Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda, around a 2.5-3 hour drive from Kigali, along the border with Tanzania and named after the river that flows along the eastern boundary. Since 2010, a joint venture with the African Parks organisation has seen Akagera start to return to its former glories and in our opinion is emphatically worth visiting for at least 2 or 3 nights!
Although it would be a mistake to compare the wildlife viewing at Akagera to nearby Kenya and Tanzania, there are plenty of animals to see and a variety of activities. The largest attraction is certainly the fact that you are certainly off-the beaten track and safari in Rwanda means this is one reserve where you can happily drive for hours without seeing another vehicle. Akagera is without doubt also one of the most scenic African reserves, with a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. It's forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, rolling highlands and savannah plains combine to make Akagera an unmissable part of this beautiful country.
It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa. It houses a diversity of habitats in one park including lakes, marshes, savannah, mountains and woodland, which makes for spectacular scenery. Although founded in 1934, much of Akagera was re-allocated as farms and in 1997 the park was reduced in size from more than 2,500 sq km (nearly 10% of the surface area of Rwanda) to its current extent of 1,122 sq km.
Akagera combines well with Nyungwe and Volcanoes to offer a great safari element to any trip and 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. Akagera plays host to larger predators such as Leopard, Hyena, Side-Striped Jackal and Lion, which was re-introduced last year and we encourage you read the story of Akagera's lions here. Plans are underway for the reintroduction in 2017 of the Black Rhino too, and this will restore Akagera’s ‘Big 5’ status.
Other larger game include Elephant, Zebra, Topi, Buffalo, Waterbuck, Roan Antelope and Eland. Other antelope are Duiker, Impala, Oribi, Bohor Reedbuck, Klipspringer and Bushbuck. Primates include, Olive Baboons, Vervets and the secretive Blue Monkey are seen during the day, with Bushbabies often seen on night drives.
Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species due to its wide variety of habitats. The rare and elusive Shoebill shares the Papyrus with other rarities such as the exquisite Papyrus Gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands in large numbers.
As a park under the guidance of African Parks Akagera has so much potential and by visiting you will be aiding in growing an important area of the country. We feel strongly about promoting the Rwanda safari industry and new camps like Ruzizi Tented Camp and Karenge Bush Camp are a massive step forward in terms of offering a quality and authentic safari experience.
The guiding programme and park ranger development is superb in the park. There is a two-tier guiding system in the park with 10 park-employed guides and 15 community freelance guides. You will most likely have a park-employed guide who has guiding experience ranging from 2 to 12 years in Akagera National Park, and has undertaken training in content, interpretive guiding and first aid in the past 2 years. Or, you can choose one of the Community Freelance Guides, who are enthusiastic and fast learners and have completed an in-house training and assessment programme. By choosing a freelance guide you are strengthening the relationship between the park and the local community, by stimulating economic development and allowing communities members living alongside the park to benefit from the tourism growth in Akagera. Both guides are dedicated to providing an authentic experience and support the success of the park and Rwanda safari as a whole.
Read more on the work of African Parks here - https://www.african-parks.org/