Akagera National Park

Sprawling in Eastern Rwanda, Akagera National Park is by far one of the magical parks travelers on Rwanda safari shouldn’t miss exploring. It was established in 1934 and features as the only savanna or big five parks in Rwanda. The park derives its name from the Kagera River that flows through its Eastern borders emptying its water into Lake Ihema and many other small lakes. Akagera National Park expands up to 1122sq.kms and consists of savanna, montane and swamp habitats where diversity of wildlife species thrive.

History of Akagera National Park

Established in 1934, Akagera National Park was initially run by the Belgian government occupying an area about 2500sq.kms. Its size reduced in 1997 to currently 1122sq.kms. Previously, the park had several African wild dogs but unfortunately, they were last spotted in 1984. Their number reduced drastically due to the outbreak of epidemic diseases. The black rhinos were introduced in 1957 from Tanzania and over 50 of them survived in the park around the 1970s. However, their population reduced due to poaching. The Masai giraffes were also introduced from Kenya to Akagera National Park in 1986 and in 1990, over 300 lions were also introduced.

The Rwanda Development Board-government organ that brings together all government agencies in Rwanda in charge attraction, retention and facilitation of investments in the national economy and African Parks Network signed a 20year renewable treaty for the collaborative running of Akagera National Park in 2009. This led to the formation of Akagera Management Company in 2010.  About 7 lions from South Africa were introduced and released into Akagera National Park in 2015 and over 20 Eastern black rhinos were re-introduced in May 2017. Today, the park is a complete big five destination.

Wildlife in Akagera National Park

Travelers on Rwanda safari in Akagera Park have opportunity to explore the park’s diverse wildlife species including elephants, buffaloes, leopards, the Masai giraffes, hyenas, side-striped jackals, lions, rhinos, hippos, zebras, antelopes like reedbucks, waterbucks, impalas, elands, roan antelopes; crocodiles, primates like baboons, bush babies, blue monkeys. Diversity in wildlife makes Akagera National Park an incredible wildlife safari destination.

  • Bird species in Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is home to about 550 bird species and this makes it an exceptional birding safari destination. The birds to look out for on Rwanda safari in Akagera National Park include little bee-eater, red-winged francolin, osprey, pin tailed whydah, white-backed vulture, African fish eagle, lilac-breasted roller, black-headed weaver, African jacana, fork-tailed Drongo, saddle-billed stork, white-browed coucal, African grey hornbill, white-faced whistling duck, long-crested eagle, African wattle lapwing, common Squacco heron, lappet-faced vulture, papyrus gonoleks, short-tailed pipit, sooty falcon, yellow-bellied eremomela, woodland kingfisher, palm nut vulture, goliath heron, spur-winged goose, bare face go away bird, cattle egret helmeted guinea fowl, grey crowned crane, marabou stork, African darter, crowned lapwing, eastern grey plantain eater, white-winged swamp warbler, Shelley’s francolin, ring-necked francolins, striped pipit, shoebill stork.

Activities to do in Akagera National Park

  • Game drives

Game drives in Akagera Park can be done in the morning or afternoon and lasting about 2 or 3 hours. Visitors require a good 4×4 safari vehicle with a pop up for clear viewing. On a game drive in Akagera National Park, one will come across African bush elephants, lions, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, the Masai giraffes, hyenas, side-striped jackals, zebras, primates like baboons, bush babies, blue monkeys, antelopes like bushbucks, roan antelopes, topis, elands, waterbucks; birds. The best game tracks include Kitabili loop, Rwisirabo loop, giraffe area loop, Nyamabuye or Rurama.

  • Bird Watching

With your camera and binocular, birding in Akagera Park becomes an enjoyable experience. The birds to identify in this park include red-winged francolin, osprey, pin tailed whydah, white-backed vulture, African fish eagle, lilac-breasted roller, black-headed weaver, African jacana, fork-tailed Drongo, saddle-billed stork, white-browed coucal, African grey hornbill, white-faced whistling duck, long-crested eagle, African wattle lapwing, common Squacco heron, lappet-faced vulture, papyrus gonoleks, short-tailed pipit, sooty falcon, yellow-bellied eremomela, woodland kingfisher, palm nut vulture, goliath heron, spur-winged goose, bare face go away bird, cattle egret helmeted guinea fowl, grey crowned crane, marabou stork, African darter, crowned lapwing, eastern grey plantain eater, white-winged swamp warbler, Shelley’s francolin, ring-necked francolins, striped pipit, shoebill stork.

  • Nature walks

Nature walks in Akagera Park involves exploring different habitats in and around the park. One stands a chance to see a variety of bird species, wildlife, and unique flora.

  • Boat cruise

Boat cruise or ride in Akagera Park is best conducted along Lake Ihema. Expect to see the basking crocodiles along the shores of Lake Ihema, hippos and different water birds.

  • Fishing 

Lake Shakani is an ideal spot to visit for fishing tours in Akagera Park. Visitors on a safari in Akagera Park who are interested in this water sport can camp around Lake Shakani campsite.

  • Best time to visit Akagera National Park

Visitors on Rwanda safari can visit Akagera during the dry season-June, July, August, September and December, January, February. Bird watching is best carried out in March, April, May, and October, November-the wet months of the year. However, you can do birding while on a game drive.

  • Getting to Akagera National Park

Located in Northeastern Rwanda, the park is accessible by road or by air. By road, it takes visitors to Rwanda safari to reach Akagera Park about 2 hours and 30 minutes from Kigali. By air, you can take flight services offered by Akagera Aviation.

In conclusion, when you think of exploring the big five African game in the savanna grasslands, think not beyond the Rwanda safari tour in Akagera Park.

Akagera National Park

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