Akagera National Park

The Akagera national park got its name from the river Akagera that runs along its eastern boundary; The Park is Rwanda’s famous Savanna reserve. 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 characterize 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. In comparison to the rest of the country, the area is relatively warm and low-lying, and the plains support a cover of dense. Broad-leafed woodland with lighter acacia woodland and patches of rolling grassland studded eloquently with stands of the superficially cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub.

What to see in Akagera

Akagera is, above all, a big game country! Herds of elephants 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 savanna 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.

Over 50 pods of hippopotamus 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 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 shoe bill stork – the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.

What to do in Akagera National Park

Launch cruise
Boat trips are available on Lake Ihema, and are worthwhile. You should book in advance through ORTPN in Kigali. Close encounters with outsize crocodiles and large pods of hippos are all but guaranteed, and you will also pass substantial breeding colonies of African darter, cormorant and open-bill stork. Other water birds are abundant: the delicate and colourful African jacana can be seen trotting on floating vegetation, fish eagles are posted in the trees at regular intervals, jewel-like malachite kingfisher hawk from the needs, while pied kingfishers hover high above the water to swoop down on their fishy prey. Of greater interest to enthusiasts will be the opportunity to spot marsh specialists such as blue-headed coucal and marsh flycatchers.

Game viewing
Game drives are available if you ideally have a 4×4 unless you are staying at the lodge. Guides are provided at no extra charge, and they will help you find your way around. The game-viewing circuit is in essence limited to one main road running northwards from the park headquarters at Lake Ihema. Most of the lakes are passed by this road or can be approached using a short fork. North of Lake Hago, the road branches into two main forks, one of which heads west into the Mutumba hills. The possibilities for game drives are restricted by the fact that the park can only be entered near Lake Ihema and the Game Lodge. In a long half-day, you could realistically travel from the entrance as far north as the Mutumba Hills, and back. To head further north requires the best part of a day, with the option of using the exit-only route north of Lake Rwanyakizinga emerging on the main tar road to the Uganda border. The tracks in the far north are very indistinct and should be attempted only in the company of a guide. Once back on the main road, the guide can be dropped at Kayonza or Kabarondo junctions with enough money to make his way back to the headquarters by motorbike taxi. Starting from the entrance gate, a hilly road through very thick scrub leads over about 5 km to Lake Ihema. It is on a humid and mosquito-plagued island near the eastern shore of Ihema.

Accommodation facilities

Akagera Game Lodge lies in the North East of Rwanda within the 90 000 ha Akagera National Park. Its location is in the eastern province. Akagera Game Lodge sits majestically on a ridge overlooking Lake Ihema amidst a mosaic of grass, bush and varied terrain of hills, deep valleys, lakes, and marches
Other budget facilities are made available in Akagera national park.

Accessing Akagera

By public means, Akagera can be accessed from Kigali in two hours long drive and from Kibungo or Rwamagana in about one hour. The only usable entrance gate, 500 m from the new Akagera Game Lodge, is reached through a 27 km dirt road which branches from the main surfaced road at Kabarondo, 15 km north of Kibungo. This dirt road is in fair condition, passable by any vehicle except after rain. Within the park, however, a 4×4 is advisable, though any vehicle with good clearance should be okay in the dry season.

Best time to visit
Year round