Encompassing 1,120 square kilometres of protected land, the Akagera National Park is an ambitious conservation area in eastern Rwanda. Straddling the border of Tanzania, this park is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland area, and is home to a wide variety of ungulates and big game.
The geography of the national park is unique. Short grasses on the savannah plains extend their way to rolling green hills and swathes of woodlands. Swampy papyrus floodplains surround the mosaic of lakes located around Kagera River—where the park derives its namesake.
Previously degraded by warfare and poaching, Akagera is now restored to its former glory after successful conservation initiatives to re-introduce the big five and other species into the park. The watery domain of the south of the park provides the ideal habitat for hippos and crocodiles, best spotted while out on a boat safari. The national park is now brimming with wildlife sightings.
Akagera National Park is easily accessible and is located a mere two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Kigali International Airport.
Eighteen Eastern black rhinos were re-introduced into Akagera in 2017 and another group was added two years later.
An anti-poaching unit consisting of well-equipped game guards and specifically trained dogs are patrolling the park to prevent incursions and poaching of the park’s inhabitants.
The Akagera National Park is home to contrasting environments, which means different species congregate in various regions of the park. There are high concentrations of zebra, buffalo, eland, rhino and grazers on the grassy plains.
It’s not uncommon to spot thousands of hoofed animals littering the plains. With such healthy populations of general game, it draws in plenty of predator action from lions and leopards. In 2017, as part of a conservation project, 18 eastern black rhinos were reintroduced into the reserve to increase numbers.
The woodlands and marshy areas surrounding the many small lakes dotted across the Tanzania border, provide the ideal habitat for abundant elephant herds, hippo, waterbuck, crocodiles and over 500 species of bird. A few of the common bird residents include the Senegal Lapwing, giant kingfisher, shoebill storks, crowned cranes and African fish eagles.
Akagera National Park has two dry seasons, which are both considered peak safari time. The longer dry period is from June to September, and the shorter dry period is from December to February.
Visitors tend to favour the longer dry season because it is easier to spot wildlife. During the dry season, animals congregate at the natural waterholes within the park.
There are also two wet seasons. The long rains occur from February to May, and the short rains are from October to December. Despite the intermittent showers, the rainy season is beautiful. Shimmering green landscapes replenished from the rains provide exceptional scenes of Rwanda's untouched paradise.
Safari activities are focused on game drives and boating safaris. Boating safaris offer an unparalleled game viewing experience that is both exciting and mesmerizing. Hippos, crocodiles, wading birds and water-loving wildlife can all be spotted along the reed-lined banks of the river.
Morning and evening game drives take place within the park and are normally included in the cost of accommodation. Qualified game rangers guide their vehicles through the varied terrain of woodlands, savannah, lakes and swampy regions in search of wildlife. Game drives are the best way to spot marauding predators and a highlight of any safari experience.
There are other safari activities on offer within the park. They include fishing excursions, birding tours, and helicopter rides.
A wide variety of accommodation options exist within the park. From canvas tented camps to permanent game lodges, the Akagera National Park is perfectly-equipped for tourism.
High-end lodges serve everything from gourmet food to premium drinks at the bar. Visitors seeking premier accommodation options won't be disappointed with the variety of five-star places in Akagera National Park.
Most of the accommodation options are positioned to take advantage of the views. There are marked out campsites that are adequately equipped for the more adventurous visitor.