Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Although founded in 1934, much of the park 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. Since 2010, a joint venture with African Parks has seen Akagera return to its former glories.
It is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Of the larger predators, only leopard, hyena and side-striped jackal are still present and although lion once occurred throughout Akagera, the population was wiped. Plans are underway for the reintroduction of lion, as well as black rhino in 2015, which will restore Akagera’s ‘Big 5’ status
Due to its wide variety of habitats, Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species. 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.
The park management has 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. 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 community members living alongside the park to benefit from the tourism growth in Akagera.
When to Go
The best time to visit is during the dry season (mid-May to September). November and April are the wettest months.
Getting to Akagera National Park
Akagera is really only accessible for those with their own transport. Safari and tour companies in Kigali can arrange a vehicle, or you can negotiate with private taxis around Kigali, although taxis are far from ideal for a safari.
Getting around Akagera National Park
While in theory it is possible to reach the park by public transport, you really do need a private vehicle in order to move around the park. Akagera can also be visited as a day trip from Kigali.
Dangers and annoyances
Tsetse flies and mosquitoes can be bad enough to seriously detract from your safari enjoyment, so bring a good insect repellent.