Known for its great Biodiversity is Akagera National Park Founded in 1934 by the Belgian government. The park is situated in eastern Rwanda covering 1,122 km2 (433 sq mi) along the international border with Tanzania, it possesses savannah, montane and swamp habitats. Akagera National park is named after Akagera River which flows along with its eastern boundary feeding into Lake Ihema and several smaller lakes in the region. It is also important to know that the complex system of lakes and papyrus swamps make up a third of the park, making it the largest protected wetland in Eastern-Central Africa.
Back in time, Akagera national park was a battlefield between the Rwandan Army and the rebels -Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) between 1990 and 1994, the rebels mostly comprised of Tutsi exiles making the area become a no-go zone for tourists, but recently the region has grown to become Rwanda’s most desired destination for visitors.
The park was known for its large population of African wild dogs, and, later on dubbed the ‘Parc aux Lycaons’ and wild dogs were so abundant that the Belgian government considered it a pest. However, in 1957, black rhinos were introduced from Tanzania and more than 50 black rhinos started living in the savannah habitat of the park. Unfortunately, widespread poaching led to the rapid decrease of rhino population in subsequent decades and the last confirmed rhino sighting was in 2007.
In 1986, Masai giraffes were introduced from Kenya and their population has grown to over 80 individuals in recent years. Around 1990, Akagera was known to have a population of 250 to 300 lions, but in years following the Rwandan Civil War, the entire population perished due to peasants who returned to settle in the park after the civil war.
But nevertheless, in consequent years, the park has kept on developing; for example, in 2009, the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks Network agreed to jointly manage Akagera Park, they introduced locally extinct wildlife species, training of expert Rhino tracking and protecting the team as well as constructing the western boundary fence.
In 2015, the park went ahead to introduce seven lions from South Africa making them be the first lions in Rwanda since their last sighting 15 years ago. Also, the park has witnessed steady growth in the number of game and other wildlife species. It is also interesting to know that in 2017 and 2019, the park introduced approximately more than 20 Eastern black Rhinos and lions from Europe and South Africa respectively, making Akagera a big – five national park in Rwanda. This progress has made the park harbor a wide range of products to showcase to its guests; including Africa’s big five – Lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes.
Activities and attractions in Akagera
While in this destination, visitors have a chance of encountering large number of wildlife such as over 490 bird species, profusion of game such as lions, buffaloes, antelopes, Zebras, giraffes and different primate species such as baboons, monkeys among others.
Akagera National Park is ideal for several activities namely game viewing that exposes you to lions, elephants and Buffaloes among others, Bird watching where a traveler spots the red-faced barbets, Unique papyrus gonolek, among other migratory and endemic species.
Sport fishing and boat cruise excursions along Lake Ihema which as well harbors one of the largest concentration of Hippos in East Africa, and many more activities.
With a low lying landscape, wide plains dominated by grass, cactus and both thin and thick forests, the beauty of Akagera National Park is Unexplainable; it is only when a tourist visits that he or she gets to discover the treasure this historic national park holds.
When to visit Akagera
Akagera national park is open to tourists all year round; however, to stand great chances of spotting wild game, travelers are advised to visit during dry season; which runs between June to Early October and December to late February.
The low season of November is perfect for viewing migratory birds which fly from Ethiopia and Sudan, cross from Uganda and Tanzania and settle in the vast Akagera River wetlands and along the shores of Lake Ihema.