Akagera National Park is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda. Miraculously fabricated in the 1934 to protect the lands adjacent to Akagera River where it derives its name. Located in the North Eastern part of Rwanda. Akagera national park once protected a gigantic number of Rwandan wildlife and doubling as the one of the finest wildlife reserves in the whole of Africa.
All this prestige was however erased by the enormous numbers of refugees returning home in the late 1990s. The park was de-gazetted to almost fifty percent of the total area in establishment of new resettlement villages. Had not been this human encroachment, Akagera would have been even much better, following settlement, the citizens started facing social economic challenges that included hunger resulting to famine, inadequate proper medical care among others that left them with limited options of which the immediate one was to strike the protected area and hunt the animals for food as well as protection and gathering medicinal plants to treat themselves and the savanna grassland for their livestock. This poaching facilitated environmental degradation, reduction in number of the wildlife and extinction of some animal species like the lions and Rhinos. Biodiversity was practically lost, as well as employment and tourism including the park’s value being diminished to almost extinction.
The year 2010 saw a remarkable partnership between African parks and Rwanda Development Board granting the management authority to African parks shifting the park’s trajectory from one of oblivion to prosperity and hope. After years of preparation, through effective law enforcement and management, Lions were reintroduced in 2015 and the population doubled in the first year with the birth of eleven cubs. Two additional males were translocated from South Africa in 2017 to increase the population’s genetic diversity. This same year 2017 saw the historic return of 18 Eastern black rhinoceros after 10-years absence,this overhauled law enforcement significantly reduced poaching, revamping of old camps and the building of new ones, the forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and the scenicrolling landscapes, diverse habitats and rich wildlife are well worth the excursion to this only Savannah park in the land of thousand hills.
Akagera National Park is home to a huge number of mammals including the big 5 game lions, leopards, Rhinos, Elephants and Buffaloes. Other wild life gem includes the topi, zebra, waterbuck, roam antelope, eland, duikers, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. Lakes and swamps harbor a considerate number of hippos, crocodiles as well as an array of birds close to 550 species including the unique jacanas, papyrus Gonolek, sandpipers.
Game drives in Akagera national park entails an opportunity to spot most of the park’s game. An early game drive is the best to catch up with late hunters and early risers as well as spotting herbivores that are attracted to soft dew-filled grass in the mornings. Early risers find it fascinating to view beautiful sunsets. Wildlife to look out for are the big mammals like Elephants, Giraffes, Buffaloes, several Antelope species, Lions and Rhinos. Your guide will ensure to take you to every corner of the park to give you all the opportunity to site almost all the game in the park. Night game drives showcase nocturnal animals which among others include hyenas, civets, leopards, bush babies and several cats.
A boat ride along lake Ihema unlocks all the scenic beauty of the park specifically in the course the dry season when most of the animals roam the lake to quench their thirst. Animals spotted include; antelopes, crocodiles, hippos, and buffaloes. Optimistically, there is quite a good number of birds seen gazing on the banks of the lake that include but not limited to; African Fish Eagles, Blue-headed Weavers, Cormorants, Green-necked Doves, Hammerkops, Herons, Malachite Kingfishers, Pelicans, Pied Kingfishers, Rufous Long-tailed Starlings and Shoebill Storks.
The park offers a vast habitat for over 480 bird species that make it a birding paradise. Some of the species include the remarkable shoebill, papyrus Gonolek, African Wattled Plover, Giant Kingfisher, Senegal Lapwings, Squacco Herons, African Open bill stock, Grey Crowned Crane, African Darter, Long-toed and Water Thick-knee, fish eagles, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Sacred a
Akagera is blessed with a number of lodges both topnotch and midrange categories including, Magashi tented camp, Ruzizi tented lodge, Mantis Akagera game lodge, Akagera Rhino lodge, Karenge bush camp, Mantis Epic hotel as well as Akagera transit lodge for budget travelers.
Akagera national park can be accessed by either air or road. From Kigali drive out of town towards the airport and turn left 100M to the airport, Proceed to the East towards Rwamagana to Kayonza. When you get to Kayonza, take the right turn at the roundabout and proceed to Kabarondo town. Take a left turn onto the dirt road and drive on for about 15km till you come to a junction at Rwinkwavu. You will see a signpost that reads Akagera national Park on the left. The park gates are about 13km ahead after the signpost. Akagera aviation offers charter flights starting from Kigali international airport and landing Magashi camp helipad. This takes about 25 Minutes and you are already in the park premises.