Akegera National Park, Rwanda.
Hugging Rwanda’s eastern border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park covers about 1,120km² and is one of Africa’s oldest national park, first gazetted in 1934.
Akagera National Park is central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted Rwanda Wildlife species. The rolling highlands, vast plains and swamp-fringed lakes of this north-eastern territory contain a rich biodiversity and are home to a number of rare species, such as the shoebill stork. With more than 12,000 large mammals and 482 bird species, this breath-taking landscape is every nature lover’s wildest dream.
The park was not always a wildlife haven. The Rwandan Civil War in the 1990’s took its toll on the park when much of the land was reallocated as farmland for returning refugees, reducing the size of the park from 2,500 km² to just 1,122 km². The high population density and human encroachment into the park was a pressing issue in the past, but the ongoing efforts to restore animal populations, increased law enforcement and the construction of the fence resulted in a positive impact. With the implementation of rigorous law enforcement since 2010, poaching has been reduced, wildlife has prospered and the tourism industry has been transformed.
Today, Akagera National Park is managed in conjunction with the conservation organisation African Parks, which is bringing it back to life. New perimeter fences and anti-poaching measures have made a huge difference to its animal populations and the national park is now well on the way to being restored. While its wildlife isn’t quite on the same scale as better-known East African parks, there is still plenty to see on an Akagera safari in some very beautiful scenery.
RWANDA SAFARI DESTINATION
RWANDA’S NATIONAL PARK
Gorilla & Chimp Safaris Uganda Limited
Padre Pio House,Plot 32,Uganda.
Telephone: +256 705 497 677
Mobile/Chat: +256 777 027 554
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- 18 Eastern black rhinos were brought back to Rwanda, and were reintroduced to Akagera from South Africa in 2017 after the last individual was seen in 2007
- Lions were reintroduced in 2015 after they were hunted out in the 1990’s, and the population doubled in the first year with the birth of eleven cubs in 2016
- Overhauled law enforcement and significantly reduced poaching to an all time low for the park in six years
- A canine dog unit was trained and deployed in 2015 to counter poaching
- A 120km solar powered predator-proof fence was constructed significantly reducing human-wildlife conflict situations
- More than 1,300 school children visit Akagera each year along with teachers
- Tourism revenue has increased more than 300% in a six year period (from $350K in 2010 to $1.4M in 2016) going back into community development projects.
- Ruzizi Tented Lodge and Karenge Bush Camp are award-winning lodging options for visitors which helps support the park
- Visitor numbers to Akagera are increasing annually, with Rwandan nationals comprising more than 50% of visitors to the park
Wildlife Safari Game Drives
The park management has safari vehicles available to hire for game drives, that come with their own driver and guide, and a choice of half day or full day drives.
However, it is also possible in Akagera to self-drive your own vehicle round the park. Safari Guides are available to accompany you on your drive. The guides can direct you to areas where wildlife is most abundant and guide you to stunning scenic spots that you may otherwise miss.
There is a two-tier guiding system in the park with 10 park-employed guides and 15 community freelance guides. As a park visitor, and subject to availability, you may choose to take 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, fast learners. They have completed an in-house training and assessment programme. Both guides are dedicated to providing an authentic experience and support the success of the park. 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.
Fishing and Boat Trips
If you are looking for a variation on the usual Rwanda safari experience, a boat trip on Lake Ihema will not disappoint. Drift along the forest-fringed lake edge, past huddles of hippo and basking crocodiles. For the serious birder a boat trip is a must. Trips are scheduled 4 times per day at 7.30am, 9am, 3.30pm and 5pm. Non-scheduled, private, trips can also be arranged at other times.
Lake Shakani is the site of sports fishing in the park; spend a relaxing day fishing off the lake shore and then cook your catch over an open fire at the campsite.
Rwanda Birding Safaris
Birding safaris are popular among regular Rwanda visitors and the immense variety and abundance of species will not fail to impress. From the vast concentrations of waterfowl to the myriad of savanna species, there is never a dull moment, with more than 500 species recorded in Akagera. Serious birders can seek out several endemic species as well as rare gems such as the near threatened papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), which is restricted to papyrus swamps, the localised red-faced barbet (Lybius bidentatus) and the sought after swamp flycatcher (Muscicapa boehmi).
Behind the scenes
For more insight into Akagera, including conservation developments within the park, take a ‘Behind-the- Scenes’ tour of the park headquarters and meet some of the people integral to the management of the park. This activity is open to anyone (with minimum numbers applying) but designed for educational groups, or special interest travellers.