Facts about Akagera National Park
Facts about Akagera National Park: Akagera National Park in Rwanda stands as one of the crown jewels of the tourism industry in the country. It is the only safe haven for savannah wildlife in Rwanda, and apparently the only savannah national park in the country.
The national park is located in the northeastern province of Rwanda, spans over a radius of 1,122 square kilometers. However, Akagera national park previously covered 2500 square kilometers at the time of its establishment in 1934.
Much of Akagera national park was destroyed in 1994 following the return of Rwandan refugees who had earlier fled the genocide. About 50% of Akagera was destroyed by 1997 when refugees encroached on the park, grabbing land to cultivate crops, graze livestock, and build their homes. In addition to this, wildlife in the national park was being poached for their bush meat.
Akagera national Park in Rwanda was once known for its large numbers of wild dogs, so much so that the national park was referred to as the ‘Park of Lycanos.’ However, most of these wild dogs were killed by an epidemic in the park, and the last of the species were seen in the park in 1984.
As a result of continuous poaching that was taking place in the national park, a large number of wildlife animals in the park were killed. Most of the wildlife was hunted down as wild game which led to the extinction of some wildlife species in Akagera, for example the last black rhinoceros were seen in the park in 2007 while lions were not seen in Akagera national park until 2015. In addition to this, over 25% of the forests in Akagera national park had been destroyed as a result of excessive deforestation.
However, following the creation of the Akagera Management Company in 2010, much of the national park was restored to its former glory. Among some of the achievements of the AMC include;
- The reintroduction of 18 black rhinos in Akagera national park in 2017 from South Africa. This marked the first sighting of the species after their 10 year absence in the national park. In June 2019, five more black rhinoceros were translocated to Akagera national park from Europe.
- In July 2015, seven lions were transferred from Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa. This conservation project saw the reintroduction of lions back to Akagera National Park, after 15 solid years of their absence in the park.
- Set up of an electric fence around the national park in order to keep wildlife in and intruders out of the park.
- A helicopter was procured by the park authorities in order to conduct frequent aerial surveillance in Akagera national park.
Attractions in Akagera National Park.
Wildlife Animals: There are so many wildlife species for visitors to see while in Akagera national park. Some of the commonly sighted wildlife animals in the park include; topi, bushbucks, impala, klipspringer, duiker, bohor reedbuck, hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks, eland, oribis, side striped jackal, mongoose, primates like olive baboons, vervet monkeys among others. You can also spot some of the Big Five animals in the park like elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos. Wildlife animals in Akagera are best viewed during a guided game drive in the park or on a boat cruise on Lake Ihema.
Birds: Akagera national park in Rwanda is home to over 500 species of birds; with about 100 species that are endemic to the national park. Some of the bird species that can sighted in the park include; swamp flycatcher, papyrus Gonolek, red-faced barbet, cattle egret, hadada ibis, pied crow, long crested eagle, black weaver, grey backed fiscal, Hammerkop, fish eagle, open billed stork among others. Birds in the park can be viewed during birding, nature walk, game drive and boat cruise where you will view aquatic species.
Lakes: There are a total of 10 lakes in Akagera national park alone. Visitors can explore these lakes on a boat cruise. Majority of the boat cruises in Akagera are conducted on Lake Ihema which is the largest lake in the national park and second largest lake in Rwanda. Other lakes to explore in park include; Lake Shakani, Lake Rwanyakizinga, Lake Mihindi, and Lake Gishanju.
Activities offered in Akagera National Park.
Interesting activities offered to visitors in Akagera national park include;
Guided Game Drives: Akagera national park in Rwanda offers visitors both morning and evening game drives. Morning game drives in the park commence at 6:30 am every day while evening game drives start 4 pm. The park also offers visitors night game drives which are the best if you want to see nocturnal wildlife animals like lions, hyenas, and leopards among others.
Boat Cruise: Boat cruises in Akagera national park are majorly conducted on Lake Ihema. The park offers both scheduled and unscheduled boat cruises. Scheduled boat cruises in the park start at 7:30am, 9:00am, 3:30pm and 5:00pm respectively. Visitors on a boat cruise in Akagera can view a variety of wildlife in the park such as; hippos, crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, monitor lizards, bird species like shoebill stork, papyrus Gonolek, African jacana, pied kingfisher, hadada ibis, squacco heron, and malachite kingfisher among others. The boat cruise takes about 1 to 2 hours though you can also hire a private boat and cruise at your own preferred time.
Guided nature walk: This is a thrilling activity where you will move out of the car and explore nature, feel cool breeze, fresh air in the park. Nature walk is done with a park guide who will offer security while moving within the forest following different trails. During the nature walk you will spot some animals, birds, butterflies, and different tree species.
Other interesting activities offered in the park include; bird watching, sport fishing, Behind the scenes, Walk the line Akagera tour, and community cultural tours among others.
Accommodation in the Park.
Akagera national park in Rwanda has a wide range of accommodation facilities which range from budget to mid-range and luxury lodges such as; Magashi Safari Camp, Akagera Game Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Camp, Karenge Bush Camp, and Dereva Hotel to mention but a few.
How to get to Akagera National Park.
Akagera national Park is located about 135 kilometers from Kigali International Airport and about 110 kilometers from Kigali city center. It will take you approximately two and a half hours to get to the national park by road.
Best time to visit the Park.
The best time for tourists to visit Akagera national Park is in the months of June to September and December to February. However, the national park is opened to travellers all year round.