Akagera National Park is made up of scenic views including papyrus swamps, rolling hills, savannah plains, forest fringed lakes, and a number of wildlife species including over 482 bird species including the shoebill and 12,000 mammals. The park derives its name from River Akagera that meanders through it, is the largest protected swampy area in central Africa; situated in the Northeastern part of Rwanda near the Tanzanian border.
The park has a breathtaking landscape. It was created in 1934 in order to protect vegetation and wild animals, originally it was a large park covering an area of 2,500 sq. km by 1997 most of the land was reduced since most of it was rendered out for farming to refugees that were affected by the Rwanda Genocide.
Akagera is among the Africa’s National parks where one can enjoy Night/Nocturnal game drives. It is home to different plant, forest and animal species that roam around the savannah plains such as Elephants, Maasai Giraffes, Defassa Waterbucks, Buffaloes, Crocodiles, Hippos, Zebras, and Antelopes like the topis, Elands, Oribis, Reedbucks, Klipspringer, Sitatungas, Duikers. Also primate species such as Vervet monkeys, Bush babies, Olive Baboons, and Blue monkeys can be spotted in the park.
Things to do and see…
Nature walks and game drives
You can never get enough of the game drives since every time you go for one all you get are new surprises as nature reveals more of its resources in form of beautiful wonders of the landscape and wildlife such as Savannah birds, Hyenas, Civets, Topis, Elands, Maasai Giraffes, Monkeys, Buffaloes among others.
While on a game drive you will be accompanied by a skilled and knowledgeable Ranger guide, you will enjoy the sights of fauna and flora in the vehicle- please note that you are not allowed to go out of the car while in for a game drive unless you are instructed by the guide who should also be armed.
Nature walks give you the privilege of enjoying the park on foot, you will be able to see birds, trees, and a few animals at a closer range.
Night – Nocturnal Game drives
These game drives are the most thrilling since you have an opportunity of venturing different things in the night. Nocturnal drives are quite different from the day game drives because you have chance to spot predators catching their prey live such as Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, and more cats.
The drive takes about 2 hours and during the drive, the driver drives slowly so as not to miss out on some wildlife, also nocturnal bush babies and birds are seen.
The park is home to over 482 bird species hence among the top birding destinations in Rwanda. So most birds can be spotted during day but most nocturnal are clearly spotted in the night. Birds include; the migratory and savannah birds and most of them are endemic to Akagera such as Flycatchers, Red-faced barbes, and Papyrus gonolek among others are spotted in papyrus swamps. Also the rare shoebill can be found here.
Basically Akagera National Park is a birder’s haven.
Boating safari on Lake Ihema
You can’t visit Akagera and miss out on the boat cruise on Lake Ihema since it’s more of a highlight to one who visits the park. This lake is among the lakes with a high concentration of Hippos in East Africa and also home to large crocodiles that are found at the lake shores.
While on a boat safari you will spot a number of water birds and if you are fortunate you might spot the shoebill stork. Other animals like buffaloes and elephants are also seen along the shoes as they bathe and drink water, here you even watch them closely than while on a game drive.
Fishing on Lake Shakani
Fishing can be enjoyed anywhere but fishing done in Lake Shakani is extra-ordinary. It is more fun to catch Catfish and the Tilapia on top of that roasting it on a fire still made by you. Also while you fish, hippos, water birds are around you; it is an added experience you cannot miss out!
Where to stay…
While in Akagera National Park visitors can sleep at Ruzizi tented lodge; opened in 2012, it has great staff and an eco-friendly and comfortable lodge. They can also sleep at Akagera game lodge which also is located within the park adjacent to the Tanzanian border. There are also campsites for budget travelers to enjoy the true wilderness of the park.