Akagera national park
Akagera National Park is one of the national parks that Rwanda is proud to call her own. The national park is the only habitat for savannah wildlife in the country and it is the only destination in Rwanda where visitors will get to see the Big Five.
Akagera national park is located in Kayonza district in the north eastern part of Rwanda. It is the largest national park in Rwanda, spanning over a radius of 1,122 square kilometers. The national park is currently managed by the Akagera Management Company, following a joint partnership in 2010 by the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks, an NGO that manages other national parks on the African Continent.
The national park derives its name from River Kagera, which flows through the park. The southern part of Akagera park is used as an entrance by visitors into the national park, and is situated in the district of Kayonza; while the northern gate of the park is used as only as an exit out of Akagera. The northern gate of the park is situated in the district of Nyagatare.
Akagera Park in Rwanda was first established in 1934 by the Belgian colonial government in order to protect the remaining species of wildlife in the park that were under threat. Previously, the national park covered an area of 2,500 square kilometers but most part of the park was destroyed following the return of Rwandan refugees who had fled the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
The park used to shelter a wide range of range of wildlife species like lions, savannah elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, and wild dogs among others. Akagera park was previously referred to as the ‘Park of Lycanos,’ or rather, ‘Parc aux Lycanos’ in French; due to the large number of wild dogs in the park. However, most of these wild dogs were killed by an epidemic in the park, and the last of the species were seen in the park in 1984.
In the 1970s, there were over 50 black rhinos living in Akagera Park following their relocation from Tanzania. However, the years following the 1994 Rwandan Genocide saw most of these rhinos killed to a point that the species became extinct in the national park. A large number of Rwandan refugees returned back home after the genocide and settled down within the national park. As a result, a large portion of the parks forests were cut down for timber, wildlife was hunted for their bush meat, and the park’s savannah woodlands were turned into grazing grounds for cattle.
As a result of continuous poaching and encroachment of land in Akagera national park, over 25% of the park’s forests was destroyed, and the last rhinos in the park was sighted in 2007. Originally, there were about 300 lions in Akagera, but years of poaching led to the extinction of the species until July 2015, when seven lions were transferred from Phinda Private Game reserve in South Africa. The five lionesses were donated by And Beyond, an NGO in South Africa, to Akagera Park in Rwanda. Later, two male lions were donated to Akagera by Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa. This conservation project saw the reintroduction of lions back to Akagera National Park, after 15 solid years of their absence in the park.
In May 2017, 18 black eastern rhinoceros were translocated from South Africa to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda. This translocation, covering a distance of 2,485 miles, saw the reintroduction of rhinos back to the national park, after 10 years of their absence. This was a great achievement for conservationists and staff at Akagera national park; all thanks to a joint collaboration between Rwanda Development Board, African Parks and the Howard Buffet Foundation.
Activities in Akagera rwanda Park.
Travelers visiting Akagera National Park can take part in activities such as;
Game Drives in Akagera National Park.
Akagera national park is the ideal place to be for any visitor who wishes to see wildlife animals in Rwanda, especially the Big Five animals. The national park has over 8,000 large wildlife animals including elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffalos. Travelers visiting the national park can view a variety of wildlife like; the Burchell’s zebra, giraffes, antelopes, impala, topi, Sitatunga, jackals, and hyenas among others.
Sighting the Big Five in Akagera rwanda park marks one of the highlights of any Rwanda safaris in the country. The park offers visitors both day and night game drives, with night guided game drives giving visitors a chance to view the nocturnal animals like leopards, lions, civets, hyenas, bush babies and serval cats to mention but a few.
Visitors in Akagera national park can also see a few nocturnal birds such as Owls. Night game drives in the park take between 1-2 hours and cost USD 40 dollars per person. Day guided game drives cost USD 30 per visitor and are conducted in the early morning and late afternoon.
Boat Trips in Akagera.
Tourists visiting Akagera rwanda Park can enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ihema which is well known for its impressive populations of hippos, crocodiles and numerous water birds. This activity is a must do for any bird lovers. Boat trips in Akagera national park happen four times a day at 7:30am, 9am, 3pm and 4:30pm respectively. However, there are also non-scheduled boat trips available in the park for visitors who wish to take private boat trips on the lake. Visitors on a boat trip in Akagera can also sight a number of bird species including the rare Shoebill stock. The park offers visitors scheduled boat trips at a fee of USD 35 dollars for the morning boat cruise and USD 45 dollars for evening/sunset boat cruise. However, the park also offers private boat trips at a fee of USD 40 dollars and these launch trips are not scheduled.
Akagera National Park is home to over 750 bird species including marabou stocks, egrets, crowned cranes and herons. Bird lovers will find this national park a good destination for bird watching while on safari.
Fishing in Akagera National Park:
Fishing in Akagera national park usually take place on Lake Shakani, which is popular for its variety of fish species especially Tilapia and cat fish. Visitors can spend a day relaxing and fishing on the lake shores and later cook your catch over an open bond fire at your campsite. Fishing activities in Akagera cost USD 25 dollars, and USD 15 dollars for children aged 6-12 years. However, visitors will have to carry their own fishing equipment.
Guided Nature Walks:
While in Akagera Park, tourists interested in taking nature walks can do so with the guidance of a well-trained park ranger. While on a walk, get to view the various plant, insect and bird species in Akagera National Park.
Behind the Scenes in Akagera national park.
Travelers visiting Akagera national park can now get an insight into the activities that take place in the management of the national park. The ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Akagera takes visitors through the park’s headquarters where you can get to meet the staff of Akagera national park, and learn about exciting conservation projects in the park. Behind the scenes tour in Akagera costs USD 25 dollars per person for a minimum of four people and USD 15 dollars for children aged 6-12 years. A group rate for a maximum of 8 persons costs USD 180 dollars. This tour lasts for a maximum of one and half hours.
Other activities offered by Akagera national park include; Camping, Walk in the Line, and Community Cultural Visits.
Best time to visit Akagera National Park.
In case you are planning to visit Akagera national park in Rwanda, the best time to visit the park is between December-February and June to September which are basically dry months in the park. During this time the grass in the national park is short which makes wildlife viewing much easier. In addition to this, wildlife animals in the park frequently converge near water pools in designated areas of the national park which makes it much easier for visitors to view wildlife. Also, the roads in the part during this time of the year are not muddy hence making it easy for visitors to navigate around the park.
Accommodation in the park.
Visitors who wish to spend more nights in Akagera national park can find accommodation in facilities such as; Akagera Game Lodge, Magashi Safari Camp, Karenge Bush Camp, and Ruzizi Tented Camp to mention but a few.
Getting to the Park.
Akagera National Park can be accessed by Road from Kigali City. It is about 110km From Kigali which is roughly a 2 and half hour drive. Tourists are advised to hire 4x 4 wheel drive vehicles for your safari as the roads leading to and within the national park is characterized by murrum or rather dirt roads. Alternatively, visitors can hire a helicopter to transport you to the national park. Akagera Aviation offers charter flights to the park.
Akagera National Park in Rwanda is the number one place to be for any traveler who wishes to explore the pristine savannah lands in the national park, and wildlife animals in the country.