Akagera National Park

Game Drives, Birding, Community, Holidays

Akagera National Park

TOP THINGS TO DO IN AKAGERA

Akagera national park; this is Rwanda's only savannah safari park located in eastern edge of the country founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetationin three habitats namely savannah , mountain, and swamps focusing on big game, It currently offers opportunities to see big game such as; Elephant, giraffes, Zebra, lions, leopards, and variety of various Antelope species. It is recognized as one of the best bird watching spot in Rwanda. The varied habitats in this park make it easy for bird lovers to find both savannah and water birds with opportunities to see crocodiles and hippopotamus when visitor take a boat ride along the lake

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.

Wildlife & Tourism

Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.

Akagera is, above all, big game country! Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a spotted hyena or even a stray lion.

Giraffe and zebra amble through the savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world's largest antelope, the statuesque cape eland.

Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape. Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa's waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork - the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.

Activities

Savanna Game Drives

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 communities members living alongside the park to benefit from the tourism growth in Akagera.

Boat Rides & Fishing

If you are looking for a variation on the usual wildlife safari experience, a boat trip on Lake Ihema will not disappoint. Drift along the forest-fringed lake edge, past huddles of hippo and basking crocodiles. For the serious birder a boat trip is a must. Trips are scheduled 4 times per day at 7.30am, 9am, 3.30pm and 5pm. Non-scheduled, private, trips can also be arranged at other times.

Lake Shakani is the site of sports fishing in the park; spend a relaxing day fishing off the lake shore and then cook your catch over an open fire at the campsite.

Birding Safaris

Birding safaris are popular amongst regular visitors and the immense variety and abundance of species will not fail to impress. From the vast concentrations of waterfowl to the myriad of savanna species, there is never a dull moment, with more than 500 species recorded in Akagera. Serious birders can seek out several endemic species as well as rare gems such as the near threatened papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), which is restricted to papyrus swamps, the localised red-faced barbet (Lybius bidentatus) and the sought after swamp flycatcher (Muscicapa boehmi).

Behind the Scenes

For more insight into Akagera, including conservation developments within the park, take a ‘Behind-the- Scenes’ tour of the park headquarters and meet some of the people integral to the management of the park. This activity is open to anyone (with minimum numbers applying) but designed for educational groups, or special interest travellers.

Akagera National Park Fees

Entry fees for the park are USD $35 per person per day for international visitors and USD $25 per person per day for EAC residents. There is a charge of USD $7.50 per car. Children under the age of 12 are given a discounted price for entry fees and children under the age of 5 are admitted in free and also free of activities fee. Children over the age of 5 are charged the normal rates for activities.

If you would like to do a self-drive safaris, there is no need to book in advance. Cars are available for hire, all which includes the vehicle, driver and guide. The costs for the car hire are: US$175 for a Half Day (5 hrs) and US$275 for a Full Day.

Guides are available for hire from the reception and can join visitors on their self-drives. These guides are on a first come, first serve basis. Booking in advance is not necessary, unless it is for special groups such as school trips. Park-employed guides come at a rate of US$25 for a half day and US$40 for a full day. Community freelance guides are US$20 for a half day and US$30 for a full day.

Maps for the self-drives are available at the reception upon arrival for 1,000 Rwf and guidebooks for 2,500 Rwf. An information Center to assist with activities is also available and can advise clients on which routes will be best for them. Tourists are recommended to spend a full day in Akagera to be able to see the best of the park.

Other activity fees:

  • Night Game Drive (per person, 2.5 hrs): US$40
  • Fishing (per person per day, own equipment): US$20
  • Boat Trip (per person, morning or day, 1 hour): US$30
  • Boat Trip (per person, sunset, 1 hour): US$40
  • Behind the Scenes TOur (per person, 1.5 hours): US$20

Best time to visit Rwanda

Visiting Rwanda for gorilla tracking can be done all year round. The best time to travel to Rwanda is during the drier seasons, periods between December to early March and June to September. December to March is a long dry season for Rwanda, with temperatures going up to 29 degrees Celsius for some days while the months of March – Mid May, July to September, on the other hand, are regarded as the rainy in the country.

Overall Rwanda has a good weather throughout the year but the dry season is more preferable. The weather is generally good in addition wildlife viewing is also more common during this time. For tourists interested in visiting gorillas – this is also the best time for gorilla tours since there is a minimal chance of rain during the trek and a good hiking terrain in the rainforest. We still suggest your waterproof clothing even during these drier months, as this Equatorial climate is very unpredictable. This period is also a peak season; hence the prices can be higher on things like accommodation and car hire

 

Best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Visiting Rwanda for gorilla tracking can be done all year round. The best time to travel to Rwanda is during the drier seasons, periods between December to early March and June to September. December to March is a long dry season for Rwanda, with temperatures going up to 29 degrees Celsius for some days while the months of March – Mid May, July to September, on the other hand, are regarded as the rainy in the country.

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