Akagera National Park - Wildlife Safaris in Rwanda
The only Park to visit for the Big game while in Rwanda, Akagera National Park lies in the north eastern part of Rwanda along Rwanda’s border with Tanzania.
Originally founded in 1934, much of the Park’s land was re-allocated as farmlands in 1997 and this largely reduced its total area to 1122 square meters which is still maintained up to date.
Thanks to African Parks, an organization that partnered with Rwanda Development Board to run this Park since 2010. It’s definitely progressing in Rwanda’s tourism.
The park’s name was derived from the Akagera River that streams along its eastern boundary empting into Lake Ihema.
Akagera is one of the most scenic reserve in Africa and this is brought by its exquisite biodiversity that consists of papyrus swamps, savannah plains, rolling highlands and forest fringed lakes along with diverse Wildlife species. What’s more, Akagera National Park forms the largest protected Wetland in East Africa.
Not like other two Rwanda Parks, Akagera is home to abundant game species including those that are endemic to the papyrus swamp like shoebill Stork, Sitatunga and more.
Other notable species in the Park include Buffaloes, Elephants, Zebras, Water bucks, elands, roan antelopes and topi. Of all the larger predators, Akagera National Park houses only the side-striped jackal, lion, hyenas, and the leopards.
To add on that, this Park in the Eastern wing of Rwanda is not a worry if it’s birding safaris in this land of a thousand hills. It recorded with over 500 species of birds that are enough to impress anyone interested in Rwanda’s bird life.
During the excursions, birders can sight both endemic and rare gems such as the red-faced barbet, swamp flycatchers, threatened papyrus gonolek and more.
Not only the best but also the cheapest way to reach this Park. Most of the road parts to Akagera are tarmacked and in good condition.
This Park is about 110 km from Kigali city and it takes about 2-3 hours for the drive particularly depending on speed used and en route stopovers included.
From Kigali town drive out towards the airport but before reaching at about 100m, take a left turn. Drive eastwards through Rwamagana to Kayonza town.
From Kayonza, take a right turn at the roundabout and drive to a petrol a station on the left side of the road near Kabarondo town.
After the station, there is a dirt road you will follow and drive for about 5km up to Rwinkwavu junction, here there is a sign post for the Park. From this sign post, park headquarters are 13 km ahead.
Other than road transport, you can go by air means and several private charters are organized on daily basis from Kigali International Airport up to an airstrip near the suburbs of Akagera National Park in Eastern Rwanda.
Top Activities in the Park.
Wildlife Game Drives.
Akagera National Park is majorly renowned for its wide range of Wildlife species including Wild animals, Primates, reptiles and different bird species. There is no better way you can take in best views of these animals than Game driving.
Therefore all visitors to Akagera for its Wild animals embark on a Safari vehicle with pop up roof and drive around for panoramic views of the animals, sun rise/set and the Wilderness.
Some of the animals to expect while game driving include antelopes (like elands, topis, hyenas, and more), buffaloes, big cats like civets, leopards and more.
During the game drives, travelers are not allowed to move out of the vehicle since some animals like big cats are dangerous to human life.
For nocturnal species, you will do a night game drive to view a lot of these animals. This night game drive is more rewarding since chances are high that you will spot the predators that are rarely seen during day. Some of these are serval cats, civets, lions and more.
Akagera is one of the best places not to miss for remarkable bird watching Safaris. It is home to about 520 species of birds including those that are rarely found in any other part of Africa.
Birders are often fascinated by sights of numerous birds ranging from savannah to forest bird species. All these species include migratory and endemic bird species.
You will also see the rare Papyrus gonolek that are common in the Papyrus swamps. Other species include fly catchers, shoebill stork, red faced barbets and more.
Fishing in Lake Shakani
Rather than Game driving, you can explore the Park in an exceptional way by being part of fishing excursions on Lake Shakani. During fishing you can sees lots of hippos wallowing and as well hear sounds of water bird species.
This experience is not only about fish encounters but also an added chance to sight more Wild animals that draw near the banks in need of water.
The fishing protocol here is catch and release but in case you are interested in tasting on these species, you can be allowed to cook or set up fire and roast.
Boat Cruise on Lake Ihema
Boat cruise is an incredible experience that lets you get relieved of stress. It’s definitely one of the highlights for trips to Africa. While in Rwanda, you can do this marine experience in Akagera National Park.
All cruise excursions are offered on Lake Ihema, a spot known mainly for the largest concentration of hippos in East Africa.
Besides Hippos and Crocodiles you are most likely to behold a number of water bird species while on the cruise in addition to lake side wild animals like elephants. This option grant travelers a great opportunity to get closer to these animals than it is for game driving.
Akagera National Park is limited with accommodation facilities, therefore it’s advised that you book in advance for any trip to this Park.
During peak season, it is even worse. Lodges in the Park only two and they include Akagera game lodge and Ruzizi tented camp.