Akagera National Park
Located in Eastern Rwanda, Akagera national park is Rwanda’s finest savanna park well known for its incredible wildlife sightings and stunning landscape that consists of open grassland and undulating hills. The park is very accessible as it is just a 2 hours’ drive from Kigali city making it a perfect destination for a one day tour or two day wildlife safari. The park is the only savanna park in Rwanda and this makes it the best place for game safaris and wildlife encounters in the acacia savanna area.
Akagera Park covers an area of 1,122 square kilometres that encompasses open savanna grasslands, acacia trees, swamp habitats, muddy terrain, herbaceous climbers, dense thickets, small and large lakes and undulating plains. The national park is one of the most scenic parks in Africa and is well known for its rich bio diversity.
Akagera national park was founded by the Belgian Government and achieved national park status in 1934. The national park is protected by an electric fence and constantly patrolled by the ranger guides. The park was fenced following the turmoil of the genocide and civil war between 1991-1995 that saw a return of war refugees and this of course brought an increasing pressure on land use. The management of the park then decided to give part of the original park land (original Akagera park area was 2000 sq.km) to the returning refugees and then established new park boundaries which were later fenced in 2013. The fencing of the park has ensured protection and conservation of the wildlife in Akagera national park and helped establish clear boundaries between the conservation area and the surrounding communities.
Wildlife of Akagera National Park
Akagera national park is home to the Big Five that can be best seen while on a game drive in the park. The Big Five animals include Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino. The presence of the big five animals is one of the reasons why Akagera national park is a unique safari destination as it offers you an opportunity to see the Big Five all in one place while on safari in Rwanda.
Other animals in the park include zebras which are commonly seen in the open grassland areas, Topi, Eland, Roan antelope, Sitatunga, Warthogs, Maasai Giraffes, Impala, Klipspringer, Common Duiker,Oribi, Bohor reed buck, Defassa waterbuck and Bush buck. Primate species in the park include baboons, vervet monkeys and bush babies. Akagera national park is also home to hippos and large crocodiles that are often seen while on a boat safari on Lake Ihema. Akagera boasts of the largest concentration of hippos in Africa. Wildlife and game viewing in Akagera Park cannot be compared to East Africa’s finest game reserves as they have more concentration of wildlife than Akagera however it does offer a visitor some good sightings while on a Rwanda Safari.
Birds of Akagera National Park
Akagera is rich in bird life with over 750 species of birds making it the perfect destination while on a birding in Rwanda safari. The park hosts endemic species, low elevation species, raptors, papyrus endemics and savanna specials. The park is the second best birding site in Rwanda after Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Birds in the park include Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, Caruthers’s cisticola, Lilac-breasted roller, Little bee-eater, Double toothed barbet, Black Headed Gonolek, Heuglin’s robin-chat, Meyer’s parrot, Ross’s Turaco, the Bare-faced go-away bird., White-headed black chat, Crested Barbet, Long-tailed cisticola, herons, egrets and the Red-faced barbet. Raptors include Ruppell’s Griffon vultures, White-backed vultures, Hooded vultures, Brown snake eagles, African fish eagle and the magnificent Bateleur eagle. Bird watchers also have an opportunity to sight water birds that are often found on the shore of the lakes spread out across Akagera national park and these include pelicans, Crowned cranes, Open-bill stork and Marabou stork. Akagera national park is also the only place in Rwanda where one can see the elusive Shoebill.
Top Things to do while on Safari in Akagera National Park
Game drives is the best way to spend your time in Akagera national park while on your Rwanda Safari. The park offers full day game drives that include morning, afternoon and evening game drives to look out for nocturnal species like bush pigs, civets and porcupines. The morning game drive is the most ideal as you set out in to the park very early in the morning catch the sunrise over the undulating plains and then start to look out for wildlife such as elephants, Burchell’s zebra, elephants, lions, leopard, buffaloes, black rhinos, water bucks, oribi, sitatunga, common duikers, topis, giraffes, warthogs, olive baboons among others. You then have lunch and continue on an afternoon game drive for more wildlife sighting. If on a full day safari lunch is had at the edge on one of the small lakes in the midst of Akagera national park that usually attracts hippos, water birds and papyrus endemics. All our game drives happen in a four wheel drive car with a pop up roof for good wildlife viewing!
Boat Ride on Lake Ihema
Lake Ihema is located is the southern section of Akagera national park and is popular for its large concentration of hippos and abundance of water birds. A boat ride on the lake is best done in the afternoon and take you on a relaxing boat ride along the lake. Picture a sunny day being hit by the cool breeze while you look out for wildlife and aquatic birdlife, a true safari experience! The lake is also home to large crocodiles and while on the boat ride you look out for remarkable bird species including papyrus endemics. You also have chances to see animals on the shores of the lake that love to come quench their thirst on a hot day.
Birding in Akagera National Park
For the specialist birder Akagera national park is worth visiting while on your bird watching safari in Rwanda. Akagera is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is home to over 750 species of birds offering incredible bird sightings while on a birding in Rwanda Safari. Birding is done right from the lodge where you spot some bird species that like to come to the lodge, along tracks while on the game drives and in the woodland areas. Birding along Lake Ihema is a must for papyrus endemics and water birds. The most sought after birds while in Akagera include the Red-faced Barbet, White-collared Oliveback, and the Ruaha Chat.
Guided Nature Walks
Nature walks in Akagera national park is one of the alternative ways to explore the park on foot. In the guidance of a park guide and ranger guide, you set out into the park in search of wildlife, bird species and stop over to look at animal foot prints while walking. The nature walk also offers an opportunity to have expansive views of the park and this often calls for photography moments of the scenery. The nature walk is about two to three hours long.
Night Game Drives
While in the park you can go on a guided night game drive where you look out for shy and nocturnal mammal species. The night game drive is led by the ranger guides who are always armed for protection from wildlife in case of any threat. Animals to look out for include bush babies, hyenas, leopard, civets, genets, porcupine and the secretive bush pig. Nocturnal birds include night jars and owls.
Walk the Line
The walk the line activity involves you walking along the park fence with park rangers to understand the fencing which is mainly in place for conservation purposes. It is a 7km walk that takes you closer to the park boundaries as you also see the surrounding community life.
Akagera national park also offers a community tour that gives you a look in to the way of life of the locals. The tribal groups in the communities are majorly cattle keepers and the tour gives you a glimpse in to their way of life that involves milking the long horned cows, making traditional dishes and visiting their farms.
Behind the Scenes Experience
The behind the scenes tour gives you an in depth experience of how Akagera national park is managed. You will meet with the park staff and rangers who will tell you how they manage the park, the conservation efforts in place, the protection of the park environment, and how their daily activities are executed.
Spot Fishing on Lake Shakani
Fishing is one of the activities that Akagera national park offers. Fishing is done on Lake Shakani, the easily found fish in the lake is tilapia and cat fish. Visitors should bring their own fishing gear and they can have their catch for the day as a meal. The lake is situated a few kilometres away from the park headquarters and is a worthwhile birding site.
Accommodation in Akagera National Park
The national park has two main accommodation facilities that are the most popular and these include;
Ruzizi Tented Lodge – This is a luxury tented lodge situated on the shores of Lake Ihema that features comfortable private rooms with a terrace. The lodge is a perfect option while on a wildlife safari in Akagera as it is a perfect blend of comfortability and tranquillity. The lodge is well known for its raised wooden deck with stunning views of the lake. Breakfast can be arranged by the staff here and the
Akagera Game Lodge – This is a private mid-range facility with single, double and triple rooms, the lodge is idea for guests traveling as family as it has enough rooming for a big number of guests. The lodge features a swimming pool which is perfect for relaxation after a long day in the park on game drives. Each room features a comfortable bed with clean beddings, a balcony wardrobe area and a reading desk.
Safari Tours to Akagera National Park