Akagera national park is the only savannah national park of Rwanda located in the north eastern side of Rwandan on border with Tanzania border. The park cover an area of about 1,200 sq km, its diversity of ecosystems comprising of savannah plains, wetlands, swamp fringed lakes and river Akagera from which the park was named. The park is among the most picturesque parks in East Africa for nature lovers. There are several lakes and the largest of all is Lake Ihema where boat cruises are done as well as spot fishing.
The park is famous for wildlife viewing safaris due to its large population of 90 species of mammals such as leopards, elephants, buffalos, impalas, zebras, giraffes, hyenas and over 500 species of birds which attract tourists. Now a big five safari destination, lions have been reintroduced as well the ongoing plans to bring back Black Rhinos by the African parks. Rwanda is happy to note, its ecosystem recovery has become its major tourists asset.
The diverse habitats in the park create home to over 500 species of birds including globally threatened species such as shoebill stork, yellow warblers and papyrus gonelock among others. Guided birding trails in and around the park have been established including wooden raised bird viewing platforms. Birding is done on foot through the park to the swamp where shoebill stork can be spotted as well as on boat cruises for water birds.
The park’s turbulent history led to extinction of lions and rhinos as well as habitat destruction. However, Rwandan development board in partnership with African parks has established strategies leading to ecosystems and wildlife recovery and sustainable wildlife safaris operate in the park all year round.
African parks have been able to address conservation challenges with local communities who have benefited from the park’s revenue fees. This has recued poaching, illegal grazing, increasing animal numbers as well as boasting community tourism around the park.
Game drive safaris
Game drive safaris are best for Wildlife viewing in vehicles with roof top views. Akagera’s diverse habitats including swamps, lakes, rivers and savannah plains, are home to several types of antelopes, big mammals and African big cats.
Visitors are led by guides and rangers, driving through the park’s diverse habitats viewing wildlife. Game drives start early morning or evening and may last for full day or half depending on the choice of visitors. Visitors usually see elephants, zebras, antelope species, and buffalos, worth hogs, hyenas and duikers and a lot of birds.
Boat cruises are great ways to view wildlife while relaxing enjoying sunsets and sunrises. Lake Ihema is the largest lake which attracts many animals and water birds. water birds, crocodiles and hippos can be seen on water and elephants, buffalos along the shores as well as the swamp dwelling antelope sitatunga.
Boat cruises can be arranged any time of the day, however, they operate four rounds a day with the exception of privately arranged boat trips featuring food, drinks on board.
Bird watching bird watching safaris to Akagera national park are rewarding for birders, the park has 500 species including shoebill stork, papyrus gonelock which are threatened birds. Boat trips are good for water birds while guided birding trails move through savannah to the swamps where shoebill stork can be seen.
Visitors to Akagera with interest in learning about conservation and management of the park can participate in behind the scenes. This includes visitors meeting park staff as well as locals who are involved in conservation and tourism sharing their experience.
There are limited lodges and but with a lot of camping opportunities visitors to the park should book their places in advance.
Akagera game lodge is located within the borders of Akagera national park eastern province about 2 hours drive from the Rwandan capital Kigali. It has Luxury cottage with double, twin and single rooms which are decorated with African fabrics.
Ruzizi tented camp is the only second lodge within Akagera national park along the shores of lake Ihema giving a close stay with wildlife.
There are also several camping sites in and around Akagera national park which enable tourists to stay longer in the park enjoying activities such as wildlife viewing, boat riding, and nature walks and birding. They include, Karenge Bush camp, Shakani Campsite, Mutamba Campsite and Muyumba Campsites.
Akagera national park lies on the eastern border of Rwanda with Tanzania and accessible by public transport. From Kigali city, it takes 2-3 hours drive to enter the park through south at Kiyonza, the main entrance gate near the main visitor center where activities begin from.