Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. It is named after River Kagera which flows through the national park. Akagera National Park was first gazetted as a national park in 1934, covering a total area of 2,500 sq km. Currently, the park covers 1,122 sq km following the reallocation of the parkland as farms for Rwandan refugees returning back to the country after the genocide.
Akagera National Park is managed and run by Akagera Management Company following a joint management agreement between the Rwanda Development Board and Africa Parks in 2009. The Park is dominated by swamps and lakes which flow into River Kagera. The northern region of the park is blessed with relatively low-lying grasslands and savannah plains, which give tourists a similar thrill of a ‘typical’ safari, similar to other safari destination areas of East Africa. The western part of the park is characterized by well-endowed rolling hills and valleys typical of the Rwandan countryside.
To the east of the Akagera National Park is the Akagera River which fells into a series of lakes. Akagera National Park has approximately 10 lakes with the park, the most common of them being Lake Ihema, on which a number of boat cruise activities are conducted. The eastern part of the park also consists of scenic views such as marshes and papyrus swamps, which make the largest portion of central and eastern Africa’s largest protected wetlands.
So, for a fairly large national park, an Akagera safari can be extremely diverse with a variety of habitats, wildlife and birds, and some lovely scenery. It is a park filled with breath-taking views, picturesque spots and well known for its bio-diversity with over 480 bird species, hence making it a great spot for birding activities.
Attractions in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is blessed with a great number of wildlife, bird and plant species thus making it a great option for tourists interested in a game safari in Rwanda. Some of the attractions that Akagera national park boasts of are;
- Wildlife: Akagera National Park has over 100 elephants living within the park and it is also blessed with quite a number of animal species such as; Lions, crocodiles, antelopes, hyenas, zebras, hippos, buffaloes and Leopards amongst others. The Park is also blessed with some primate species such as; vervet monkeys, the olive baboons, silver monkeys, and some blue monkeys.
- Bird species: Akagera National Park has over 750 bird species that grace the park hence making it a birding haven for bird watchers. Birds such as the shoe bill stock, suaza shrike, raptors, lesser kestrel and the great sniper bird can be spotted in the national park.
- Swamps and lakes: Akagera National Park has a number of swamps and lakes. There are 10 lakes located within this national park with the most popular ones being Lake Ihema, which has the largest concentration of Hippos in East Africa; and Lake Shakani which has a large concentration of fish species, the most common ones being Tilapia and Catfish.
Activities in Akagera National Park
Tourists visiting Akagera National Park can engage in a number of activities such as;
- Fishing: Fishing activities are conducted on Lake Shakani were tourists can catch fish species like tilapia and catfish. Fishing competitions are conducted on this lake every so often and tourists who are lucky to visit the park during this time can take part in the catch- and- release fishing tournaments.
- Game Drives: With the Park covering approximately 1,120 square kilometers, it is the only park in Rwanda that is home to the most sought after Big Five Animals – buffalos, lions, elephants, leopards, and rhinos. However, there are numerous smaller predators and herbivores like the Burchell’s zebra, antelopes, jackals, and hyenas. Day game drives are conducted in the early morning and late afternoon.
- Night Game Drives: Akagera National Park offers tourists night game drives where they can get a chance to see some nocturnal animals like; Leopards, bush babies, hyenas and civets among others. Tourists can also spot a few nocturnal birds like Owls while on the drive. Night game drives last 1- 2 hours and offers tourists an opportunity to see animals they did not see during the day game drive; however, this comes at an extra cost.
- Boating: Tourists visiting the Park can enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ihema which is well known for its impressive populations of hippos, crocodiles and numerous water birds. This activity is a must-do for any bird lovers.
- Guided Nature Walks: While in the Park, tourists interested in taking nature walks can do so with the guidance of a well-trained park ranger. While on a walk, get to view the various plant, insect and bird species in the Park.
- Birding: Akagera National Park is home to over 750 bird species including marabou stocks, egrets, crowned cranes, and herons. Bird lovers will find this national park a good destination for bird watching while on safari.
Accommodation in Akagera National Park
Magashi Safari Camp: Magashi Safari Camp is located in the far north of the Park, Magashi Safari Camp is a new and luxurious safari camp. It overlooks Lake Rwanyakazinga offering breath-taking views and is a great spot for one to chill and relax. The camp opened in early 2019 and aims at providing high-end accommodation in a scenic safari area. The Magashi Safari Camp is the only accommodation facility is located in the northern part of the park and is expected to be a fantastic inclusion to a high-end Rwandan safari camp. Magashi Safari Camp offers a great range of activities which include; guided nature walks, boat cruise, game drive, swimming at the Lodge’s pool, spa treatment, and fitness activities at the lodge’s well-equipped gym.
Akagera Game Lodge: Akagera Game Lodge is one of the few accommodation options within Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, adjacent to the Tanzanian border. More of a hotel than a traditional safari lodge, it has fantastic views over Lake Ihema, with a big swimming pool perched on the edge of the savannah. Akagera Game Lodge has a total of 60 rooms and is opened all year round. The Lodge is now under the management of the mantis resorts since 2018, however significant refurbishment and upgrades have just been completed. Activities at Akagera Game Lodge include; game drives, boat cruise on Lake Ihema, guided nature walks, swimming at the Lodge’s pool to mention but a few.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge: Ruzizi Tented Lodge is a simple but comfortable safari lodge, with a commendable eco-policy. It’s a simple, eco-friendly lodge located within the park itself. The lodge is in a good position to explore the varying landscapes of Akagera, given its close proximity to the main gate, south of the park. Since it was first opened in 2012, Ruzizi Tented Lodge has proved a welcome addition to the Park. The food served at the lodge’s restaurant is excellent, considering the power sources, and the location is beautiful and serene. This accommodation facility is opened all year round makes a nice stop as part of a longer trip around Rwanda. At Ruzizi Tented Lodge, guests can enjoy activities such as swimming, game drives, and boat trips. Alternative accommodation facilities near Akagera National Park include; Akagera Resort and Country Club, Nyagasambu realm beach hotel, Vintage Cottages, Karenge Bush Camp to mention but a few.
Getting to Akagera National Park
The Park can be accessed by Road from Kigali City. It is about 110km From Kigali which is roughly a 2 and half hour drive.
Tourists are advised to hire 4x 4 wheel drive vehicles for your safari as the roads leading to and within the national park is characterized by murram or rather dirt roads.
Akagera National Park in Rwanda should be one of those MUST visit destinations on any tourist’s travel bucket list.