Akagera National Park

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History and facts

Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation, Akagera national park is the largest protected wetland in Africa. It was named after the Akagera River which flows along its eastern boundary.

The park used to cover over 2,500 sq. km but in 1997, it was reduced in size by close to 50%.   A lot of the land was reallocated to refugees returning to Rwanda after the civil strife of the genocide. Before 1997, many refugees returning to Rwanda had settled in the area and the conservation area was harmed by poaching and cultivation.

In 2009, Rwanda Development Boards and Africa Parks signed a joint management agreement in which the Akagera management company was established to help both bodies manage the park. AMC is therefore responsible for the day to day management of the park.

Where else to go in Africa?
After your wildlife experience in Akagera, you can go for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, or the primates of Nyungwe. Outside Rwanda, the Tanzania safari experience is something rewarding. You can also visit Uganda for another gorilla trekking experience or Kenya’s masai mara.

Birdwatching

Bird species in Akagera National Park

This national park is so good for birding and has over 480 species that are attracted by its diverse habitant. The savannah birds as well as the raptors are so predominant and many endemic species like the red faced barbet that are often seen. The short boat tours are also available on the akagera’s lakes and these will give you an opportunity of getting close to the many water birds that include; the marabou stork, the African fish eagle, the open billed stork, herons, cormorants, as well as the egrets.

In case you are lucky, you can view the shoebill stork. This park is also a good spot for bird watching herds with over 525 species plus large number of the migrant birds. There is also the elusive shoebill stork that can be spotted. This park is also a great spot for the endangered and the exquisite papyrus Ganolex.

In case you are into birding, this is a birding paradise and the birding safaris are so popular amongst are the visitors to this park. You will also be amazed by the huge variety and abundance of species. Just from the huge concentrstion of waterfowl to the myiad of the savannah species, there is also never a dull moment with over 500 bird species that are recorded with in Akagera. If you are a bird lover, this is a lovely spot for you to check out many endemic species as well as the rare gems like the near threatened papyrus Gonolex that are restricted to the papyrus swamps. The other species also include; the black headed ganolex, the lilac breasted roller, the heuglin’s roin chat, the ross’s turaco , the created barbet, swamp flycatcher, as well as the red faced barbet.

Akagera is also one of the best birding areas of the world with the highest number of species per unit area. You should also not miss visiting akagera national park. I also recommend it to many birders.the southern area has got variety of birds and butterflies, and its more rewarding for birding that the northern side which is good for the larger animals.

After Nyungwe, Akagera National Park is the most significant ornithological site within Rwanda. They offer bird watching safaris in the Morning and evening along the game tracks within Akagera National Park offering birdwatchers a chance to see a variety of savanna related bird species. This park is renowned for its great profusion of water birds across the East African region as well as among the unique places to see papyrus endemics. Among the common species you will see on your safari are; the beautiful lilac-breasted roller, crested barbet, black headed gonalek, ross’s turaco, heuglin’s robin-chat as well as the grey hornbill among others.

More than 525 species are recorded here, revealing the extremely great diversity of birds including: 44 raptor species, Balaeniceps rex and several Palearctic migrants including Glareola nordmanni, Falco naumanni plus Gallinago media.

This park symbolizes the northern maximum value of distribution of several of Zambezian biome species, like the Lanius souzae, Cisticola angusticauda plus Myrmecocichla arnotti. Additionally, one of the Guinea Congo Forests biome species and 7 of the Afro tropical Highlands biome can all be seen here.

nonetheless, all this information has to be reviewed especially after the recent decrease in size of this park, which implies that a number of species may nolonger be found here including a number of forest species like Camaroptera chloronota and Cossypha cyanocampter plus montane forests (like Cisticola chubbi and Illadopsis pyrrhoptera).

Akagera National Park is found off the beaten track, near Rwanda’s border with Tanzania and coveres a total expanse of 1085 square kilometers of low altitude grasslands plus woodlands. It is scattered with various swamps plus lakes which follow the twisting course of River Akagera and mountain ranges found next to it. Having a great diversity of habitats, Akagera National Park is a really beautiful park and supports over 12 antelope species including the very small oribi, the good-looking chestnut-coated impala, topi (also referred to as tsessebe in Southern Africa) and the Cape eland the world’s largest antelope.

Campsites in Akagera National park

There are three campsites that offer basic facilities for the overnight stays with in the park. Muyumbu and Shakani cams are located in the south direction of the park. Muyumbu is located on the ridge that overlooks the lakes in Tanzania with in a distance and has got a spectacular backdrop for the rising sun. shakani also offers a lakeshore camping adventure experience along with mumbling hippos and the variety of bird life. The Mutumba campsite is located in the northern and its rich in game rich with high rolling grassland hills.

  • Shakani Akagera campsite

This campsite is also found on the shores of Lake Shakani which is the only lake in the park where fishing is carried out.  Camping in the area will offer you a chance to view the many hippos found in this area.

  • Mutamba Akagera Campsite

This area is the highest point with in the entire park and it’s known for the large number of wild animals that gather there, and among are the big herds of the large elands as well as the roan antelope among others. Camping in this area will also give you a closer meeting with the park’s animals.

  • Muyumba Campsites

Situated on the ridge and it offers beautiful views over two lakes. Lake Ihema and Lake Shakani into the nearby country Tanzania. This is the only camping area that is close to the park gate at Kiyonza.

Each of these 3 campsites offers the toilets as well as the wash rooms. What you need to note here is that tap water is not safe to drink in Akagera national park. And we recommend that you boil water before drinking it. Another option might be to carry bottled water with you. You can hire the tents from the reception while the firewood will also be provided.

The Experience of the traveler at Akagera Camping

It was a Friday afternoon when we packed our camping gear and then headed east of Kigali. Before the border to Tanzania, we turned off the dirty road and then entered into Akagera National park. We had to stop at the ranger station on the way into the national park and paid $10 camping fees. Just at the station, they have got q three tiered, descending, tourist price, price scale, resident visa and the local. We also saw our first wildlife before getting to the campsite. There was a deer like animal that called a water buck. This campsite was on the grassy ridge that was scattered with trees that were overlooking a lake and the edge of Tanzania. There was also a covered pavilion, scattered fire pits as well as an outhouse. After the pitching process of the tents and setting up the camp, the men walked off while the women slaved away to organize a meal of hamburgers.

Just at dusk, these bats that lived with in the pavilion roof, also began to leave for the night and we could also hear them rooting around. The main scaring part was only the animals that we couldn’t see. . we were just finishing dinner and then Sarah went off to the outhouse and she heard the baboons. This was a honking sound from very close and one of the men in our group ran with the bear spray to save Sarah who was so scared. Up now we did not find out which animal was making that sound and it might have been a topee. And for the rest of the night, Sarah was persuaded that wild animals were surrounding their tent, and nothing appeared out of that place in the morning.

As the women cooked breakfast, the men moved off to investigate the night time noises. When they returned, we ate pan cakes and the bacon form Germany. There was a lone baboon that entered the campsite and then began to eat the abandoned potato chips and sneaking around as you look for more food to steal.  These baboons have also changed and have got yogi skills and will take whatever they can get their hands on. We were lucky that he only entered in the pavilion and never stole anything. Also got out about the potato chips and around many baboons started hanging around the campsite. We left one couple to keep the tents safe and headed off onto a safari drive.

We also came back to the ranger station in order to pay another fee and this one was for the ranger to accompany us as he points out the animals. As we moved in our land cruiser, we went for the savanna where we saw more water buck, the impalas as well as the topee. The savannah is also open fairly with 4×4 trails and it would have been possible to self-drive and the guide knew all the best places to go. He was able to show us the zebra herd, water buffalo in the shade and the giraffes were chewing. We also moved towards the lake where we were able to see a swimming snake, the hippos, a big stork, the ducks, blue balled monkeys as well as the baboons. After the three hours’ drive, we enjoyed lunch, removed the camp and the drove back to Kigali.

Game Drives Akagera

These are the main attraction to the park and you can be part of an organized safari with a drier and a guide or you can get more adventurous and then drive yourself in your own vehicle. The EAC /Rwandan registered cars at $7 and $25 or the foreign registered cars plus double for the safari vehicles or the buses. By driving yourself, it will be more fun and you will not know where to look for the animals from and this might be more annoying.

Luckily, you can also hire a guide to come along with you at only $25 for half day and $40 for a full day and make sure that you leave an extra seat in the car. The night game drives are at $40 per person and can be arranged separately from the park.

The tour drives with in the park is the main activity though this national park is small as compared to many other savannah parks in Africa. This park is known as a gem of Rwanda. Its landscape is so stunning and you can see many different animals with in a short time. The wildlife in Akagera has also increased over time and the recent count is estimated that the park is now a home to over 8000 large animals.  There is also a new perimeter fence that was completed in 2013 and has made a big positive impact to these numbers.

The lions were re- introduced recently and as such, provide a major boost to the wildlife that you can spot here.

Notwithstanding the size of the park, Akagera’s wildlife is so diverse. The beauty can be seen anywhere irrespective of the size and the national park is surely being recognized. Within short time, you will be able to see the giraffes, Impalas, Topis, the Zebras, bush bucks, African swallows, eland, the vervet monkeys, warthogs, baboons, Mongoose, the hippos, the crocodiles, as well as the elephants.  There are over 120 elephants in the park and the other mammals also include; the fefassa waterbuck, the oribi, reedbucks, the roan antelopes, sable, buffalos and many more. The most fantastic drive from the south to the north in a day will give you many animals to view to be able to keep give you a great adventurous experience as well as the most magnificent views from the top of the mountain across lake Ihematowards Tanzania.