EXPLORE AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
One of the most popular tourist attractions of the East-Central part of Africa is Akagera National Park. This Protected Area in Rwanda is a renowned place among domestic and International tourists alike, adventure-seekers and nature lovers, solo and group travellers as well as family getaways. It has literally everything you desire in an African destination-savannah grasslands, woodlands, Lakes, forests, antelopes and of course big five animals.
For travellers who have been planning to visit Rwanda for a safari, this is the perfect place to be and being the largest Protected Wetland in Central Africa, it is one of the last remaining havens for many savannah-dwelling species in the country.
About Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the North-East of Rwanda and is a safari destination of special interest, owing to its close proximity to the Capital. The Protected Area sprawls approximately 1122 square kilometers of savannah grasslands, woodland, swamp and montane ecosystems.
It also takes pride in its complex network of water bodies (especially Lakes) and connecting Papyrus swamps that give the Park its beauty and being the largest protected wetland in East and Central Africa, you can’t afford to miss it during your Rwanda safaris. Having existed since 1934, it is the second oldest Park in Rwanda and was named after the mighty Kagera River that flows through the eastern border of the country to Lake Ihema, also in the Park.
What to see while exploring Akagera National Park
Untouched savannah plains, forests, rolling hills, wetland-fringed Lakes, woodlands and open landscapes, Akagera National Park has it all. The beauty about these ecosystems is that they are haven to a wide array of wildlife species that can’t be found in other National Parks of the country. Akagera National Park stands out for being a stronghold of big five animals that include Eastern black Rhinoceros, lions, leopards, Cape buffaloes and African bush elephants) in addition to serval cats, Grant’s zebras, giant elands, Bohor reedbucks, black and white colobus monkeys, Duikers, Masai giraffes, Caracals, bushbucks, spotted hyenas, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, mongoose, Klipspringer, Roan antelopes, side-striped jackals, blue monkeys, Impalas, Defassa waterbucks, Oribis, common warthogs, Topis, Hippos and do much more.
Akagera National Park is the safari destination that most travellers search for when looking to see lots of bird species. There are over 500 bird species that occupy different ecosystems that include wetlands, savannah grasslands, forests Lakes and the rolling hills. The must-see species are Crested barbets, Pied crows, grey-crowned cranes, Red-faced barbets, Hadada Ibis, African wattled plovers, Tabora cisticola, shoebill storks, papyrus gonolek, Bateleur, swamp flycatcher, African fish eagles, Hammerkop, Senegal Lapwings, Blue-shouldered robin chat, red-faced barbets, African Jacana, African harrier hawks, giant kingfishers, Slate colored Boubou, Long-crested Eagles, Papyrus gonolek, Sooty falcon, Squacco herons, grey-backed Fiscals, Shelley’s francolin, Ring-necked francolin, Water thick-knee and many others.
There are a number of swamp-fringed Lakes in Akagera National Park with pods of Hippos and basks of Nile crocodiles. Of these water bodies, Lake Ihema is the largest in the Protected Areas as well as second largest in Rwanda. Other beautiful Lakes worth exploring in the Park are Shakani, Gishanju, Mihindi and Rwanyakizinga, to mention but a few.
Ways of exploring Akagera National Park
Guided game drives
The most popular way of exploring the beautiful Akagera National Park is driving through the sweeping savannah plains on-board an open-roof vehicle. Whether it’s a guided or self-drive tour, be sure of seeing lions, spotted hyenas, Masai giraffes, Uganda Kobs, Defassa waterbucks, Topis, Grant’s zebras, bushbucks, warthogs, giant elands, impalas, Mongoose, Black rhinos, Roan antelopes, leopards, Klipspringers, blue monkeys, duikers, bushbucks, warthogs and Oribis, to mention but a few.
Did I mention that boat rides in Lake Ihema are so far the best and most rewarding in Rwanda? You can go to any of the small Islands or the shores for 3-4 hours on calm waters while keeping an open eye to the schools of Hippos and basks of Nile crocodiles. Commonly sighted during these boat rides are African fish eagles, African jacana, papyrus gonolek, Giant and pied Kingfishers, Hammerkop, Sooty falcon, Hadada ibis, Crested barbets, Grey-crowned cranes, Papyrus gonolek and animals especially waterbucks, buffaloes and elephants.
If just driving through the Park doesn’t seem enough to you, then you can try out the wilderness walks. A number of trails criss-cross unique landscapes or ecosystems of Akagera National Park thus offering sights and sounds of animals, birds and unique plant species.
Whether you are a beginner or novice birder, you can try bird watching in Akagera National Park where more than 500 bird species are sheltered. Lots of Long-crested Eagles, Squacco herons, Blue-shouldered robin chat, African harrier hawks, Red-faced barbets, shoebill storks, grey-crowned cranes, swamp flycatcher, red-faced barbets, African fish eagles, Hammerkop, giant kingfishers, Crested barbets, Bateleur, Senegal Lapwings and many others will be seen during birding tours
Get your fishing equipment for a chance to catch Tilapia and Catfish during sport fishing tours undertaken within Lake Shakani while occasionally sighting Defassa waterbucks, Hippos, elephants, bushbucks, buffaloes, Kobs and Masai giraffes to mention but a few.
You can do wilderness camping at any of the three Campsites of Akagera National Park as a way of experiencing the intimacy, beauty and diversity of Africa. Basic amenities/facilities are offered at the campsites in form of eco-friendly flushing toilets, bonfires, BBQ nights, running water, solar-heated showers and most importantly breathtaking views of the spectacular Lakes, savannah plains and rolling grassland hills among others.
Is there any better way of learning about the cultures and traditions of Rwandans than guided village walks? Visit the Imigongo Art and Craft Center to catch a glimpse of the rich culture and heritage of the people (cattle rearing), hand milking, ghee making and banana beer brewing among others.
What better way to explore Akagera National park than through a helicopter tour? Uncover different landscapes from all angles, explore the hard-to-reach areas like Lakes, wetlands and most importantly see wildlife species that freely roam from the crowded areas of the Protected Area.
When to explore the stunning Akagera National Park
The best months of exploring Akagera National Park are January, February, June July, August, September and December when temperatures are mostly favorable for wildlife viewing. Temperatures are high and the sun is shining thus drying out small water sources and leaving few ones where animals converge thus breathtaking views. The vegetation becomes scantier and sparser which make it easier to spot numerous animals while on guided game drives.
Accommodation options while exploring Akagera National Park
Exquisite accommodation facilities such as Dereva Hotel, Akagera Game Lodge, Magashi Camp, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Karenge Bush Camp and the three Campsites are often used by visitors exploring Akagera National Park. Nonetheless, Cari Hotel, the Seeds of Hope Guesthouse, Manor Hotel and Umubano Hotel are found in the nearby Town but also perfect when exploring this savannah-dominated Park.