Situated in northeastern Rwanda, Akagera National Park is one of the spectacular savanna grassland protected areas in Africa that presents the vast views of the Tanzania plains that extend up to an area of 1122 square kilometers and run under the public-private partnership arrangement of the Rwanda Development Board and the African Parks since 2010.
The park is largely occupied by swamps and small Lakes and rivers like Akagera River where the park derived its name. All these water sources offer the most incredible scenery in and around the park. River Akagera flows across the protected area feeding the expansive Lake system which mark the floor of Akagera National Park especially Lake Ihema which features as the second largest Lake in Rwanda.
The incredible rolling hills dotted by brachystegia and acacia woodland intercepted by the patches of vast grassland and several Lakes fringed by swamps that provide spectacular views of the protected area. Akagera National Park is famous as the biggest protected area in Rwanda and the most significant savanna grassland conservation area which features incredible floral and faunal species just like that of Kenya’s savanna grassland national parks. It has the amazing Mutumba hills which extend up to 2000 meters featuring magical scenic views of its Lakes, vast plains, swamps, Rivers and many more.
Akagera National Park was founded in 1934 and this also makes it one of the oldest protected areas in Rwanda. Originally, it covered an area of about 2500 square kilometers but due to encroachment that followed during Rwanda genocide, its size was reduced by almost 50 percent. The park presents spectacular levels of biodiversity that favors most distinct vegetation zones. The expansive systems of the fresh water together with the papyrus swamps make one of the extensive wetland systems in the heart of Africa. The re-introduction of wildlife species has also helped to boost the park’s tourism sector. About 7 lions were re-introduced to the protected area from South Africa. Maasai giraffes were also introduced to Akagera National Park from Kenya in 1986 and about 60 of them thrive in the park. 7 (seven) black rhinos were also introduced to Akagera protected area between 1958 and 1959 and they thrived to more than 50 by 1970 but later got extinct around 1980.
Tourist attractions in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park has experienced some kind of increase in its wildlife species and today the park features several sitatunga antelopes, shoebill storks, elephants, rhinos, lions, buffaloes, waterbuck, roan antelope, duiker, impalas, zebras, klipspringer, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, hyenas, serval, mongoose, leopards, side striped jackal, bush babies, olive baboons and others. The park also refuges over 525 bird species, 44 of which are raptors and 7 are afro tropical highland biome species. The notable birds for you to sight in the park include the Falco naumanni, Palearctic migrants, papyrus gonolek and many more. The park also offers a number of water bodies most of which include Lake Ihema, Lake Shakani, Lake Gishanju, Lake Mihindi and Lake Rwanyakizinga. Most of these water bodies features numerous water species especially hippos, crocodiles, fish and others.
Tourist activities in Akagera National Park
- Wildlife viewing
If you are planning for your safari to Rwanda and you are interested in game drives, Akagera National Park is the perfect safari destination that you should consider in your travel plan. While on game drive, you will have a chance to catch a glimpse at eland, duikers, Oribis, Klipspringers, Maasai giraffes, roan antelopes, Defassa waterbuck, impalas, Bohor reed buck, bushbuck, zebra, buffaloes, vervet monkeys, lions, elephants, side striped jackals, hyenas and many more. For visitors who are interested in night game drives Akagera National Park is also the perfect destination for you to spot out most of the nocturnal species like the bush babies as well as galagoes.
- Sport fishing
If you are want to challenge yourself with breathtaking adventures then try out sport fishing which is conducted on Lake Shakani.
- Bird watching
About 525 bird species thrive in Akagera National Park and travelers on safari to Rwanda have a chance to sight variety of water and savanna bird dwellers. The most sought after bird species around the park include the endangered papyrus gonolek, shoebill stork, red faced barbet and swamp flycatcher and others.
- Boat cruise
If you are looking for recreational activities then this is one of the best water sport activities that you should add in your itinerary. Boat trips are done along Lake Ihema which features as the second largest Lake in Rwanda. It is situated in the southern side of Akagera National Park and stands within altitude 1292 meters and covers an area of about 90 square kilometers with varying depth of five to seven meters depending on the season. The eastern shoreline of the Lake makes the border between Rwanda and Tanzania. While on boat cruise along this Lake, you will catch a glimpse at the hippos and Nile crocodiles, birds such as shoebill stork, papyrus gonolek, ibis, plovers, herons, sandpipers, hawk, malachite kingfisher, jacanas and many others.
- Helicopter adventures
Akagera National Park provides the most exciting aerial safaris above the vast savanna grassland, the rolling hills and swamp fringed Lake. The adventure offers the spectacular views of the landscapes that come with a myriad of wildlife.
Getting to Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is situated about 135 kilometers, approximately 2 to 3 hours’ drive off Kigali International Airport. From Kibungo or Rwamagana trading center, you drive for one hour to the park. You will need a 4×4 safari vehicle to help you navigate through the remotest routes to the park.
Safari lodges in Akagera National Park
Like any destination, safaris to Akagera National Park are only complete when there are accommodation and lodging facilities that offer visitors comfortable stay over while they enjoy their vacation. The notable accommodation facilities in the park include Ruzizi Tented Lodges (luxury), Akagera Game Lodge (mid range) and Dereva Hotel as well as campsites like Shakani campsite, Mutamba campsite and Muyumba campsite.
In conclusion, Akagera National Park is one of a few most outstanding savanna grassland protected areas that Rwanda presents to the world travelers on safari to Africa. Visit the park and you will be filled with lots of African wildlife experiences of lifetime.