number of species that are endemic to the park and are so rare like the papyrus gonolex which is found in the papyrus swamps. There are also the localized red faced barbets, and the swamp fly catcher as well as the elusive shoebill stork all found in Akagera National park. Other species include: fish eagles, Grey-backed Fiscals, Cattle Egret, Black-headed & Viellot’s Black Weavers, Hamerkop, Pied Crow, Sacred & Hadada Ibis, Long-crested Eagle and the Augur Buzzard.
THINGS TO DO | ACTIVE IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK GAME DRIVES
The game drives here are conducted in the early morning or in the late afternoon lead by tour guides in 4WD safari vehicles. unique about this park is that each game drive is exceptional in its own way unveiling full new surprises as nature reveals its treasures in form of wonders that are so scenic, the wildlife like buffaloes, elands, topis, lions, giraffes, buffaloes, monkeys, savannah birds, civets, leopards, the hyenas, as well as the serval cats all for you to marvel at. These guided game drives also mean that you will be accompanied by the guide who is so knowledgeable about the flora and the fauna that is found in the park.
As you are carrying out the game drives, one should remain in the vehicle unless the park guides see that it’s safe for you to get out. For the longer game drives, you are advised to take a snack or a packed lunch and a lot of drinking water.
NOCTURNAL GAME DRIVES
the Nocturnal or night game drives are so thrilling since you adventure out with a spot light to view the wildlife creatures of the night that are found in Akagera National Park. This night game drive through the park is different from that of during the day since at night, there is a big opportunity to view the predators on the prowl as they look for dinner. You will also see a few leopards, lions, civets, serval cats, the hyenas, birds as well as the bush babies with their large eyes. This nocturnal drive is also about 2 hours and will surely give you a different perspective altogether.
BIRDING IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
This park is one of the best places that is not to be missed by any birder on a Rwanda Safari together with the great Nyungwe forest national park. It harbors over 500 species of birds. The birders who visit Akagera National Park are always impressed by the large number and great diversity of the bird species. These can be viewed during the remarkable boat rides on Lake Ihema where you will see various water birds as well as during the game drives in the savanna plains and the network of swamps. The papyrus gonolex, shoebill stork, fish eagles, Grey-backed Fiscals, Cattle Egret, Black-headed & Viellot’s Black Weavers, Hamerkop, Pied Crow, Sacred & Hadada Ibis and the Long-crested Eagle.
SPOT FISHING IN LAKE SHAKANI
Lake Shakani is the only destination in the whole of Rwanda where spot fishing can be done. This would be one of the extra ordinary activities to be carried out along the shores of Lake Shakani, you will hear the snorts of the hippos as well as the singing water birds, plus the sounds of the fish in the water. Fishing in Akagera will give you an added chance of being in an African wild with the wildlife in the distance plus the hippos and the water birds. You might also visit Akagera national park when a fishing tournament is ongoing to give you a chance to meet fellow anglers. The good news about fishing in this national park is that you get to keep what you fish and in case you feel like cooking it, you might start a fire roast it for lunch or dinner.
BOAT SAFARIS ON LAKE IHEMA
Boat safaris are normally the main highlight of any Akagera National Park Safari while on holiday in east Africa and it’s with the boat safari that you will be able to explore Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park. This is the largest lake in the park and it is found in the southern part of Akagera NP, and has got one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa. In addition, it is a sight to behold and there are also many crocodiles that you will find along the shores of the lake. There are also many water birds that can be seen on a boating safari on Lake Ihema such as the shoe bill stork on a lucky day. Several animals like the elephants can find their way to the water to bathe and you will get the opportunity of getting closer to them than you would be in the vehicle on any game drive.
HOW TO GET TO AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
The distance from Kigali to Akagera national park is about 108 kilometers and the park can be accessed by either road a short flight. By road it takes about 2 hrs and 30 minutes drive from Kigali the capital city vial the town of Rwamagana to the southern gate of the park (the northern gate is used for exit only at the moment). For those who would not wish to drive can opt for a short flight into Akagera and these services are provided by the Akagera Aviation.
ACCOMMODATION IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Within Akagera National Park you will surely find a place for everyone to stay. The available accommodations here range from the luxury facilities such as Mgashi Lodge and Rusizi Tented Camp, then the mid-range facilities such as the Akagera Game lodge plus budget facilities as well as the camp sites for budget travelers.
BEST TIME TO VISIT AKAGERA
Akagera National Park can be visited all year round however the best time for game viewing is during the dry season that runs from June to September as the vegetation is thin offering clear views of the animals and many of the water sources have dried up which leads to most of the animals congregating around the few available sources of water.
WHERE ELSE TO GO IN AFRICA?
After your wildlife experience in Akagera National Park, you can go for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, or the primates of Nyungwe. Outside Rwanda, the Tanzania safari experience is something rewarding. You can also visit Uganda for another gorilla trekking experience or Kenya’s Masai Mara.
THE ROLE OF AFRICAN PARKS
African parks assumed management of Akagera Park in 2010. The animal population has increased from less than 5,000 in 2010 to over 13,000 and counting. Having successfully aided the development of Tourism in Akagera, an inspiring conservation story, African Parks signed a joint management agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) for Nyungwe National Park in October 2020.
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