Situated in Rwanda, the Akagera National Park has existed since 1934 as a means of offering protection to flora and fauna in three distinct ecoregions: swamp, mountain, and savannah. What makes the park unique is its system of swamps and lakes that represent more than a third of the square footage of the entire park; it is central Africa’s biggest portion of wetland under protection. The park itself is named after the Kagera River. Thanks to its three ecoregions, the park enjoys a great diversity of both flora and fauna, and it is a beautiful attraction for tourists, offering a wide range of interesting activities, including safaris.
- +Safari with a variety of game, including endangered and rare animals, like the Masai giraffe or the blue monkey
- +Excellent opportunities for bird-watching (around 500 different species)
- +Seeing the newly re-introduced giraffes, elephants and lions
- +Taking a boat trip on the lake.
- +Fishing on Lake Shakani.
- +Admiring the beautiful, scenic views of the different ecoregions, including savannah, swamp and mountain.
- +Exploring different habitats
About Akagera National Park
The Akagera National Park is among the most beautiful in all of Africa, with impressive biodiversity, three different ecosystems and the most extensive wetland under protection in central Africa. The northern part, especially, reminds very much of typical safari terrain in East Africa, with savannah plains and grasslands. The western part of Akagera is occupied by valleys and hills while the east is the land of papyrus swamps, marshes and lakes – the wetland in the park.
Without a doubt, Akagera National Park is among the most interesting and amazing parks, not only when it comes to views, but also when we’re talking about wildlife and activities. It offers the opportunity to explore diverse habitats, as well as witness various species of birds and wildlife in a scenic setting. There is a wide variety of animals to be seen here, which makes the safari aspect extraordinary. Among the game present here there is the waterbuck, zebra, eland, topi, buffalo, roan antelope, giraffe, hippo, or elephant.
You can also see primates here, such as vervets and olive baboons, as well as bushbabies during the night and blue monkeys in daytime. An interesting fact is that the latter was believed to be extinct in Akagera until fairly recently. Among antelopes, there are klipspringer, reedbuck, impala, oribi, bushbuck, or duiker. The lion was re-introduced recently, and there are actions being taken to re-introduce the black rhino, as well. As for other predators, the park is the home of the side-striped jackal, the hyena, and the leopard.
Bird watching is a highly popular activity in Akagera, as the park hosts around 500 different species of birds. This is owed to the extensive area of wetland present here, which attracts water birds, but also rare species such as the papyrus gonolek, the flycatcher, the red-faced barbet, the shoebill, and others. If you are coming to the park to see the birds, there are boat trips organized 4 times a day, but you can also take private trips. Fishing is also available on Lake Shakani.
Something to note about Akagera National Park is that it is the home of various threatened or previously threatened species. These include the elephants, which used to be present in the park and then disappeared (there are now about 90 of them), but were then reintroduced in 1975 and the Masai giraffes, which were brought from Kenya 30 years ago and now number around 60.
You can get to Akagera National Park by road. What you need to keep in mind, when planning to visit Akagera National Park, is that it is accessible through Kigali. Akagera is about 110 km away from Kigali, and while the road is paved, and thus, easy to navigate and in good condition in the first part, the latter part (about 28 km) is comprised of dirt roads, so you’re going to need a 4×4 vehicle.
When to Go & Weather
Basically, there is no bad time to visit Akagera National Park. Rwanda enjoys a temperate climate with moderate temperatures that never reach extremes. In fact, they usually don’t exceed 25° C. That is true for all of Rwanda, because while it’s close to the equator, it is also high, so the temperature evens out. But the dry season is typically the best time because there is a higher chance of spotting the wildlife. If, however, you are more interested in birds, bird watching is possible during the dry seasons in the wetlands, but it’s better during the wet season.
The climate in the area of Akagera National Park is semi-arid, or dry-wet tropical. Average temperatures are around 24° C and can sometimes reach 28° C. As for rainfall, the Kigali area tends to get a little more rainy, at 1000mm, while Akagera National Park gets around 750mm.
- Dry Season: June-September, January-February
Rwanda experiences not one, but two dry seasons. The main one, which is the driest, is from June to September, while the other, shorter one, is from January to February, which does see a little precipitation. The dry season is ideal if you are interested in seeing the game in Akagera National Park, as the animals will gather around the watering holes, pushed by thirst. This will offer you the perfect chance to spot them. In addition, you are at lower risk of malaria and the roads are also less dangerous, because they are not as wet and slippery, and visibility is increased.
- Wet Season: March-May, October-December
There are also two wet seasons, the long one between March and May, and a second shorter one, from October to December when Rwanda experiences small rains. The wet season is best for people who are interested in bird-watching, but also enjoying the scenery. At this time, the plains and hills are at their best and most vivid. Not only that, but this is also the primary season for primates. Monkey tracking is easier in the dry season, but chimpanzees are more likely to be spotted during the rainy months.
However, additional information regarding the weather climate of this area, as well as weather forecast, can be found here:
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The park was founded in 1934, making it one of the oldest in all of Africa. It is one of three national parks in Rwanda and the only protected savannah in the country. In 1997, following the Civil War in Rwanda, more than half of the total territory of the park (2,500 km2), most of it savannah, was turned into farms. The land that was left amounted to 1,122 square kilometres.
But the decrease in territory wasn’t the only effect of the war – the wildlife suffered tremendously, especially lions, who were rendered extinct in the park. This impacted Rwanda’s biodiversity severely, but in 2009, an agreement was initiated by the African Parks Network and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to manage Akagera National Park together under the Akagera Management Company, formed in 2010.
This partnership honored its promise, creating numerous projected over the years, with the purpose of increasing tourism to the park, generate jobs for the locals, and provide a buffer for the conflict between wildlife and humans. $10 million are being spent over the following 5 years, in order to reintroduce the black rhino and the lion, as well as build a fence. 7 Transvaal lions were already brought in from South Africa in 2015, upgrading Akagera National Park to a Big Five park – the only one in Rwanda. The next absent animal set to return is the rhino, after a decade of missing from the park.
The Akagera National Park in Rwanda is known for its biodiversity, but it wasn’t always like that – after the Civil War, the fauna, especially, suffered tremendously, and a significant part of the park was repurposed for farms. The majority of that territory was savannah. Today, the park is the only savannah region that is under protection in Rwanda, so it serves as a refuge for plants and animals adapted to savannah in the entire country.
After the 1990s, the number of animals in the park has started to increase, and the fauna has begun to diversify again. There have been consistent efforts to bring back several animals that had been extinct in the park previously, such as the elephant, the giraffe, the lion, and the black rhino. Other than these unique species, Akagera is also home to a series of primates, smaller predators, and 500 species of birds.
The park is also popular thanks to its lake labyrinth and large tracts of wetland. Other flora includes swamps, grasslands, and woodlands, all of which help create the idyllic scenery Akagera National Park is known for.
After the late 1990s, there have been significant efforts to conserve not only the wildlife in the park but also the fauna. Maintaining biodiversity is extremely important for the Akagera National Park. These efforts were consolidated as of 2009 when the African Parks Network and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) banded together to form the Akagera Management Company and protect the park.
Consequently, there have been numerous initiatives to re-introduce previously extinct species back to the park, reduce poaching, which used to be a major problem, and rehabilitate endangered species, by offering special protection and incentive for growth for certain animals. They also engaged the community and educated children on the importance of conservation and ecology, created new jobs for the locals, developed the infrastructure, increased tourism, and attracted funds to improve the Akagera National Park. The rangers and managers have worked hard to make sure that the community is involved in the protection, development, and enhancement of the park.
- Akagera used to have a poaching problem that has been dramatically improved: only 29 animals were poached in 2014, as opposed to 180 in 2012.
- Akagera gets more and more visitors every year, and Rwanda locals represent over half of the total visitors to the national park.
- Every year, more than 1000 children visit Akagera National Park together with their educators and school leaders.
- The alliance between the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the African Parks Network implemented a project that helped construct a 120 km fence – one that is solar powered, safe against predators and electrified and it is the first one built in Rwanda.
- Akagera National Park turned 80 years old in 2014, the same year when the tourism revenue passed the $1 million threshold.
- The park managers have been working on the park infrastructure and have been able to develop it to include a new park entrance, staff accommodation, social infrastructure meant to aid local communities, as well as workshops, and other facilities.