Guide to Akagera National Park
The complete guide to Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only savanna national park. This guide provide you information and updates about Akagera National Park in Rwanda. This includes, what to do, what to wear, when to visit, and much more. Please note that this is a privately owned website and it is not managed and run the government of Rwanda.
Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.
Named after River Kagera, Akagera park currently covers a land area of 1,200sq kilometers. This is dominated by tiny lakes and swamps because of the zigzagging of River Kagera. River Kagera is the most distant head-stream of River Nile as well as Lake Victoria’s largest tributary. The different water sources form a spectacular network making an amazing Eco-system.
Surrounded by beautifully cultivated hills that form a breathtaking background perfect for photographs. Akagera national Park vegetation is majorly comprised of a low landscape comprising of broad plains that are covered with grass, shrubs of Euphorbia candelabra similar to cactus and patches of forests. Unlike most parts of Rwanda the terrain here is not hilly and rocky.
What to See
There are lots of things to see in Akagera National Park. From the
Akagera is, above all, big game country! Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a spotted hyena or even a stray lion. Giraffe and zebra amble through the savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque cape eland.
Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape. Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork – the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.
Things to Do in Akagera
There are lots of things to do in Akagera National Park. From game drives to boat safaris, there are amazing adventure activities to do in Akagera.
- Game Drives
Political conflicts together with poaching have greatly reduced wildlife populations. However, Akagera National Park is still worth visiting. During the game drive along a well designed network of game viewing tracks, there are plenty fulls of animals to see including elephants, buffalo, zebra, bush-baby, hippos, crocodiles and many other mammal species. We also can’t rule out the rare game species such as leopard, lion and black rhino. As one of the most scenic savanna in East Africa, the game drive in Akagera provides an opportunity to see gentle hills blending in beautifully with lowland swamps and water bodies.
On a game drive during the day, you get to be driven along the tracks, through the green savannah plains, past wide-leaved woodlands and into the habitat of bountiful mammal species in the Akagera National Park. Your tour guide knows the areas where most animals usually spend their day and will endeavor to drive by. Some of the animals to look out for while on a day game drive include; The Defassa Waterbuck, Topis, Bohor Reedbucks, Oribis, Semi-Aquatic Sitatunga, Eland, Giraffes, Buffaloes, Elephants, Lions and the recently reintroduced Rhinos are some of the mammals found in the park.
The night game drive is an experience in which you step into the wild to view the nocturnal animals especially the wide-eyed bush babies, serval cats, civets, leopards. You will be guided by your flashlight and an experienced ranger. Experience if you are setting out to see the wild.
- Nature Walks
Akagera national park management offers nature walks in some areas of the park with a ranger guide. This is a good way to explore the park outside of a vehicle which you use while on a game drive. Also it allows more time and engagement concerning butterflies, insects and plants that you could easily miss while on a safari.
You have an opportunity of fishing while in Akagera national park. You can do this on both Lake Ihema and Shakani which is a thrilling experience. At the serene waters you can fish to the background music of chirping birds and hippos that grunt as if to cheer you on. You are free to keep your catch to roast, fry or grill it and enjoy the taste of fresh fish from Rwanda.
Akagera National Park after Nyungwe is the most important ornithological site in Rwanda. Morning and evening bird watching excurisions on the game tracks in Akagera National Park provides birdwatchers with an opportunity to see a selection of savanna bird species. This park is known for its richness in waterbirds in the East African region and one of the exceptional places to view papyrus endemics. Some of the common species on this safari are; the gorgeous lilac-breasted roller, black headed gonalek, heuglin’s robin-chat, grey hornbill, ross’s turaco, crested barbet and many more.
Akagera National Park is home to over 480 species of birds with many only found in this park in Rwanda. The diverse habitat for birds at Akagera National Park gives you an opportunity to view different kinds of bird species. There will be birds in the savannah plains, in the hills, forests, by the lakes and at the river. The Red Faced Barbets, the Great Snipe, the Lesser Kesterel, the Armot Chat, Swamp Fly Catchers, the Papyrus Gonolex and the Shoebill are some of the most rewarding sights while birding.
- Boat Safari
A boat safari is a relaxing yet rewarding way to view wildlife. It is an even more rewarding experience when on the lake. Lake Ihema is the second largest lake in Rwanda known for its abundant hippo population and crocodile dotted shores. The boat safari on Lake Ihema offers the opportunity to take up-close photos of these animals. As other animals come to the lake for a drink or bath, you can take a look at those that you may have missed while out on a game drive in the wild.
- Evening walks around the hotel as you see various bird species.
- Participate in a day to day local pastoral lifestyle.
- Camping at various spots of your choice with magnificent landscape views.
- Presentation on the ecology of Akagera ecosystem and the conservation efforts including the coexistence dynamics between local people and wildlife.
Akagera National Park Planner
Get started with planning your safari to Akagera National Park. Here are some useful tips to help you plan your visit. From park entrance fees to how to get your visa for a Rwanda visit, we have compiled useful information to get you started with making appropriate decisions to experience Akagera.
When is the Best time to Visit Akagera Park
June- September mark the long dry seasons in Akagera National Park. The national park can be dry and dusty during this time of the year, as it marks the warmest time of the year. This time is very suitable for visitors taking a game drive in Akagera national park since it is easy for visitors to spot a variety of wildlife animals in the park. Also, remember to carry with you enough mineral water to keep hydrated during this time of the year and throughout your game drives.
The months of December- February are the short dry seasons in the national park. However, visitors may experience a bit of rainfall during this period, so make sure you carry a light raincoat just for emergency purposes.
The months between March to May mark the long rainy season in Akagera National Park. The park receives a lot of rainfall during this time period and usually the roads in the park are muddy. Visitors travelling to the national park during this time of the year should hire 4×4 wheel drive vehicles to ease your movement in the park. In addition to this, visitors should also pack a lot of warm clothes as nights in the park tend to get extremely cold during this rainy season.
The months from October till November characterize the short wet season in the national park. During this period, visitors travelling to Akagera national park can take part in bird watching activities in the park. Visitors can get an opportunity to view migratory birds pass through the park during this time of the year.
How to Get There
Located in Northeastern part of the Republic Rwanda along Rwanda’s boundary with Tanzania is the Famous Akagera National Park. The Park is closer to a town called Kibungu the perfect starting point for tourist activities in the park. The park can be accessed by visitors travelling from Kigali City. The national park is located about 110km from Kigali and visitors can reach the park in 2½ hours. Travelers planning to visit Akagera national park can consult a trusted tour operator for better travel options and tour packages to the national park.
Things to Consider while planning a Safari
The park opens between 6am and 6pm and about US$50 is charged as entrance fee for international visitors. Rwanda is a country located in the tropics and hence with insects and diseases that international visitors may not be immune too. It is very important to ensure that you see your doctor and get vaccinated against Yellow Fever before traveling to Rwanda. Endeavor to come with malaria tablets because the park has mosquitoes and even tsetse flies. Moreover, game drives are done with open car windows which can invite painful bites from certain insects. An insect repellent is therefore very important in keeping off insects. You might also want to come with long trousers, long-sleeved shirts and clothes of dull color.