Akagera National Park is located in the east of Rwanda.
It covers a massive area of 2,500 km². It borders Tanzania and is surrounded by the astounding Akagera River waters. Akagera National Park has the typical grasslands of the African Savannah, series of lakes, marshes and papyrus swamps. The park has a wide collection of wildlife and some of them are elephant, buffaloes, antelopes, lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes, chimpanzees, gorillas and chimpanzees.
Some rare species of birds are also found in the Akagera National Park and some of them are fish eagles, papyrus ganolek, and bizarre shoebill stork. One of the special features about the wild life of Akagera National Park is that one of the largest antelopes of the world the statuesque Cape eland is found here. Akagera National Park also involves the other ecosystems of Uganda’s Kikati game reserve, rangeland areas to the north of the Katungo River and the lake Mburo National park. It also extends to the eastern side towards the Ibanda and Rumanyika game reserves of Tanzania and also to the Biharamulo and Burigi game reserves in the south.
The following are some of the accommodation units used as the safari; Akagera Game Lodge, Dereva Hotel and many others
Akagera National Park is one of Rwanda’s most popular tourist attractions and it keeps getting better and better each year. It’s been under the combined management of RDB and African Parks (a conservation non-profit based in South Africa) since 2010. In that time, over $12 million has been spent on conservation, park enforcement, tourism initiatives, and community engagement. It’s this exciting partnership that has brought lions to the park and park attendance has jumped from 15,000 people in 2010 to 32,000 people in 2015.
Though Akagera isn’t as well known as other major parks in the region, it’s stunningly beautiful and really does make a great day, overnight, or weekend trip. The park is large and the landscape changes quite drastically from north to south. The rolling hills offer amazing views from the top and a very nice backdrop if you’re in the valleys. Akagera National Park is on the border of Tanzania at a relatively low altitude and is creatively carved with a labyrinth of swamps that flow into the Akagera River.
Akagera Park is located to the Eastern province of Rwanda about two hours away form Kigali. The road is mostly paved until about a half hour before you get to the entrance when things get a bit bumpy and dusty… to get you ready for the park experience! Akagera is home to lots of animals including elephants, buffalo, giraffe and zebras, 11 antelope species, and elusive lions and leopards. If you’ve been on game drives in places like Kenya or South Africa then you might find Rwanda’s little park less exciting as the animals aren’t quite as plentiful as they are in the Serengeti’s of the world. But a trip to Akagera is still highly recommended and it makes for a great day or overnight trip away from Kigali.
I didn’t realise how many activities were possible in Akagera until very recently but there are quite a few things to keep you busy.
- Game Drives – The obvious attraction to a game park is a game drive! You can come in as part of a fully organised tour with a driver and guide or you can get a bit more adventurous and drive yourself in your own vehicle ($7 for EAC/Rwandan registered cars and $25 for foreign registered cars and double for safari vehicles or buses). Driving yourself is fun but you won’t really know where to look for the animals which might be frustrating. Fortunately you can hire a guide to come with you for $25 for a half day or $40 for a full day… just make sure to leave an extra seat in the car! Night game drives for $40 per person (minimum 2, maximum 7 people) are also a possibility and this can be arranged separately from within the park.
- Bird Watching – Akagera is a great spot for bird watching nerds with about 525 Species of birds (four of which are endemic) as well as a large number of migrant birds. The elusive Shoebill Stork can be spotted here along with the endangered and exquisite Papyrus Gonolek.
- Boat Trips – There are three pre-scheduled boat trips (morning, day, or sunset) to enjoy the park from water level surrounded by crocodile, bird, and hippo friends. The one hour trip costs $40 per person (to a maximum of 11 people) or if you’d rather schedule your own trip with a private group at your chosen time it costs $180 to rent the entire boat.
- Fishing – If you have your own gear (rods only, no nets) you can pay a fee of $20 for a permit to fish for the day from the shores of Lake Shakani. Hippos stay in the water during the day and the banks of the shore are gently sloped so you’d see any approaching crocs well before they were consuming you, so there’s nothing to worry about. But it certainly adds an element of excitement to fishing!
- Cultural Tours – In collaboration between the park and local communities, freelance community guides have arranged for some interesting tours and cultural experiences for park guests to participate in. There are four choices – Heritage (The Culture of Cattle), Local Production (Beer and Bees), Arts and Crafts, and Celebration (Food and Festivities). Each of these tours offers a glimpse into life in communities around the park. Try your hand at everything from milking a cow to making an imigongo painting, to sampling honey on the comb, to helping to create a local meal, to having a go at traditional Rwandan dancing. Each cultural experience tour takes around three hours and costs $20 per person with a minimum of three people.
- Walk the Line – This tour is an interesting opportunity to see a portion of the park on foot. Join community freelance guides as they guide you in the shoes of a fence attendant to check the fence that allowed the reintroduction of lions into the park. The moderate walk is 7kms long, takes about 2 hours, and ends on a ridge with a beautiful view over the park. It costs $0 per person with a minimum of three.