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Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park,   Akagera National Park is not as popular as Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks yet it is the largest protected wetland in Africa as well as the last remaining shelter for numerous savannah-adapted flora and fauna species within Rwanda. If it is the big five animals, large mammals or antelopes you are looking for, Akagera National Park is where you have to be. This Park was gazetted in 1934 and extends for an area of 1122 square kilometers of montane, savannah and savannah.

This National Park is nestled along the Rwanda-Tanzania border and was named after River Kagera that drains through the Eastern boundary of the country, pouring its waters into Lake Ihema. A third of this Park is covered by a system of Lakes that are connected by Papyrus wetlands, making it the largest protected wetland in East and Central Africa.

Attractions within the park

The different ecosystems (savannah, woodland, wetland, grassland, forest and Lakes) of Akagera National Park are habitats to a wide range of wildlife species that include African elephants, Cape buffaloes, Eastern black rhinos that were introduced into the Park in 2017, lions that were re-introduced in 2015, leopards, Topis, Kobs, zebras, Rothschild giraffes, Klipspringer, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, common elands, Defassa waterbucks, Roan antelopes, Hippos, Nile crocodiles and warthogs among others. The forest area of the Park is a home to several primate species that are olive baboons, bush babies, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and many others.

Over 500 bird species are found in Akagera National Park, representing over three-quarters of the country’s total bird species. Of these, the Caruther’s Cisticola, Hadada Ibis, Senegal lapwings, shoebill storks, Papyrus gonolek, grey-crowned cranes, Long-toed and water thick-knee, Grey-backed fiscals, giant kingfishers, African open-billed storks, African darters and red-faced barbets among others are the commonly sighted species during birding trips.

Tourist activities 

Tourists with Akagera National Park on their bucket list are guaranteed of participating in interesting activities that include;

Game drives

Nothing excites Akagera National Park visitors than driving through the stunning and well-maintained game tracks that pass through vast savannah plains, valleys and woodlands in search for the big five animals-lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and Rhinos as well as the Rothschild giraffes, Oribis, Topis, Kobs, warthogs , Defassa waterbucks, roan antelopes, olive baboons, zebras, bushbucks and Bohor reedbucks among others. Whether morning, afternoon or evening game drives, you are guaranteed of seeing the numerous wildlife species that call this Park home.

Birding

With a total of more than 500 species of birds, Akagera National Park should top every birder’s list. This activity is conducted through walks within the papyrus swamps, savannah plains, woodlands, boat trips in the Lakes and forest walks where species such as Papyrus gonolek, grey-crowned cranes, lesser kestrels, Grey-backed fiscals, red-faced barbets, shoebills, giant kingfishers, African darters and many others can be spotted. Game drives, boat rides and nature walks all offer opportunities of spotting the different bird species in this National Park.

Guided nature walks/hiking

Guided nature walks offer a more detailed and exquisite chance to see the attractions in Akagera National Park that are otherwise difficult to see through game drives, boat rides and birding. Chances of seeing the lions, leopards, serval cats as well as plant species and birds are higher through nature walks.

Boat rides

Boat rides in Akagera National Park are conducted in Lake Ihema, offering opportunities of spotting the Nile crocodiles and Hippos along the shores of the Lake. Also, aquatic bird species can be spotted during the 2-3 hours’ boat rides and always look-out for the cormorants, shoebill storks, Herons, open-billed storks, Hammerkop, African fish eagles, egrets, Pied and Malachite kingfishers and many others. Also, your boat ride will introduce you to some of the herbs of elephants, buffaloes, kobs and Topis drinking and cooling at the shores of the Lake.

Fishing

Lake Shakani is where fishing is conducted in Akagera National Park with cat fish and tilapias being the most commonly-caught fish species.

Best Time to visit 

The best time to visit Akagera National Park is all year round but the dry months-January, February, June, July, August, September and December offer excellent periods for game drives. This is because grass is shorter making animals very visible and also, animals tend to converge at water drinking points especially Lakes thus offering perfect time for the same activity.

The wet months-March, April, May, October and November favor the flourishing of vegetation hence more wildlife species and are also perfect for birding especially seeing the migratory bird species.

Accommodation facilities 

Akagera National Park has few but cozy accommodation facilities that include the Akagera Game Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Karenge Bush Camp, Magashi Camp, Dereva Hotel and the numerous Campsites (Muyumba, Shakani and Mutamba Campsites) for budget travellers.

How to get to there

Akagera National Park is situated within the north-eastern side of Rwanda, approximately 110 kilometers/2-3 hours’ drive from the City of Kigali. It can be accessed by both road and air transport. For the former, it is easiest through Kigali-Rwamagambo-Kayonza-Kabarondo Town to the Park.

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