The Akagera National Park is one of the largest in Rwanda and it is located in the eastern part of the country. Just 110 kilometers away from the Kigali international airport, the Akagera National Park is always busting with wildlife all throughout the year making it a top destination for tourists who visit the country. When you talk about Rwanda, the first thing that comes to the minds of people is the gorilla trekking but the Akagera National Park is a gem that is waiting for tourists to discover it especially after the genocide that happened in the year 1994. Named after the Kagera River, a safari to the Akagera national Park can take as many days as you want but the best two are the three days safari and two days safari to the Akagera National Park.
The best time to visit Akagera National Park
There is no right or wrong time for you to visit the Akagera National Park because it can be visited all throughout the year irrelevant of the weekends and the holidays but most people prefer to visit the Park during the dry season that is from December to February when the roads are not muddy like in the wet season but you can still visit the Park during the rainy season that is usually experienced between March and April.
How To Get To Akagera National Park From Kigali
The Akagera national Park is just 110 kilometers away from the Kigali international airport that is the main entrance point into the country. Your journey to the Akagera National Park starts from the Kigali international airport and a four wheel drive vehicle is needed because it will not be easy for you to drive through the dirt roads that lead to the National Park and those that are found within the National Park.
After leaving the airport in whichever transport means that you choose, you will make a left turn about 100 meters away from the airport and drive towards a town known as Rwamagana. You will drive through the Rwamagana town till you reach Kayonza town where you will find a roundabout. At the roundabout, drive to towards the right until you find a petrol station on your left hand side of the road and immediately after the station, there is a marram road that you should take for at least 15 kilometers. At a junction after the 15kilometers, you will find a signpost on the left with the words Akagera National Park. Keep on driving past the signpost because the National park is just 13 kilometers away from the signpost.
This journey from the Kigali international airport will take roughly 2 hours and a half and although the ride might be bumpy, it is still worth the fuss once you get to the Akagera National Park itself.
What you need to know before going to the Akagera National Park
There are lot of things that you will need in order for you to be able to enjoy your trip to the National park and these include:
- Renting a car, you can hike through the National Park but due to its expanse nature, you will need to get a car to take you around. The best is a 4×4 car due to the dirt roads found within the Park and especially during the wet season when it is still muddy.
- Hiring a tour guide, sometimes tourists prefer to go exploring the Park on their own but it is advisable that that you get one so that you get to explore all those parts of the Park that can be hard when you are on your own. A tour guide in the Akagera can go for a fee from 25 US dollars and 40 US dollars and the fee depends on how long your trip will be.
- Health needs, being a jungle in its own nature the Akagera National Park is filled with a lot of insects that might cause issues to your health and that is why before you visit the Park, you should get some vaccines like yellow fever and you should also look out for tsetse flies.
Akagera National Park Cost
Hired vehicles for a trip to the Akagera go for about 175 US dollars to 275 US dollars. It is better to book in advance and the tour guides themselves are also not that expensive as most of them charge them about 25 US dollars or more depending on the trip. The Akagera Park charges about 40 US dollars as entrance fee and the rest of the fees will be determined by the accommodation facility that you will choose during your trip.
There are many activities that you can carry out while in the Akagera and some of which include boat rides which can last for the whole day, game drives, birding, nature walks and cultural tours among others. All these can easily be organized for as long as you book early so that you get to enjoy some of the best moments while in the Akagera National Park.
Camping in Akagera National Park
Camping is one of the activities that you can engage in while in Akagera national Park and due to its flat nature, camping is extremely easy and fun. There are three main campsites in the Akagera national where tourists can enjoy an overnight camping session and these are the Mutumba campsite, the Shakani campsite and the Muyumbu campsite. These are found in the different parts of the national Park giving the tourists a chance to glimpse at the different sections and wildlife found in the Park. The tents that are to be used during the camping are always at the reception of the park for hire and to keep warm, firewood is provided by the campsite that you prefer to use.
The Shakani Akagera Campsite
The Shakani Akagera campsite is located just right on the edges of Lake Shakani in the southern part of the Akagera National Park. It is liked best by many tourists because it is where most of the fishing and it has some of the great views of the different water animals especially hippos.
The Muyumbu campsite
This is located near the border of Rwanda and Tanzania and gives you a good view of the neighboring country. It also has great views of the National Park and you might be able to spot a few baboons jumping from one tree to the next.
The Mutamba Akagera campsite
The Mutamba Akagera campsite is located in an extremely strategic place in the southern part of the National Park and is surrounded by a large herd of different animals and vegetation that adds to its beauty.
A boat trip in Akagera National Park
Besides the wildlife that habitates within the National Park, Akagera National Park is well drained with various Lakes which act as bird breeding paces but most especially aid in the boat trips in the Park. Boat trips are normally carried out at the Ihema Lake where you will also find lots of aqua animals like hippos, crocodiles and different fish species. The boat trips are done in the mornings and evenings and only 11 people are allowed in the boat with a cost of about 180 US dollars per trip although the price might change a little bit depending on the season.
Cultural tours outside the Park
The locals who live just on the other side of the electric side of the wall are entertaining and welcoming to tourists who visit their village to either just do some shopping or to get a glimpse into their unique culture. With the guidance of a tour guide, you will be able to meet and mix with the locals, get to taste their local dishes, milk the cows, and join in the singing and dancing with the locals and many other entertaining things. The cultural trip to the village will be between 2 to 3 hours.
Birding in Akagera
The Akagera National park is located within the Albertine region and most of the bird species that are found in the Park are Albertine birds besides other migratory birds that fly into the country. With a total of about 450 bird species in the Park, the birds that are found in Akagera have different breeding places and some of the species that you should look out for include:
- The double toothed barbet
- The great shoebill stock
- The arnot turaco
- The Meyer’s parrot
- The red faced barbet
- The long tailed Cisticola
- The open bill stork
- The African darter
- The marsh flycatcher
- The African Jacana and many more others.
Game drives in the Akagera
Game drives through the Akagera National Park is an activity that is most anticipated by most tourists because they get to see all the wildlife that lives inside and not forgetting the vast landscape around it. Game drives within the Park can be done all the long and with the help of a tour guide, you will have the best experience while in the country. Night drives can also be arranged for tourists and the nocturnal animals that you should look out for are bush babies, hyenas, owls, leopards, nightjars and genets among others. Some of the animals that you will be able to see include:
- Bush pigs
- Antelopes of different species that is the situngas, klipspringer and the roan antelopes.
- Vervet monkeys
- Black masked civet and many more others.
Accommodation in the Akagera National Park
The Akagera national Park has a limited number of accommodation facilities and some of the best facilities that you should try out include:
The Dereva hotel
This is a budget friendly accommodation facility and it is just 40 minutes away from the Park. They have both single and double rooms which are self-contained, have free Wi-Fi and a restaurant where you can get to taste both the local and international cuisines.
The Akagera Game lodge
This is the best accommodation facility that every tourist should try out while in the Park. It can house over 60 people and has self-contained rooms, a swimming pool, good service from the staff and some of the best views of the National park with some of the primates lazily walking through the compound especially the baboons and some monkeys.
The Magashi Lodge
The Magashi lodge is a luxury accommodation facility that is found within the confines of the National Park. It is just a few meters away from the offices located within the Park and they have large self-contained rooms with a provision meals all throughout the whole day with other services that are worth the money you will pay.
The Karenge Bush camp
Unlike other accommodation facilities that are open all year round, the Karenge Bush camp only opens during the peak season that is between December to February and June to August. They have self-contained rooms with some of the best local and international dishes served all throughout the whole day.
These are not the only accommodation facilities that you will find in the National Park but now you have an idea of what to actually choose from when you visit the Akagera National Park.
The history of the Akagera National Park
When the genocide broke out in 1994, everything was affected including the Akagera national Park and the animals that were living in it. When the genocide ended, many of the nationals returned to the country and since there was not enough land, many of them stationed their homes in the Akagera national Park hence displacing the animals and killing others.
When the government realized that many of the animals were disappearing from the National Park, they divided the Park into two parts that is part of the land that amounts to about 1200 square kilometers was gazetted to take care of the animals and the other part was set aside for the refugees who had returned to the country and this was in 1997. But even after the division, some locals still hunted the animals and that is how the electric perimeter wall was built in 2010 by the Rwanda development board and after the construction of the wall, the animals regained their protection and the National Park thrived once again.
Most of the animals that are now available in the Akagera national Park were just re-introduced after most of them were poached out of existence. After the introduction of security officers and other law enforcement people, poaching was phased out of the National Park and the animals brought in which has made the National Park a top list destination Centre for tourists.
- During the 1990s, the lions were poached out of existence but they were re-introduce in 2015 and in 2017, two more females were introduced and they were brought from South Africa.
- In 2019, five black rhinos were also re-introduced into the Akagera after their first re-introduction of about 18 rhinos in 2017.
After the tragic history of the Akagera National Park, it now has more than 7000 wild animals and about 500 bird species that can be viewed all throughout the year. And besides the animals and birds, the Akagera national Park has a unique landscape that is worth trekking through and not forgetting the vegetation that covers the whole National Park.