Akagera National Park is located in the northeast of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Founded in 1934, the park is named after Kagera River that flows along Rwanda’s eastern boundary and is mainly surrounded by Lake Ihema and other smaller lakes in and around the park. The park protects an African Savannah landscape of acacia and bush, with patches of open grassland and a dozen swampy lakes. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms a large protected wetland. Akagera national park is the only Savannah national park in Rwanda and the only place to sight most of the large mammals while on safari.
Akagera combines well with Nyungwe and the Volcanoes NP to offer a great safari element as it is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought-after Shoebill Stork. Notable plains game includes elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope, and eland. Other antelope are duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck, and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, vervets and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day, with bushbabies often seen on night drives.
Akagera Game Drive
Game drives stand out to be of the most activities that attract tourists to visit Akagera national park. Typical game drives are enjoyed in a safari vehicle cruise through the park starting early in the morning as you search of the leopards, hyenas, and the recently re-introduced lions as they begin the hunt for their prey before the sun increases. Along with the game drive, enjoy the scenery of this beautiful park and several other big mammals like Elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, Zebra, and Giraffes. The landscape and beautiful wild flowers will make for good pictures for the interested photographer. It is also possible in Akagera to self-drive your own vehicle around the park. Guides are available to accompany you on your drive. The guides can direct you to areas where wildlife is most abundant and guide you to stunning scenic spots that you may otherwise miss.
Birdwatching in Akagera Park
It’s Rwanda’s best birdwatching destination outside of Nyungwe Forest National Park. The many kilometres of waterside habitat support African eagles, kingfishers, herons, ibises, storks, egrets, crakes, rails, cormorants, darts and pelicans. Seasonal visitors include large flocks of ducks, bee-eaters and terns, and the woodlands areas are particularly good places for barbets, shrikes, orioles and weavers. Birding guides can be arranged at the park’s office.
Akagera lies on the great Nile Valley bird migration route, which means that you could potentially spot nearly 500 species of birds, including several endemics, more than 40 different kinds of raptors and, in wetland areas, the much sought-after shoebill.
1. Boat Ride in Akagera
The best way to spend an afternoon in Akagera national park is to take a boat ride on Lake Ihema. Most animals are hiding under the shade because of the heat from the sun as others come to the water for cooling off and drinking. In addition to a variety of water birds, you will watch schools of hippos in the water and crocodiles by the shores of the lake.
There are also three pre-scheduled boat trips (day, morning and sunset) in order to enjoy the park from water level that is surrounded by the crocodiles, hippos as well as birds. The one-hour boat tour costs $40 per person at a maximum of 11 people and in case you want to schedule your own trip with a private group at your time, it will cost $180 to rent the whole boat. You can as well take a boat safari within Akagera Park along Lake Ihema where you will see many hippos and crocodiles.
2. Akagera Sport Fishing
The park offers an opportunity of sport fishing on Lake Shakani. You are required to make a booking with the park for sport fishing on this lake. Even though the expectation is catch and release, you are given an opportunity to take one catch for a meal if interested. Lake Shakani is the site of sports fishing in the park; spend a relaxing day fishing off the lakeshore and then cook your catch over an open fire at the campsite.
In case you have your own gear, you can only pay $20 for a permit to fish for the whole day from the shores of Lake Shakani. The hippos also stay in the water during the day as well as the banks of the shores are also gently sloped you can see any crocodile that is approaching before, they consume you. This means that there is nothing to worry about as you are fishing.
1. Camping in Akagera National Park
Camping alongside the shimmering attractive lakes of Akagera heaving with riverine species of plants and aquatic life is a truly a magical opening to the wonders of African wild bush experience. Campsites are available throughout the park, with the northern site Mutumba offering the best views. Camping maps can be found at the park entrance, and it costs US$20 per person to camp for a night in addition to the added cost of renting a tent. Choosing to Camp alongside the beautiful Akagera lakes is certainly a mystical introduction to the beautiful wonders of this African bush. You will be fascinated by schools of hippos and giant crocodiles in addition to the various bird species here.
2. Cultural Tours in Akagera National Park
Experience the rural Rwandan life around the cattle keeping communities near Akagera national park. You have the opportunity to observe and or participate in traditional cattle grazing, milking, traditional milk storage in calabashes for preservation. You then go through the process of converting milk into different products like traditional yogurt, ghee and lastly take part in preparing a meal with some of the ingredients from the milk products.
These activities also provide opportunities for engaging with people about their daily lives and excited about sharing their stories. Meanwhile, the income from these activities and is shared with the participating community members and it gives additional revenue, directly through tourism to the families living along the boundary of the park, showing the benefits of tourism and thus creating long term support for the conservation of Akagera National Park.