Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is one of the protected areas located in eastern Rwanda bordering Tanzania. The national park was founded in 1934 mainly to conserve and protect biodiversity in Rwanda. Akagera national park is the largest national park in Rwanda covering a total land area of 1085 square kilometers and the park was named after Akagera River which flows along Rwanda’s eastern boundary and feeds into Lake Ihema which is the largest lake in Rwanda. Akagera is the only park in Rwanda comprised of savannah vegetation and this vegetation acts as a habitat for various wildlife species comprised of animals like predators, primates, bird species among others.
Attractions in Akagera National Park
Wildlife in Akagera National Park:
- Animal species, there are various animals found in Akagera national park including elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, lions, leopards, bushbucks, topis, oribi, waterbucks, buhor reedbuck, impala, eland, klipspringer, hippos, crocodiles roan antelope, mongoose, primates like the vervet monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys which are rarely seen, nocturnal animals like the hyenas, side-striped jackal, bush babies which are seen during the night game drive. Animals in Akagera national park can be spotted during the game drive in the park.
- Bird species, The national park is also known as a birding paradise in Rwanda in that it harbors over 500 bird species including the pre-historic shoe bill stork, papyrus gonolek, white winged warbler, papyrus canary, broad-tailed warbler, grey-backed fiscal, long-crested eagle, African wattled plover, giant kingfisher, Senegal Lapwing, open bill stork, grey crowned crane, fish eagle, among others.
Water bodies, Akagera national park is inhabits a number of water bodies which include the famous Akagera river, lakes like lake Ihema which is the second largest lake in Rwanda, lake Mihindi, lake Shakani, lake Gishanjo and lake Rwanyakizinga which support various aquatic animals like hippos, crocodiles and other animals which gather around the lakes to drink water during the dry season.
Activities are done in Akagera national park
Game drive: Akagera park offers game drive activity which starts early in the morning at around 6:30 am and an afternoon game drive which starts at around 12 pm. Game drives in Akagera are best done with a park guide who is knowledgeable about the animals and vegetation in the park therefore the guide will help you to spot various animal species during the game drive. Game drives in Akagera national park can either be full-day or half-day depending on your schedule and the length of your safari. During the game drive in Akagera you will drive through the green savannah plains and woodlands where you will be able to view various animals species such as the elephants, giraffes, topis, impala, warthogs, hippos, buffaloes, zebras, waterbucks, bushbucks, monkeys among others which make your safari interesting with great experiences.
The park is the only park in Rwanda where visitors can go for a guided night game drive. During the night game drive, visitors will drive in the park at night in a safari vehicle with a park guide and spotlight torches which will help them to clearly view the nocturnal animals. Night game drive activity in Akagera starts at around 5:30 pm and ends at around 8:30 pm. During the night game drive, you will be able to view nocturnal animals such as lion and leopards which will be hunting for the prey, bush babies, civet, hyenas, serval cats and some nocturnal birds which gives you exceptional experiences on your safari in Akagera national park.
Boat cruise: Boat cruise in Akagera national park is done on Lake Ihema which is also known as the second largest lake in Rwanda. Lake Ihema offers several boat cruise sessions that is the morning session which starts at 7:30 am, afternoon session which starts at 9:00 am and evening/ sunset boat cruise session which starts at 5:00 pm and each boat ride session takes about one hour. During the boat cruise in Akagera national park, you will be able to view large herds of hippos and crocodiles because Lake Ihema is known as one of the East African countries harboring the highest concentration of hippos and crocodiles. You will also be able to view some animals on the water banks such as the buffaloes, elephants, antelopes and different bird species such as papyrus gonolek, shoebill stork, African fish eagle, open billed stork, cormorants, egrets, herons, pelicans among others. Visitors can also hire private boats so as to cruise on their own time on Lake Ihema as they enjoy beautiful views of the hippos, crocodiles and the sunset which gives them breathtaking memories.
Nature walks: Nature walk in Akagera national park is one of the interesting and extraordinary activities in the park where visitors will get an opportunity to explore the park on foot with an armed park ranger guide who will offer protection and also share knowledge about the park, vegetation types, plants and help in spotting some animals. During nature walks in the national park you will follow different trails in the park where you will view various wildlife such as tree species, butterflies, mammals, primates, bird species and also enjoy fresh air which helps you to relax your mind.
Bird watching: The national park is a home of over 500 bird species with some species endemic to only Rwanda and due to its high bird population Akagera national park is known as a birding haven in Rwanda. Bird species in Akagera National Park can be seen in different areas such as the savannah plains, around river Akagera, lakes, forest among others. Birds that can be viewed during bird watching include swamp flycatcher, shoebill stork, red-faced barbet, papyrus gonolek, African wattled plover, open billed stork, giant kingfisher, water thick-knee, African darter, grey crowned crane, Hadada ibis, black weaver, pied crow, long-crested eagle among others.
Sportfishing: The park offers sport fishing activity which is only carried out on Lake Shakani one of the lakes in the park. Visitors interested in sport fishing activity in Akagera are required to carry their own fishing gear and also purchase a fishing permit at the park headquarters which allows them to participate in sport fishing activity. Sportfishing on Lake Shakani is done using hooks and visitors use the catch and release method though they can also take some fish after the activity and the common fish type caught in Akagera is tilapia.
Cultural encounter: Cultural encounter is an exciting activity in Akagera where visitors get an opportunity to interact with people in the neighboring villages. On your Community tour in Akagera national park, there are choices to choose from for example heritage which is the cattle tour, local production where you will have a tour on how honey and local beer is made, food and festival tour and art and craft tour. Cultural tour in Akagera national park takes about 3 hours and you will participate in milking of the cows, taste honey, prepare local dishes, engage in traditional dances as well as being entertained by the traditional dancers in the community, learn about the local people’s lifestyle which gives you an unforgettable cultural experience on your safari.
Accommodation in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park has luxury, midrange and budget accommodation facilities where visitors can stay on their safari in Rwanda and they include Akagera Game Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Karenge Bushcamp and Dereva Hotel Rwamagana. The lodges in Akagera offer facilities and services to visitors like swimming pool, restaurant which serves local and international dishes, a well-stocked bar, great views of some animals, landscape among others which make visitors feel at home as they relax at the lodge after a game drive, boat cruise activity.
Akagera national park also offers campsites for visitors who want to camp during their safari in Rwanda. There are three campsites in the park including Shakani campsite which is located at the shores of lake Shakani, Mutamba campsite, and Muyumba campsite, the campsites have facilities like bathrooms and pit latrines which are shared by all the visitors, equipped with firewood and Barbecue, also offer great views of animals and primates like baboons which will try to steal your staff.
Best time to visit Akagera National Park
Akagera can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best period to visit is during the dry season in the months of June to September and January to February. During the dry season the park can be easily accessed in that the roads to the park will be passable, clear viewing of the animals in that the grass will be short and usually the animals will gather around the water bodies to drink water compared to the wet or rainy season during the months of March to May and October to December. During the rainy season, there is heavy rainfall received in the park therefore the access roads to Akagera national park will be muddy and slippery hence making movement difficult.
How to get to Akagera National Park
Akagera is located in the northeastern part of Rwanda and can be accessed by road transport means. When going to Akagera national park you will fly to Kigali international Airport and then connect by road to Akagera national park which takes about two hours and a half and if you are coming from Kibungo/Rwamagana to Akagera it will take about one hour.
The park can also be accessed by public means of transport where you will board a minibus taxi from Kigali international airport to Kibungo town or Kayonza town and then hire a private vehicle or motorbike to the park.
The park is the only savannah national park in Rwanda offering a wide range of unique and exciting activities such as boat cruise, bird watching, game drive, sport fishing among others which gives visitors incredible and extraordinary experiences while on a safari in Rwanda.