Hugging Rwanda’s eastern border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park covers about 1,120km² and is one of Africa’s oldest national parks, first gazetted in 1934.
The north of Akagera is mostly fairly low-lying grasslands and savannah plains, similar in feel to the ‘traditional’ safari areas of East Africa.
Akagera is almost unrecognizable today compared to just 20 years ago when it was on the verge of being lost forever. While peace was finally restored in the 1990s after the Rwandan Civil War, Akagera’s demise was just beginning.
Refugees returning to Rwanda after the genocide were still battling for their own survival and turned to the forests for timber, wildlife for protein and the wild savannah for their livestock.
Lions were hunted to local extinction, rhinos disappeared, and the park’s wildlife was displaced by tens of thousands of long-horned cattle.
Biodiversity was practically lost, and with it so was employment and tourism. The park’s value was diminished to the point of not existing at all. Which makes where Akagera is today, with its story of revival, even more remarkable?
Akagera National Park is one of the three protected areas in Rwanda situated in the Eastern province of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania just about 2-3 hour’s drive from Kigali city Rwanda’s largest and capital.
The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The park covers an area of approximately 1,200km2 and it was founded in 1934 to protect animals from poachers.
Since Rwanda is known as a land of a ‘’thousand hills’’ These highlands provide spectacular views over the expanse of lakes and swamps. And Akagera has its fair share of mountainous terrain. And it is the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
The Akagera national park is considered as one of the National Parks with abundant wildlife to mention some include giraffe, leopard, hyena, bush buck, antelopes, elephants, hippos and crocodiles can be seen in the Lake plus also various species of birds that feed on and around the lake. For visitors interested in Rwanda tours, Akagera national Park is worth visiting.
Since the park is a home to some members of the “THE BIG FIVE” of wildlife game viewing will be one of the activities enjoyed by visitors.
Some of the animals to watch include giraffe, zebra, hyena, leopards, lion, elephants, bush buck, and various species of antelopes and birds, hippos and crocodiles can also be seen during the boat trip at Ihema.
Many of the birds can be seen during the boat trip on Lake Akagera over 524 species of birds live in the park and they live in the savannah grassland of Akagera National Park.
Birders are in position to encounter the papyrus gonolek, shoe bill stock, as well as migrant birds attracted by seasonal fluctuations in the water levels to mention to mention but a few
A boat trip is so magnificent and it is arranged on the Lake Ihema, and most of the tourist who make it to Akagera national park has to go on a boat trip and it’s a wonderful moment as one can also be in position to came across several species of animals such as school of hippos, crocodiles, a variety of birds that feed on and around the Lake such as the malachite kingfisher, the fish eagle, to mention but a few.
Spot fishing for those interested is also arranged and is encouraged to carry there fishing equipment in order to be permitted to do the activity; tilapia are the most sought of fish to fish. All these activities make Akagera national park more interesting to visit.
There is plenty of big game in the park which can be observed roaming the vast savannah grasslands against a striking backdrop of mountain landscape and one of the best scenery in Africa.
4 members of the famous “Big Five” occur in the park include Lions, Leopard, Elephant, and Buffalo. Giraffes can be seen strolling across the savannah along with Zebras, and 12 species of antelopes some of which include the Impala, Topi, Water buck, Reed buck, Bush buck, Sable Antelope, Roan Antelope, Eland, Oribi.
Smaller animals found in Akagera include genets, mongoose, serval cats and side-stripped jackals. Primates are also available in Akagera of which include Baboons, vervet and silver monkeys, and bush babies.
There are ten lakes and a labyrinth of swamps in the park which harbour plenty of aquatic life such as Hippos and Crocodiles.
The diversity of habitats is unique including lakes, marshes, savannah, mountains and woodland makes for spectacular scenery.
Lodges in Akagera National Park
Akagera Game lodge is not a seasonal accommodation facility; it opens all year round and offers a total of 60 rooms. At the moment, this is one of the accommodation facilities inside the Akagera National Park boundaries. It is less of a traditional safari-lodge but more of a hotel.
The Lodge is located on the shores of the forest fringed Lake Ihema hence offering beautiful views the Lake. It has a large and very clean swimming pool that is hovering at the rim of the wide savannah.
It also offers a splendid relaxed atmosphere that is ideal for a quiet gateway, a conference, as well as an uninterrupted wildlife encounter.
Karenge Bush Camp Akagera
Set on a seasonal basis, derived from a Kinyarwanda word meaning ‘small footprint’ Karenge Bush camp is also set up two times in the year and removed out, and leaving no trace of its being.
Just between this campsite and the lodge is a Karenge and it aims to leave a light footprint on the earth, echoed in the name Karenge that means little foot.
The camp frequently changes location, showcasing different areas of the uncrowded national park, leaving a light carbon footprint in the process. Experience the magic of a pop-up camp in an area filled with bird and animal life.
No cement or permanent construction materials are used in the set-up of the camp and everything is removed without trace at the end of the season. As with its sister camp Ruzizi Tented Camp, Karenge Bush Camp focuses on being wholly environmentally conscious.
Karenge is a seasonal camp, set up bi-annually for 3 months at a time, and when it is taken down there should be no lasting presence of its existence. No cement or permanent construction materials are used in the set-up of Karenge Bush Camp.
The camp offers six tents, with a maximum of 12 guests. Beds are camp beds with mattresses and bedding. Camp chairs, reed mat floors and solar lights are provided in each tent.
The bathrooms are bucket showers and toilets and a canvas basin. Warm water is provided daily. This is an authentic bush camp experience.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge is a small private luxury tented camp and has 7 en suite tents with a spectacular waterside location at Lake Ihema, and is one of only three lodges located within Akagera National Park.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge construction was started in January 2012 and completed for opening in November 2012. This tented lodge is the first of its kind in Rwanda, although a well proven concept elsewhere in Africa, built on the shores on the forested shores of Lake Ihema.
This flourishing wilderness area is a microcosm of Rwanda’s inspiring and rapid growth in conservation, and after the reintroduction of rhino, Akagera will once again be home to the Big 5 wildlife.
The tents were also placed on both sides of the grass thatched main structure that homes the reception area, the lounge, bar and dining area. There are walk-ways with wooden boards that connect each of the tents to the reception area.
Powered using solar energy the camp has electricity and hot running water. Each of the tented suites is separately located among lush foliage and is accessed via wooden walkways. The spacious suites have an en suite bathroom with hot and cold running water, a dressing area and a queen-sized or twin beds.
Outside is a small patio where you can sit and enjoy the utter peace and tranquillity of the forest, savour views of the lake and even sight fish eagles and other bird life.