Are you looking for an African destination with a backdrop of attractions and unforgettable safari experience? Then Akagera National Park is what you are looking for. It is one of the four National Parks in Rwanda and is so far the only Savannah Park in the country.

This magnificent safari destination is sprawled within the North-eastern part of Rwanda at the border with Tanzania and extends for approximately 1122 square kilometers (433 square miles). The Park was established in 1934 with an aim of protecting the land surrounding the Kagera River, wildlife species as well as the different vegetation types.

Akagera National Park originally covered over 2500 square kilometers before being reduced in 1997 to its present size. This downsizing was done to re-settle refugees of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives, hence eventually contributing to poaching, encroachment and cultivation on the National Park land. It is obvious that this National Park derived its name from the Kagera River that drains along the Eastern border of the country and pours its waters into a network of Lakes with Lake Ihema being the largest.

One third of the Park’s landscape is occupied by wetlands and small Lakes hence making it the largest protected wetland in the African continent. Akagera National Park is aesthetically surrounded by cultivated rolling hills that create jaw-dropping backdrop sceneries perfect for taking photographs.

This Park is characterized by magnificent rolling highlands, extensive savannah plains and wetland-fringed Lakes that shelter abundant biodiversity hence making it a haven to several exceptional species such as the elusive shoebill stork. Unlike Parks in Kenya and Tanzania that are always thronged, Akagera National Park is endowed yet not congested hence tourists who visit it enjoy an authentic safari experience.

Attractions within Akagera National Park

As earlier mentioned, the varying habitats and ecosystems of Akagera National Park (inform of forests, savannah grasslands, swamps and small Lakes) support abundant wildlife species (more than 50 species) such as over 12 species of Antelopes that include the Common Elands (the largest Antelopes in the World), Defassa waterbucks, Oribis, the nice looking chestnut-coated Impalas, Topis, bushbucks, Common duikers, Roan Antelopes, the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelopes, Klipspringers and the Bohor reedbucks, the Big five animals (Lions, Leopards, Buffaloes, Elephants and Rhinos) hence tourists interested in encountering all the Big five animals have to visit this Park. Other Wildlife species include the Burchell’s Zebras, Spotted hyenas, Maasai giraffes, Primate Species such as Olive baboons, Blue monkeys, Vervet monkeys and the bush babies, the Cat-like genets, warthogs, the masked palm civets, Serval cats, the black-tailed mongoose, Nile Crocodiles and Hippos (within the Lakes) among others.

Akagera National Park is also a birder’s paradise because it is a haven to more than 520 exceptional species of birds that include the elusive shoebill storks, one specie of the Guinea-Congo Forest Biome, over 100 species endemic to the Park, 44 raptor species, 7 species of the Afro-tropical highland Biomes, 9 of the 11 species of the Lake Victoria Basin Biome as well as the migrant species such as the Falco naumanni (Lesser kestrel), the great snipe (Gallinago media) and the Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni).

Other notable bird species to look out for in this Park include some of the Zambezi species like the Sauza shrike, the Arnott’s chat and the long tailed Cisticola. The water bodies and wetlands offer shelter to the aquatic bird species such as the Grey Crowned Cranes, the Marabous storks, the pelicans, African Fish eagles, the Papyrus Gonolek, the swamp flycatcher, the Papyrus swamp warblers, the native red-faced barbets and many others.  The African Jacana, African openbill, the African pied wagtail, the African wattled Lapwing, the Bare-faced go-away bird, the black headed Gonolek, the Brown snake Eagles, the heuglin’s robin-chat, the crested Barbet, the Emerald spotted wood dove, the Fork-tailed Drongo, the Glossy ibis, the Grey-backed Fiscal, the Hammerkop, the Pied Kingfishers, the Red-eyed Doves, the crested barbet, the Red-necked Spurfowl, the Ring-necked Doves, the Ross’ Turaco, the nice looking lilac-breasted roller, the Spur-winged lapwing, the wattled lapwing, the African grey hornbill, the White-browed Coucal and the woodland Kingfisher call the Akagera National Park home.

Interesting Activities to Enjoy within Akagera National Park

Due to the phenomenal attractions in this Park, a number of activities can be enjoyed and these include;

Boat trips

Boat Trips are always the highlight and most interesting activities conducted by tourists who visit most National Parks in East Africa and in this case, Akagera National Park is not exceptional. The adventure is conducted within Lake Ihema-Rwanda’s second largest Lake and rewards tourists with the views of exceptional wildlife species such as numerous Nile Crocodiles, school of Hippos, elephants and Buffaloes at the Lakeshores as well as the aquatic bird species such as the African fish eagles, the Pelicans and the shoebills at the surrounding wetlands.

Game drives

Day and night game drives are conducted in this Park and reward tourists with the views of Antelopes, big five animals, the Masai giraffes, spotted hyenas and Primates among others.

Bird watching

With over 520 species of birds, birding is undeniably one of the key activities that tourists can enjoy in Akagera National Park. Visiting for just a birding safari wouldn’t be a bad idea because you will be totally amazed by the sights and sounds of the birds in Park. Intending birders have to carry binoculars and cameras among other things to have a memorable safari.

Other activities include Camping within some of East Africa’s most homely campsites and Fishing within Lake Shakani among other activities.

Where to Stay within Akagera National Park

Besides its magnificent attractions, there are several comfortable accommodation facilities within the Park and they include Akagera Game Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Karenge Bush Camp and many others.

How to Reach Akagera National Park

It is obvious that the main entry into Rwanda is through Kigali International Airport. Akagera National Park is found in the north-eastern side of the country, approximately 110 kilometers/68 miles from Kigali City and the journey lasts about two and a half hours.

The first 82 kilometers of the journey from Kigali will be through a tarmac road but the remaining one is a dirt road hence it is recommended to use 4WD vehicles. You will drive through Rwamagana to Kayonza where you will turn right at a roundabout and continue until you arrive to a Discentre station then go to left side of the road until Kabarando. This is where the dirt road starts and you will drive up to Rwinkwavu junction and see a sign post to show that you are about to reach your dream safari destination. The Park entrances are approximately 13 kilometers from the signpost and you will be at Akagera National Park.

Akagera National Park is one of the best African safari destinations known for over 50 species of wildlife as well as more than 520 species of birds, and activities to relish include Birding, game drives, boat rides and fishing among others.