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Akagera National Park – Rwanda Wildlife Safari

For wildlife enthusiasts on safari in Rwanda, Akagera National Park is that one unique protected area you should count a must to visit. This park is a true representation of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and if your dream is to see the big game in Africa, this is one of a few rare protected areas you should consider a must to include in your travel plan. Ideally, it is a miracle protected area a fact that it is the only savanna national park in Rwanda with vast savanna wildlife species. This park is situated in the east near Kibungu town and due to its strategic location; visitors have opportunity to catch a glimpse at the expansive plains of Tanzania as well as other scenic areas like Lakes, Rivers, swamps a fact that it stands at altitude of about 2000 meters. It covers an area of about 1122 square kilometers and managed under the public private partnership arrangement of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the African Parks since 2010.

Previously, it covered almost 10 percent of this country and featured among a few finest wildlife reserves in Africa. Unfortunately, when the refugees returned to Rwanda around the late 1990s about half of this protected area was degazzetted and resettled with new villages. This splendid savanna protected area was established in 1994 mainly to offer refuge to its significant wildlife and other attractions. It mainly features Lakes including Lake Ihema which is the country’s largest Lake, Lake Rwanyakizinga, Rivers including Akagera River where it derived its name and several swamps.  Its vegetation cover is made of low landscape with vast plains which is mainly covered by grass, shrubs of Euphorbia candelabra that are look like those of cactus and patches of forests. Compared to the rest of Rwanda, this park lies within gently sloping area which isn’t as hilly as other areas.

Given its diverse habitats, this park boasts of wide range of wildlife species that include among others 12 antelope species especially elands, the handsome chestnut coated impala, topi and many more; lions, the Maasai giraffes, leopards, side striped jackal, mongoose, black rhinos, Serval, sitatunga, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, waterbucks, reedbucks plus primate species such as olive baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys though these are rarely spotted, bush babies a mention but a few. Besides, there are also bird species that make up a total of over 525 in this park, 44 of which are raptors and they include the rare shoebill stork, papyrus Gonolek, the Palearctic migrants especially the Gallinago media, Falco naumanni and Glareola nordmanni; the Zambezian biome species in the northern part include the Lanius souzae, Myrmecocichla arnotti and Cisticola angusticauda. There are also Guinea Congo biome species and seven afro-tropical highlands biome species. Its major bird habitat range from savanna grassland, swamps, forests to small Lakes and this makes it a true birder’s paradise.

Best time to visit Akagera National Park

Like other parks in Rwanda, Akagera National Park equally comprises of 2 (two) dry seasons with the long one that starts from June to September and short one begins from December to February. Its wet season begins from March to May and the second one starts from October to December. Interestingly, rains come with new vegetation cover which makes this park more spectacular and there is much water and pasture for wildlife to depend on. Given kind of climate experienced at this park, visitors need to expect rains at anytime of the day whether it is a dry or wet season.

What to do while on tour in Akagera National Park

Game drives/wildlife viewing

If you love wildlife safaris then don’t miss to pay a visit to this park and you will be amazed by the exceptional wildlife encounters. In Africa, game drives feature among the major safari highlights and while on tour in Akagera National Park, you will be rewarded with incredible sights at wildlife species especially the big game-African elephants, buffaloes, leopards, lions, rhinos as well as other wildlife species such as the roan antelopes, Defassa waterbuck, elands, duikers, Oribis, Klipspringer, Maasai giraffes, zebras, Bohor reedbuck, bushbuck, hyenas a mention but a few. For visitors who are interested in wildlife experiences at this park, you will need wide brimmed safari hats, comfortable safari clothing and preferably environmentally friendly, sunglasses and others. A game drive in Akagera National Park is mainly ideal in the northern side.

Night game drive

For those of you who are interested in nocturnal wildlife species while on Rwanda safari, a night game drive is best option for you and you will spot out most of the bush babies.

Bird watching

With over 525 bird species that thrive in this park, birders on safari in Rwanda won’t be disappointed. This park is one of a few most significant bird areas and comprises of savanna and water birds. While on birding tour at this park, you will be rewarded with amazing sights at shoebill stork, Ross’s Turacos, black headed Gonolek, red faced barbets, lilac breasted roller, heuglin’s robin chat, grey hornbill, swamp flycatcher and many more. This can also be done while you are on game drive or boat cruise. Most of park’s birds can be spotted in the southern part. If you are interested in this lovely experience, you will need a pair of binocular, tripods, bird classification book, rain jacket, sunscreen and others.

Boat tours

For those of you who are interested in water species while on safari in Akagera National Park, a boat cruise is the best choice you can make. This takes you along Lake Ihema in the southern side of the park and features as Rwanda’s second largest water Lake. While on boat ride on this lake, you will be amazed by spectacular views of crocodiles, hippos as well as several bird species that include among others plovers, herons, sandpipers, hawk, malachite kingfishers, shoebill stork, ibis, jacana, papyrus Gonolek and others. To be part of this experience, you will need $30.

Sport fishing

If you want something a little bit challenging then sport fishing should be a must to including in your travel plan. This exciting and yet challenging experience is conducted in Lake Shakani which offers you opportunity to catch the most impressive fish species in its tropical water.

Helicopter or aerial adventures

This is another most exciting experience that you shouldn’t miss to be part while on safari in Akagera National Park. It offers you opportunity to sight at the vast savanna grassland and swamps as well as varied wildlife species that thrive at this park while in the air.

The other activity that you shouldn’t miss to engage in while on safari at this park include community cultural experiences where you will have opportunity to share some of cultural values, traditions and beliefs with the locals or have a hand practically in some of their daily activities, explore more about their daily lives and be able to share with them exciting stories. The major areas of interest for this amazing experience include the Imigongo art and craft center-designed by Prince Kakira who made the art of house decoration using cow dung, Humure refugee village where you will have opportunity to engage in cooking and dancing. This beautiful village is just 40 minutes’ drive off from the park and features a number of unique activities that gets visitors out of the usual experiences.

Where to spend a night while on safari in Akagera National Park

The available accommodation options for you to spend a night at this park include Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Luxury), Akagera game lodge (Midrange), Dereva hotel as well as several campsites especially Shakani campsite, Muyumba campsite, Mutamba campsite and others.

Getting to Akagera National Park

This park is 135 kilometers’ drive from Kigali capital approximately 2-3 hours. Visitors can connect up to the park from Kibungo or Rwamagana trading center. Its gate is about 500 meters from Akagera Lodge. To reach to this park, y0u will need to hire a safari car and most preferably a four wheel drive that can navigate through the remotest routes. Alternatively, you can use public means as there are many taxis that set off from Kigali to Kayonza and Kibungo.

In conclusion, Akagera National Park is remarkably a few most spectacular savanna grassland protected areas that reward visitors with amazing views of wildlife species. Visitors on gorilla safari in Rwanda can also incorporate this park in their travel plan for memorable experiences.

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