Akagera National Park lies in eastern Rwanda, hugging the border with Tanzania. It’s characterized by woodland, swamps, low mountains and savannah. The varied terrain shelters wildlife including zebras, giraffes, elephants, lions and hundreds of bird species, such as the rare shoebill stork. In the southern part of the park, vast Lake Ihema is home to hippos and crocodiles.
The park was founded in 1934 and now covers an area of 1,200 sq kilometers. It was named after River Kagera which feeds several Lakes (Lake Gishanju, Lake Ihema, Lake Mihindi, Lake Rwanyakizinga, and Lake Shakani) within and around the park. These water bodies as well as the Savannah grasslands, forests, plains and rolling hills makes the park very beautiful and scenic.
No trip to Africa is complete without a game drive. Tourists can scratch the itch to go on safari just two-and-a-half hours away from Kigali at Akagera National Park. Managed by the African Parks organization, Akagera and its biodiversity have made an incredible recovery from near decimation after the Rwandan genocide. The 1,140-square-kilometer expanse (one of Central Africa’s largest protected wetlands) now boasts all of the Big Five animals, along with an abundance of birds and antelope.
You’ll need to have a lot of luck to spot a lion or rhino—conservationists are still working on boosting their populations, and for now, there aren’t that many at Akagera. However, you’ll have no trouble spotting zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants, and giraffes on a self-drive safari.
The landscape itself is just as spectacular as the animals that live here. You’ll see the environment make a glorious shift from savannah plains to wetlands and lakes.
Why you should visit
- Akagera has an inspiring conservation story as it is now home to lions and rhinos, and is the only Big Five park in the country.
- Just two hours’ drive from Kigali, it is a beautiful and convenient savannah landscape to visit, and an easy site to add on to before or after visiting the gorillas.
- For one park, the diversity of habitats is unique including lakes, marshes, savannah, mountains and woodland makes for spectacular scenery.
- A birders delight, Akagera offers an exceptional birding experience with more than 482 bird species documented including the rare and prehistoric shoebill and some Lake Victoria endemics.
How to reach Akagera National Park
Akagera national Park can be accessed by air and road. The flight from Kigali can give visitors a beautiful aerial view of the park. The Akagera Aviation organizes flights from the park to Kigali and back. It takes at most 3 hours of driving on well paved tarmac road to reach the park from Kigali. Those starting their journey from Rwamagana or Kibungo travel for one hour before reaching the park. The 27km road leading to the park entrance from the main road is dusty though passable by vehicles even in the rainy period. The roads inside the park are not as good as those leading to the gate and will require a good 4 Wheel drive car especially during the rainy season