Akagera National Park Rwanda is located in Eastern part of the country; covering a total of 1,200 sq kilometers. The park was gazetted in 1934 and it was named after river Kagera which pours its waters in Lake Ihema, Lake Mihindi, Lake Gishanju, Lake Rwanyakizinga and Lake Shakani. The park is characterized by expansive savannah landscape of acacia and bush with patches of open grassland and numerous swampy lakes.
Akagera national park is the only savannah national park in Rwanda where visitors sight large mammals on a safaris and tours in Rwanda however; the park had challenges in 1994 due to the civil war and the genocide that happened during that time where many refugees encroached through gathering food from the park, cutting down trees for timber and fire wood and acquiring park land illegally. Consequently, the park management experience extreme challenges where wild animals became threatened while some became extinct in the park. At that time, wild animals were slowly being replaced with domestic animals more so the local long-horned cattle and the government allocated half of the park to those who didn’t have land and other half was reserved to protect the wild animals which had survived the human threat.
Rwanda government entered into a joint management agreement with the Africa Parks Network in 2010 to conserve the Akagera national park for future generation. The park management together with various donors and international wildlife conservation bodies launched a campaign to reintroduce animal species like lions and rhinoceros that had extinct in Akagera and improving the security through fencing the park to reduce on the rate of poaching.
The introduction of major animal species and continued sustainable development projects in the Akagera national park has led to steady increase in the number of visitors in the park and infrastructural developments in terms of hotels, roads and lodges creating a number of jobs to the local communities and revenue to the government. It is projected that the revenue from the park will increase from $445 million to $485 million in the coming years.
18 Eastern black rhinoceros were reintroduced to Akagera national park Rwanda in 2017 after 10 years of absence. Their population increased in 2019 when five individuals were translocated from European zoos.
The lions that were hunted in early 1990s to extinction in the park were reintroduced in 2015. After one year, the population of lions doubled after a birth of eleven cubs! Then later, two male lions were translocated from south Africa to Akagera national park in 2017.
In 2015, African parks together with other conservation bodies; trained and deployed a counter- poaching unit to combat poaching activities in and around Akagera national park by the surrounding communities.
A solar powered predator-proof fence of about 120km was constructed to reduce human wildlife conflict.
Over 2,000 school children and their teachers visit Akagera national park every year for free as part of the environmental education program.
Tourism revenues increased steadily from 2010 to 2019, generating $2.5M hence making Akagera national park 90% self-financing. The park hosted more than 50,000 tourists in 2019 where almost a half of visitors were nationals of Rwanda.
Akagera national park hosts a number of wildlife such as elephants, buffalos, giraffe, hyenas, zebras, leopards, lions, like roan antelope, duiker, bushbucks, Topis, Oribis, water-buck, klipspringer, impala, Cape eland, hippos and crocodiles near lake Ihema, olive baboons, blue monkeys, Vervet monkeys and bush babies
The park is also a home to a number of birds with over 520 species. If you are a bird watcher, expect to spot birds like shoebill, papyrus Gonolek, Giant Kingfisher, Senegal Lapwings, African Wattled Plover, Squacco Herons, African Open bill stock, Grey Crowned Crane, African Darter, Long-toed and Water Thick-knee , fish eagles, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, Pied Crow, Augur Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed and Viellot’s Black Weavers, Grey-backed Fiscals, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Caruther’s Cisticola.
There are a number of activities visitors may under take during their visit to Akagera national park. It is important to note that this is a one stop center for spotting the big 5 in Rwanda.
Game drives are done early in the morning and late afternoon in the park. Expect to see a number of animals such as buffaloes, elands, topis, lions, giraffes, buffaloes, monkeys, savannah birds, civets, leopards, hyenas, serval cats among others. We recommend visitors to use 4 x4 safari vehicles with a pop-up roof with sliding windows to enhance proper game viewing.
For your safety reason, we encourage you to stay in your vehicle during game drives in Akagera unless your guide has advised you to get out. For those on full day excursions in the park, we recommend you to pack a snack and drinking water.
Nocturnal Game Drives
Nocturnal game drives are also known as night game drives. This experience is so amazing and thrilling to all nature lovers with higher chances of encountering predators in action of hunting their preys. The main target of this activity is to meet animals such leopards, lions, civets, serval cats, hyenas and bush babies with their large eyes. Nocturnal drives in Akagera national park normally last for 2 hours and the experience is definitely magical and adventurous.
Boat safari on Lake Ihema
Boat safaris on Lake Ihema are done during afternoon in Akagera national park. The boat ride normally takes 2 hours and expect to see both solitary terrestrial animals at the banks and aquatic wildlife such as hippos in the water, crocodiles by the shores of the lake and variety of bird species. Visitors have options of booking scheduled boat trips and private unscheduled boat departures.
Akagera national park offers endless opportunities for sport fishing on Lake Shakani. Guests are required to book with the park management for sport fishing on this lake. Normally visitors on sport fishing in most destinations catch and release however, at Lake Shakani; guests have an opportunity to take one catch for a meal if interested.
Akagera national park is a major Important birding area (IBA) in Rwanda with over 500 bird species for bird watching safaris and tours. Birders have chances to spot endangered species such as papyrus gonolek, shoebill,weavers, egrets and several Kingfishers. Birding can be done during game drives; nature walk and boat riding safaris on Lake Ihema.
Explore the unique cultural diversities of Rwanda around Akagera national park. You may participate in key activities during your cultural tours such as traditional cattle grazing, milking, traditional milk storage in calabashes for preservation among others. Some guests go an extra mile of going through the processes of yogurt and ghee making. All these activities commemorate your visit to the Eastern part of the country.
Distance from Kigali capital to Akagera national park is approximately 108 kilometers and the park can be accessed by either road or air. It takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes’ drive from Kigali via Rwamagana to the southern gate of the park while the northern gate is currently used for only exit.
For visitors who wish to fly to the park may charter with Akagera Aviation.
Adventure safaris and tours in Akagera national park can be done throughout the year however most visitors prefer to explore the park during dry seasons.
Short dry season (December – February)
During the period, the park may receive some rain fall but not that much and if it rains, it lasts for a short period of time. The park and trucks are normally dry by February
Long wet season (March – May)
This season is characterized by regular rainfall and luxuriant green savannah vegetation with clear blues skies; offering great opportunities for photography.
Long dry season (June – September)
This is regarded as the warmest period of the year. During the time, Akagera national park tends to very dry and dusty with golden short grasses- excellent for game viewing and any other park activities.
Short wet season (October – November)
The park returns to its lush state due to precipitation. Bird watching is always good during this time because many migratory bird species pass through park from October to November
Akagera national park offers the best safari lodges and camps ranging from budget, midrange and luxury. Most properties are built to best meet the visitors’ expectations and desires. Guests looking forward to exploring this park are advised to book and make payments in advance like weeks or months before arrival to avoid any disappointments. Below is a list of properties you may book on your vacation
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