Comprehensive Guide to Akagera National Park
For memorable wildlife safaris in Rwanda, consider visiting Akagera National Park a must while on safari in Africa. The park is one of the oldest national parks in Africa and it was gazetted in 1934 largely to offer refuge to wildlife species and vegetation which includes the 3 (three) eco-regions; the savanna, mountain and swamp. Akagera national park was named after Kagera River that flows along its Eastern boundary feeding into numerous Lakes including Lake Ihema the largest Lake in the country. The complex system of linking papyrus swamps and lakes form about a third of the national park making it one of the biggest conservation wetland areas in East and Central Africa and extends up to 1120 square kilometers. From 2010, Akagera National Park has been under a joint management of the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks.
Akagera National Park lies at the border of Tanzania and within low elevation and is creatively carved with a labyrinth of swamps which flows into the Akagera River. It is located in the Eastern province of Rwanda approximately 2 (two) hours from Kigali city. It features mainly the African elephants, buffaloes, Zebras, Giraffe, eleven antelope families the lion as well as leopards. Its vegetation largely comprises of low landscape with broad plains that come with grass, shrubs of Euphorbia candelabra just like those of the cactus and patches of forests. Akagera terrain isn’t all that mountainous and rocky compared to the rest of the areas in Rwanda. Before, it covered about 2500 square kilometers but in 1997, its size reduced to nearly 50% due to resettlement during the Rwanda Genocide refugees 1994.
What to do in Akagera national park?
Wildlife viewing is the prime activity to do while on safari in Akagera National Park. The game drives to Akagera protected area rewards visitors with stunning views of Burchell’s zebras, impala, giraffes, topi (popular as tsessebe in Southern Africa), bush bucks, elands, African swallows, baboons, warthogs, vervet monkeys, mongoose, crocodiles, hippos and elephants as well as other mammal species like the oribi, reedbuck, Defassa waterbuck, sable and roan antelopes, buffaloes and others. Game drives are conducted from south to north trails.
This is another remarkable experience in Akagera National Park. It is done in the morning, day and sunset. This allows visitors to catch a glimpse of hippos and crocodiles as well buffaloes and elephants which usually gather around the water banks. There are also some birds to sight like fish eagles, shoebill stork, papyrus gonolek, heron, kingfisher and others.
Akagera national park is a bird watcher’s paradise in Rwanda. You can sight birds from waterfowl to the myriad of savanna bird species that make up over 500 on record in park. The notable bird include the papyrus gonolek only limited to the papyrus swamps and others like the gorgeous lilac breasted roller, black headed gonolek, Heuglin’s robin chat, Grey horn bill, Red faced barbet, Swamp flycatcher, Ross’s Turaco. Akagera National Park is famous as one of the best birding sites in the world with the hugest bird species per unit area. To the southern part, you will meet birds and butterflies more repaying for bird watching compared to the North which is best for wildlife viewing.
For visitors who have their own gear, you can purchase a fishing permit for the day from the shores of Lake Shakani. Hippos stay in the water during the day and the banks of the shore are gently sloped meaning that a visitor is able to sight any crocodiles that may want to approach him or her.
Wildlife safaris in Rwanda are by far better when incorporated with cultural encounters. Visiting the neighboring community allows you to explore Rwanda’s heritage or the culture of cattle, local production-the process of making a local brew, arts and crafts and food and festivities. It is best way for you realize the real life of local residents in Rwanda. You can also engage in milking a cow or rather sample honey on the comb, engage in food preparation or participate in traditional Rwandan music and dance. While on your cultural safari in local community, you will spend about 3 hours.
Getting To Akagera National Park
The park is accessed by road from Kigali and its about 3 hours drive. There are no daily scheduled group tours to the park but you can oragise a trip through tour operators in Kigali. If you are interested in self drive adventure, you can cheaply hire 4×4 car in Rwanda and explore all the best tourist spots of the country from as low as US$45 per day.
Lodges in Akagera National Park
The notable lodges to spend a night in the park include Akagera game lodge, camping Karenge bush camp and Ruzizi tented lodge.
From the above discussion, Akagera National Park is one of the best savanna national parks in Africa that you should consider to visit for the best wildlife safaris in Rwanda. There is wide range of biodiversity for you to catch a glimpse while on safari right from birds, wild animals to spectacular views of the landscapes.