The Akagera national park which was formerly called Parc National De L’akagera because of the Belgian colonialists covers approximately 1200 square kilometers in eastern Rwanda at the border with Tanzania. The park is named after the river akagera which flows on its eastern boundary and empties into several lakes. The park was setup to protect several species in the savannah, mountain and swamp ecosystems.
The park was a large area of about 2500 square kilometers, but at the end of the genocide, returning refugees settled in the park with over half of the park occupied by people, there was little area left for the wildlife. However, the remaining area has proved to be just enough for the existing flora and fauna in the park. The park has a network of rolling hills with several types of vegetation like acacia and woodland. The several lakes in the park have swamps around them and these are home to several species of both animals and plants. All these combined with the scattered savannah make up an area of absolute scenic beauty which is rare to encounter in any other part of the world.
The park is managed by the Akagera management company which was officially formed in 2010 after an agreement was signed between the African parks and the Rwanda development board. According to the agreement, the AMC handles the day to day running of the park while the government of Rwanda retains all the statutory rights to the park. This agreement has helped to bring tourism to the level that it currently enjoys in Rwanda as many projects have been started all with an aim of improving tourism in the park.
The Akagera national park has a thriving population of elephants and giraffes at the moment. However, the elephants were introduced in 1975 after they had mysteriously disappeared in 1961. Giraffes were introduced from Kenya in 1986 and they have also equally thrived due to the abundance of food in savannah dominated park. The black rhino was introduced in 1957 and just like the giraffe and elephant, it thrived. However, due to poaching in the area, the entire population of the black rhino was wiped out with the last sighting of this mammal coming in 2007.
There are plans to re-introduce these species and the lion into the park by the new management company.
The park is the one park in Rwanda where you can have a real African safari with game drives where you can see the big cats and several mammals from upclose. The park is also home to over 500 bird species with some of them being rare and endangered species. This is attributed to the diverse ecosystems in the park which include savannah, mountain and swamp. Some of the rare species found in the park include; shoebill, papyrus gonolek and several other water birds which live in the wetlands surrounding the park.
The park is therefore a triple threat when it comes to tourism since it has an option of nature walks with the beautiful scenery, bird watching and lastly the game drive safari.
Activities in the park
• Game drives: the park is home to several species of wild animals scattered all over the savanna and swamps. Going on a game drive in this park will give you the extreme safari experience you have been longing for in your life.
• Bird watching: there are 500 recorded species of birds in the park and going through the park with an aim of spotting birds will prove very healing as you will see all types of birds from small ones to big ones and all other kinds.