Akagera National Park is the only savanna national park in Rwanda. It lies in the Mubari – Migongo, sub-region which is located in the North Eastern part of Rwanda on the Tanzanian and Ugandan borders. Akagera National Park the only Rwanda’s savanna park received its name after the river that runs through it. The park is one of Rwanda’s Natural Treasures with a variety of wildlife.
The topography of the park is characterized by rolling sandstone hills in the West, cut in places by deep and narrow valleys. In the East there are flood-plains and swamps, to the south of the Buganza, the Gisaka sub-region is more wet while to the north of Akagera is the Mutara sub-region where the vegetation is occupied by open grasslands in which Themeda, Hyparrhenia and Cymbopogon dominate the area.
“Akagera, with its complex mix of terrains, vegetation and animal life… is a very special place on earth, a place to preserve at all costs for future generations.” – Jean Pierre Vande, writing in the award-winning conservation magazine Africa Environment & Wildlife.
The vegetation of the park has been described as the most heterogeneous savanna ecosystem in the region. There are mainly three Open savannas that have occupied the park such as; Themeda triandra, Hyparrhenia filipendula and Cymbopogon afronardus. The park has more than 250 tree species including the Acacia and Combretum. Towards the lake borders to the east, the savanna becomes more heavily wooded, with gallery forest occurring along lake edges. Gallery forest species include Albizia, Acacia polyacantha and some Ficus. Flood-plain and marsh vegetation occur in the river valley, with marshes dominated by Cyperus papyrus, Cladium and Miscanthidium.
Akagera comes as an exciting surprise after the steep cultivated hills and breezy climate that characterizes the rest of the country. Set at a relatively low altitude along the Tanzanian border, this beautiful game reserve protects an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia and brachystegia bush, interspersed with patches of open grassland and a dozen swamp-fringed lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River.
Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda.
Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.
Wild Game in Akagera National Park
Akagera is, above all, big game country. Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a leopard, a spotted hyena or even a stray lion. Giraffe and zebra haunt the Savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland.
Lining the lakes are some of the continent densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork – the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds.
Akagera National Park is rich in birds with over 525 species; this reflects the extremely wide diversity of habitat. 44 species of raptor, Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill Storkand a good number of Palearctic migrants, amongst which Lesser Kestrel, Great Snipe and Black-winged have been recorded. The park represents the northern limit of distribution of a number of Zambezian biome species, including Sauza’s Shrike, Arnot’s Chat, and Long-tailed Cisticola. One species of the Guinea – Congo Forests biome, seven of the Afro tropical Highlands biome, nine of the eleven species of the Lake Victoria Basin biome that occur in Rwanda have been recorded at this site. Birders who come to the Park are impressed by what they find as a variety of birds ranging from water to forest and including Savannah and migratory bird species. The localized red-faced barbes, the flycatcher, and one can be pretty sure that one just might spot the elusive shoebill stork while birding in Akagera National Park.
When it comes to Primates, you will find groups of the Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys and the rarely seen Blue Monkey, the wide-eyed bush babies can also be found in the park. You might also come across the black-tailed Mongoose, Catlike Genet, black- masked Civet, Serval Cats, Warthogs, Bush Pigs, rarely seen Lions.
Camping in Akagera National Park
Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape.
Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways.
Things to Do in Akagera
Akagera National Park is known as one of the most scenic savannahs in East Africa that offers an opportunity to enjoy wildlife in game drives also to view gentle hills blending with lowland swamps and water bodies. On your Rwanda safari, you will find splendid open Savanna Plains, broad leaved forests and pleasant hills, candelabra Euphoria Trees, Lakes teaming with crocodiles and the large concentration of hippos. Maasai Giraffes, Burchell Zebras, Elephants, Buffaloes, various species of Antelopes such as the Defassa Waterbuck, Topi, roan antelopes, the large Eland Antelopes, Bohor Reedbuck, Oribi, Common Duiker, Klipspringer and the semi-aquatic Sitatunga Antelopes, the Lions and Rhinos.
A game drive offers opportunity towards nature to present out its treasures in the form of scenic wonders. Wildlife such as Elephants, Buffaloes, Antelopes (Topi or Elands), Burchell Zebras, Maasai Giraffes, Savannah Birds, Monkeys, Leopards, Civets, Hyenas, Lions, Serval Cats, Rhinos and many more. While in a game drive, one should stay within the vehicle unless the park guide sees it as safe to get out and take a look around. For longer game drives take a snack or lunch from the lodge.
Experience Night Game Drive
A night game drive through Akagera Park is quite different from the day whereby at night there is a good opportunity to see the predators on the prowl looking for dinner. The drive is about 2 hours in length and gives you a different perspective of Akagera National Park during the night.
One thing that might be a bit out of the ordinary is fishing along the shores of Lake Shakani – you will hear the snorts of Hippos and the cry of water birds and hopefully, the only other noise will be the sound of a fish on your line. Fishing anywhere is enjoyable at Akagera you have the added pleasure of being in the African Wild, wildlife in the distance and water birds all around you. You might visit Akagera National Park while a fishing tournament is on which would put you into the good company of fellow anglers. The good news at Akagera National Park is that you get to keep your fish if you have confidence in your angling skill you might want to start a fire and get ready to roast your catch just in time for lunch.
Boating Safaris are normally the highlight of a visit to a park in East Africa and so it is with a boating safari on Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park. Lake Ihema has one of the largest concentration of hippos in East Africa. It is a sight to behold and so are the very large crocodiles that you will find along the shores of the lake. There are also countless of water birds you will find while on a boat safari on Lake Ihema and hopefully, you will spot a Shoebill Stork. Other animals such as Elephants find their way to the lake to drink some water and bathe. You have the opportunity to get closer to them than you would while in a vehicle on a game drive.
Therefore, for a safari in Rwanda, Akagera National Park is worth a visit reason being that it is filled with surprises, a fence has been erected to protect the Park animals from poachers and those wanting to encroach and bring in their cattle.