This national park is located in Eastern Rwanda. It acquired its name from the River Kagera. River Kagera is equally situated in Eastern Rwanda to which it drains its water in Lake Ihema and other Rwanda small lakes. It is a large national park and greatly a savannah land which spans 2,500 square kilometers. The savannah in Akagera National Park is comprised of scattered acacia trees with vast lands covered by savannah grass. Scattered wetlands and lakes are also present in the national park.
This National Park came to be known as Akagera National Park in 1934. Akagera National Park was stable until 1994 when the Rwanda genocide occurred. Hundreds of Rwanda residents sought refuge in these abandoned wild lands to escape the cruel inhumane perpetrators of the genocide. The crisis led to massive destruction of the Park’s vegetation such as woodlands as the victims of the genocide looked for timber to build new houses. The small woods were similarly on high demand for firewood for cooking. The herders had migrated with their cattle which they started grazing within the national park. This gradually occasioned pushing away of the surviving wildlife within the park to far lands such as D.R Congo. The government of Rwanda entered an agreement in 2010, with the Africa Parks Network. With support from Howard Buffet Foundation, their role was to further wildlife conservation within Akagera National Park. It also reintroduced the Rhinoceros and lions. The main administration of the National Park has been important in curbing the poaching activities that had been rampant prior to 2010. The big five mammals have successfully been maintained and preserved. Akagera National Park generally flourishes and this is evidenced in the high tourism levels annually. Also to note, the co-operation agreement led to works of regaining the lands of Akagera National Park that had been encroached.
It’s the only Savannah national park within the country. The savannah grasslands are the home to hundreds of fauna. The big five game animals are situated within this National Park and interest the hundreds of tourists that visit Rwanda. Akagera is also the only national park in Rwanda with numerous scattered water bodies and this therefore increases the available tourist activities.
A tourist with a keen interest of touring the big five mammals shouldn’t look any further while in Rwanda. It’s the only national park in the country with the known Big Five. They are all present in Akagera. Buffalos are in large numbers. Elephants, Zebras, Giraffes, and lions alike. Leopards, Sitatunga antelopes, bushbuck, klipspringer, mongoose, Cape eland, hyenas, Side-stripped jackals, topis, duiker, warthogs, oribis, impala, roan antelopes, and many other land mammals are all present. The lakes within the national park such as Lake Ihema attract hippopotamus and a few crocodiles. The night drives always sight bush babies as they hunt for food. There are equally a few primates and the common ones are the Olive baboons, and blue monkeys.
Being a savannah Park, most of its birds are lowland birds. The Park has over 400 bird species. The national park also has water bodies such as wetlands and Lakes. These also attract many of the water bird species. Some of these are the Shoebill, Pied Crow, Papyrus Gonolek, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Red-faced barbet, Egrets, Viellot’s Black Weavers, Papyrus Gonolek, Carruther’s Cisticola, Swamp warbler, Hadada Ibis, Open-billed stork, Squacco herons, Blue turacos, Marabou stork, Grey crowned crane, Eagles, African Darter, and many more.
There are lakes within the Akagera National Park that interest the tourists such as Lakes Ihema, Rwanakizinga, Gishanju, Shakani, and Mihindi.
· Activities within Akagera National Park.
Ø Sport fishing on Lakes Ihema and Mihindi.
Ø Game drives.
Ø Bird watching.
Ø Nature walks.
Ø Boat cruises on Lake Ihema.
Ø Cultural tours around Akagera National Park.
· How to get there.
Getting to Akagera National Park for tourists from Kigali is by a drive to Rwamagana. To reach the entrance of Akagera, tourists spend an average of 2 hours driving from Kigali. Tourists should be aware of which gate to enter Akagera from. Entrance into Akagera National Park is from the Southern gate. As the budgets serve the tourist, they can resort to taking flights with the Akagera Aviation to the national park.
· When to visit.
Being a savannah area, the best time to visit Akagera National Park is when the sun shines the brightest. This often happens twice annually. There are two dry seasons in Rwanda. The first being from July to August, while the second dry season runs from December to February. The game drives within the periods are exceptional and the tourists get clear views of the park lands. Visibility of all possible animals is therefore amazing as more animals are drown to the open lands during these dry seasons.
Ø Akagera Game Lodge.
Ø Ruzizi Tented Camp.
Ø Magashi Game Lodge.
Ø Karenge Bush Camp.
Ø Dereva Hotel.