Akagera National Park
Offering one of the best wild safari tours in Rwanda is Akagera National Park, endowed with beautiful wild animals and physical features such as hippos, giraffes, zebras and lions (what’s a safari without them), you get to enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ihema found within the park.
Situated in the Eastern part of Rwanda, it covers an area of 1200 sq km and was established in 1934 making it one of the oldest national parks in Africa and Rwanda. Its named is derived from River Kagera whose tributaries flow into lakes within and around the park such as Lake Ihema, Lake Mahindi and many others.It is such water bodies, grasslands, forests, low lands and hills that make this park beautiful to visit.
Besides having such beautiful scenaries, the park has faced hard times before becoming what it is now. In 1994, during the genocide many refugees fled the country through the park and some settled within the park and since they at times faced food shortage, they resulted to poaching in order to get food, cutting trees to get shelter.
These were challenging to the park because trees and animals are what make up a park. Animals were threatened and forced to leave while some become extinct. Actually as when some left they were replaced with domestic animals such as the long horned cattle.
After the war, the people couldn’t just be sent away, so the government allocated them a portion of the park while the other was reserved for wild animals that had remained. In 2010, the real transformation began with the Rwandan government creating a program where it entered into a joint partnership with African Parks Network and other organizations and they worked together to restore the park for example in 2015, seven lions were introduced in the park as they had reduced in number, these were imported from South Africa.
Due to the success of the program, Akagera National Park now holds the big 5 (elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards) alongside other animals such as crocodiles, hippos, zebras, waterbucks and most animals that live in savannah grasslands. There are also birds with over 500 different species that thrive within the different parts of the park such as in the forests, grasslands, plains and papyrus swamps.
You can travel to Akagera National park by air or road transport, with the latter taking about 3 hours from Kigali before reaching your destination. While using air transport, you get to enjoy the aerial view of the park which is breath taking.
Major attractions in the park
Akagera National park has many interesting attractions that tourists will totally enjoy and fall in love with such as;
With a total of 8,000 large animals which include buffalos, lions, leopards, the African elephant, Rothschild giraffes, antelopes, impalas and many more animals that one will be excited to see.
This park is indeed a birds’ haven, inhabiting about 500 different birds and among these you get to watch rare shoebill storks, raptors, sniper birds among others.
The park has 10 lakes located within and these can be visited such as Lake Ihema & Shakani. Visitors can also enjoy boat cruises on these lakes.
While here you get a chance to see Colombus monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons and vervet monkeys among others.
Major activities that can be done in Akagera National Park
Since there are 500 species available, visitors are likely to enjoy viewing the different types of birds such as shoebill stork, white egrets within the plains, the beautiful crested crane, giant marabou storks and many more that will amaze you. This activity costs $30 per person.
Cruising through the crystal clear lakes while exploring the beautiful surroundings of the park. This activity is mainly carried out on Lake Ihema and while here you get to see crocodiles and hippos. These boat trips are scheduled to take place four times in a daythough the big boys can have unscheduled private boat cruises at any time of the day.
Interested in different kinds of animals, then the game drive is perfect for you, these last about 1-3 hours. You always have a guide during the drive for they help to locate where particular animals you would like to see are located. This costs $30 during day time with an increase of $10 for night drives.
Want to have a fishing experience, Akagera national park gives you the opportunity to experience this feeling. You get to catch different types of fish like catfish and tilapia, this is majorly done on Lake Shakani.
Hiking and Nature Walks
These activities give one a chance to embrace the beautiful scenery in the park, right from different vegetation like flora and fauna to different insects and butterflies with birds inclusive.
Akagera National Park gives tourists an opportunity to interact with communities and locals that stay near the park, you get to know about their culture and how they go about their day to day lives despite the fact that they stay near the park. During these tours you get to see performances of Rwandan cultural dance, different kinds of food and farming practices such as bee farming and harvesting.
When to visit Akagera national park?
Visiting Akagera National Park can be done all year round though experiences at the park change with each season. Such as while carrying nature walks, the trails may tend to be unfriendly during wet season due to frequent rains and they get muddy and slippery which make walking unlike the dry seasons where the trails are dry hence easy to navigate.