Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is one of the biggest national parks in Rwanda. The park is a protected area in eastern Rwanda covering 1,122 km2 (433 sq. mi) along the international border with Tanzania. It was founded in 1934, includes savannah montane and swamp habitats. The park is named after the Kagera River, which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into Lake Ihema and several smaller lakes. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over a third of the park, which is the largest protected wetland in Eastern-Central Africa.

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. 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.

Akagera National Park is the only haven for savannah wildlife animals in the Republic of Rwanda. The national park has recorded over 8,000 large animals; with over 100 African bush elephants, more than 80 Rothschild giraffes, over 15 lions, and about 25 black eastern rhinos. There are plenty of wildlife animals living with the national park and these include; roan antelopes, bushbucks, bohor reedbucks, Oribis, Klipspringer, cape eland, bush babies, impalas, topi, hartebeests, zebras, hyenas, warthogs, buffaloes, crocodiles, duikers and so many more. Visitors in the national park also have a chance to see primates such as; vervet monkeys, the black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, silver monkeys and blue monkeys.

The park also shelters over 500 species of birds, and these include; the Senegal Lapwings, Squacco Herons, Giant Kingfisher, the Grey Crowned Crane, the African Darter, Long-toed and Water Thick Knee birds, the rare Shoebill Stork, Papyrus Gonolek, the Hamerkop, Cattle Egret, and Fan-tailed Widow bird among others.

There are 10 lakes located within Akagera national park and visitors in the park can explore these lakes. Some of the most commonly visited lakes in the park include Lake Ihema and Lake Shakani.

What to do in 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.

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. 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

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 Gonolek, shoebill stork, fish eagles, Grey-backed Fiscals, Cattle Egret, Black-headed & Vieillot’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 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 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. It has one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa. In addition, it is a remarkable sight and there are many crocodiles 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 shoebill 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.

WhEN TO VISIT Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is open throughout the year. However, there are specific months where tourists visiting Akagera national park, can best enjoy partaking in activities in the park. The best time for visitors to visit Akagera National Park is during the dry season, which is between June to September. The dry seasons in Akagera offer visitors greater chances to spot wildlife in the park. During this period, the grass in the national park is short and visitors can easily drive along the game tracks to locate the wildlife animals. In addition, animals in the park spend most of their time in the open savannah grasslands grazing and cooling off in the nearby waterholes in the national park.

The months between March to May mark the long rainy season. The park receives a lot of rainfall during this time and usually the roads in the park are muddy. Visitors travelling to the national park during this time of the year should hire 4×4-wheel drive vehicles to ease their movement in the park. The months from October till November characterize the short wet season in the national park. During this period, visitors travelling to Akagera national park can take part in bird watching activities in the park. Visitors can get an opportunity to view migratory birds pass through the park during this time of the year.

HOW TO GET To Akagera National Park

Getting to Akagera National Park is a simple task and a very interesting journey as one gets to see beautiful attractions on their way in Rwanda. One can get to the park by either road or air transport.

By Road, embark on your journey to the Akagera national park where you can pass through a number of towns like Rwamagana to Kayonza to Kabarondo town and then to Rwinkwanvu where they can then access the park. The distance between Kigali international airport and Akagera national park is approximately 98 kilometers, which will take you about two and a half hours to reach the park.

For neighboring countries that are carrying out rod trips for instance tourists from Uganda, can use the border to access the country, in Tanzania they can access the country through the Rusumo border.

By Air, there are charter helicopter from Kigali into Akagera, these services are provided by the Akagera Aviation. The flight from Kigali to Akagera NP takes 22 minutes.