Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Akagera National Park is its almost miraculous revival from near destruction just 20 years ago. To see the prospering park today you would never imagine that it had been massively stripped of its wildlife and rich biodiversity due to the country’s domestic troubles.
Many of the conflict’s refugees moved into the park for their very survival but exacerbated the destruction with their needs for food and fuel. Lions and rhinos were hunted to extinction and much of the park’s wildlife was displaced.
But now Akagera has come roaring back – literally, with the reintroduction of lions in 2015 and 2017, plus the return of 18 Eastern black rhinos. The addition of strict conservation measures, new management, and vigorous anti-poaching patrols have ushered in a revival not seen before in an African park. A visit here is a heartening example of the positive spirit and energy of the Rwandan people.
For those who’ve seen the great savannah parks of Kenya and Tanzania with their wide-open plains, Akagera will be instantly familiar. Your game drives here will bring you up close to zebras, buffaloes, Maasai giraffes, hyenas, leopards, impalas, and great numbers of hippos and crocodiles. And like in those other Savanah parks, at this new Akagera, you’ll also be looking for elephants, lions, and rhinos.
The park is also one of the best African safari spots for bird watching. On your journeys over these deep savannahs, on the waterways, and in its forests, you’ll be met with an astounding 500 plus species of birdlife. Some are endemic like the papyrus gonolek, found in the park’s papyrus swamps.
Few national parks allow night-time game drives but nocturnal adventures are a feature of Akagera. Heading out with your guide and a powerful spotlight, you’ll find a very different cast of characters than a day-time safari will provide. Look for leopards, serval cats, and wide-eyed bushbabies staring back at you in the inky darkness.
Adding to this revived national park’s delightful variety, you can take a boat safari on Lake Ihema. Sail past great pods of hippos and drift near large Nile crocodiles. The density and numbers of hippos are one of the largest in East Africa. There’s birding to be found here as well – keep an eye out for the rare shoebill stork. As you cruise these waters you may also spot land animals like elephants coming to the shore to bathe and cool off.
Another way this re-born park adds to the community – every year more than 2,000 school children visit Akagera for free with their teachers so they can experience up close the wonders of this beautiful natural environment.
Founded in 1934, the newly protected park covers 1,122 sq km (433 sq mi), Rwanda’s largest.
Expect a moderately warm climate with temperatures being fairly constant throughout the year. Daytime temperatures are usually about 27°C/81°F, cooling down at night to 14°C/57°F. The dry season runs from June to September. Akagera’s “short rains” are from October to December and the “long rains” run from March to May.
The park is open from 06h00 hrs. to 18h00 hrs. (6 pm).
The best time to visit is during the long dry season from June through September.
By road – you can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris. It is a 2-hour drive from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.
Akagera is a birdwatcher’s paradise – you may spot over 500 species of birdlife here, along this Nile Valley bird migration route. Look for over 40 kinds of raptors. Throughout the park’s waterways, you’re likely to come upon kingfishers, ibises, herons, storks, cranes, rails, egrets, cormorants, and pelicans. Some of the migratory birds winging in are bee-eaters, terns, and flocks of ducks. Also inhabiting Akagera are the swamp flycatcher and the distinctive shoebill stork.
Searching for animals at night brings a different perspective to an African safari. The atmosphere is charged as you look for the nighttime’s active wildlife such as leopards, lions, hyenas, and wide-eyed bush babies. It is rare for a national park to offer a game drive at night so this is a special opportunity to experience a different sort of park adventure. The two-hour drive begins at 5:30 pm and requires several participants.
Get ready to see one of the largest populations of hippos in East Africa. This water journey is also an opportunity to get up close to the large Nile crocodiles plying the lake. Adding to the activity, you’ll be able to spot plenty of water birds like African fishing eagles, darters, cormorants, and storks.
Want to see up close how the park is managed, talk to rangers, and see anti-poaching patrols? This unique 90-minute program allows a rare view into the world of a wildlife organization few get to see.
Here’s a chance to experience what it’s like to patrol the park’s borders as the rangers do. A guide will take you along the 7 km (4.3 mi) route, as you meet farmers, herders, and experience the birdlife and perhaps some wildlife on your journey.
Experience the wondrous rebirth of this beautiful park with its revived fauna and flora. The populations of lions and rhinos are steadily expanding as is the rest of this natural eco-system. Enjoy the savannah-like variety of wildlife and also take a water safari to see great numbers of waterfowl, hippos, and fierce Nile crocodiles. Akagera once again has become a splendid park.
Come visit this reborn park with perhaps the best variety of wildlife in the country. Natural World Kenya Safaris will arrange your own personalized tour.
Natural World Kenya safaris is Member No.FA/440 - Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) bonding scheme. The scheme is insured to guarantee your holiday safari in the unlikely event that a bonded KATO member ceases operating.