Akagera National Park Rwanda, Akagera National Park Safari, Attractions, Activities & Facts
Akagera National Park Rwanda safaris take you to a wildlife gem found in the eastern province of Rwanda on Tanzania’s border. This Park is named after River Akagera which bisects the park and feeds many lakes around the park like Lake Ihema and Lake Shakani.
Akagera National Park covers an area of 1,200 km2 with savannah plains, forests, plains, and many rolling hills that make the park scenic.
This maintained park is an important area for large animals as it is the only protected savannah environment complementing Nyungwe National Park in the south of Rwanda and the afro-alpine habitats of Volcanoes National Park in the north.
Akagera Park Rwanda is a unique and picturesque park having an inspiring conservation story, under the public-private partnership between conservation non-profit African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board.
The park was threatened by the actions of the genocide of 1994 as people were moving through the park and poaching for wild meat was at its peak. This led to the decrease of animals in the park.
However, due to the inspiring conservation story, the park management in partnership with various donors undertook ambitious programs of reintroducing species like Lions and Rhinos which had become extinct.
Today, when you visit Akagera National Park, you can enjoy the eastern province sights of the Big Five (the Cape buffalo, Leopard, Elephant, Lions, and Rhinoceros) making your African safari memorable.
Other savannah animals to see include; Giraffes, Hyenas, Warthogs, Zebras, Elands, and several primates like Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, etc.
Akagera National Park is also a birders’ paradise with over 500 recorded bird species that thrill within the park’s boundaries. The Shoebill and the Papyrus Gonolek can be spotted on a boat tour on Lake Ihema.
Game drives while in a tour car are endless within this park as you get up close views of wildlife which is memorable. You can also enjoy community tours when in Akagera.
What is the History of Akagera National Park in Rwanda? – What Happened in Akagera National Park?
Akagera was a forest reserve with a rich biodiversity in flora and fauna species before being gazetted as a national park. In 1934, Akagera was given the status of a national park by the Belgian government, and it was done to protect the remaining species of wildlife animals that were under threat.
It is one of the oldest national parks on the African continent. This park sheltered a large population of wildlife animals like Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Hippos, and many more.
The park had many Lycanos or Wild dogs and it was named the park of Lycanos. However, most of the dogs were killed in the epidemic that spread in the national park with the last being seen in 1984.
After the genocide of 1994, most people returned to their country and many settled in Akagera National Park and many forests were cleared to get land for farming and grazing.
Most of the wild animals were hunted and their population of those decreased. This led to the extinction of most species the Rhinos and Lions. Both these were last reported back in 2007 though at first there were 300 Lions and over 50 Black Rhinos.
In 2009, Akagera National Park opened a joint management agreement between African parks and the Rwanda Development Board to manage the national park. Later Akagera Management Company was formed to oversee the running of the park.
The fruits of this management led to the reintroduction of Lions from the parks of southern African countries in the park that had been absent for 15 years. In 2017, the park received 18 black eastern Rhinos from South Africa.
In 2019, five more Black Rhinos were translocated from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Akagera Park. This marked the longest translocation of Rhinos from Europe to Africa.
You can see Rhinos during game drives in the park. Of now, Akagera Park reviews show an increase in the number of visitors it receives every day.
The Role of African Parks
African Parks assumed management of Akagera in 2010 and since then the animal population has increased. They assumed management has aided the development of tourism in Akagera, an inspiring conservation story, and a joint management agreement was signed between them and the RDB for Nyungwe Forest National Park in 2020.
It has worked hard in improving the eastern province transportation and conserving the eastern province nature as when visit you can enjoy eastern province sights like the spectacular scenic beauty when on your half-day tour.
Top Safari Attractions in Akagera National Park
Tourists who want to explore Akagera National Park in the eastern province of the country can be certain that there are amazing attractions that they will see when on Akagera National Park tours.
Wildlife: when we talk about wildlife within this park, Akagera is an incredibly beautiful park just like those in southern African countries as it has amazing animals that you can see on game drives.
Some of the animals include the Cape buffalo, Bush elephant, Lions, Leopards, Giraffes, etc. The shallow waters of Lake Ihema are home to a large number of Crocodiles and Hippos.
Primates: on Akagera National Park Safaris, you can get sightings of primates like Vervet Monkeys, Olive baboons, Blue Monkeys, Black and white Colobus Monkeys, and nocturnal animals like Bush babies.
However, the sightings of these primates may not be as rewarding as those of Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Bird species: Birders who visit Akagera National Park in the eastern province are always impressed by the large number and great diversity of bird species in this park that range from water birds to forest birds, savannah species, and migratory species.
There are over 500 species that you can spot on Akagera National Park tours and they include; Red-faced barbets, the swamp flycatcher, Shoebill, Fish eagles, Grey-backed Fiscals, Cattle Egret, Black-headed & Viellot’s Black Weavers, Hamerkop, Pied Crow, etc.
Lakes: Apart from the largest protected wetland, there are several lakes that you can explore when in Akagera National Park and the most visited are Lake Ihema and Lake Shakani.
Major Safari Activities in Akagera National Park
Adventurous travelers coming to Akagera National Park in the eastern province of Rwanda can take part in many activities ranging from game drives, boat cruises, nature walks, sport fishing, birding, camping with happy trail tours, and many others.
GAME DRIVES IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
This is one of the best ways to experience Akagera National Park with up-close views of wildlife. You can go on game drives in the morning (early morning spot animals), afternoon, and night game drives. The tracks in the park have been well developed since the partnership between the Rwanda Development Board and African parks.
Visitors need to get a safari vehicle or can use the park vehicle which can go through the rough terrain in this maintained park. On your game drives, you can be accompanied by park rangers as they are knowledgeable of the park and the wildlife along with your amazing tour guide.
Akagera is one of the few national parks in East Africa that offers night game drives. These are done using strong spotlights and an open tour car to enable tourists to spot nocturnal animals especially the wild cats and Bush babies.
Night game drives in park vehicles take around 2-3 hours and you are always with park rangers to give you help on these legendary tours in Rwanda.
BIRD WATCHING IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Bird watching in Rwanda is one of the top activities for those who visit Akagera National Park Rwanda as you have the best opportunity to spot colorful bird species. Birds can be viewed during a game drive or on a boat cruise on Lake Ihema starting from the boat launch site where you can spot several water birds early morning.
Some of the birds to spot on your Akagera National Park trip include the Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill, Fish Eagles, Grey-backed Fiscals, Cattle Egret, Black-headed & Viellot’s Black Weavers, Hamerkop, etc.
BOAT TRIPS IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Boat safaris are one of the highlights of any Akagera National Park adventure while on vacation in East Africa. Boat trips are epic on Lake Ihema the largest large in the park and you can get sightings of the Crocodiles, Hippos, and several water birds.
You can also see spot other animals like Elephants on the shores of the lake. Boat trips depart in the morning and afternoon from the boat launch site.
SPORT FISHING IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
On your experience Akagera National Park safari, you can enjoy sport fishing in Rwanda without any limitations and it is most ideal on the shores of Lake Shakani. You get to catch the great fish species like the Tilapia and Catfish.
When fishing in Akagera, you also get sightings of other wildlife species on the shores of the lake like animals and several bird species on this one-half-day tour.
You might also visit Akagera National Park when a fishing tournament is ongoing to give you a chance to meet fellow anglers on your two half-day tours.
HIKING AND GUIDED NATURE WALKS
This is one of the best ways to explore Akagera and it can be a one-half day tour in the park. Hiking and nature walks in this park are good in the early morning hours and give visitors a great opportunity to explore the green hills with a variety of flora and fauna species like plants, trees, insects, butterflies, and bird species.
COMMUNITY TOURS IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
These allow visitors to mingle with the local people living in the communities near the park. During your Rwanda community tours/encounters, visitors are introduced to the Rwandan culture through dance performances, folk songs, and stories.
Tourists can get the opportunity to visit the local farms to see the long-horned cattle and you can tree milking the cows. You can also engage in the traditional cooking of Rwandan dishes and make local banana beer on these legendary tours in Rwanda.
Other activities outside the park: there are many eastern province outdoor activities that visitors can take part in near the park and in Kigali.
You can visit the Rusumo Falls on the other half-day tour, the presidential palace, eastern province museums, the Kigali city markets to enjoy eastern province shopping, and the genocide war memorial centers on your two half-day tours.
The Best Time to Go on a Safari in Akagera National Park
Tourists can go on Akagera National Park safari at any time of the year though visitors prefer to visit the park during the dry season.
The dry season runs from June to September as during this time, the grasses are short, and the water sources are limited which is a great opportunity to see wildlife in the park and good for eastern province shopping.
The rainy season occurs in certain months of March and April and during this time the tracks become difficult to access as they are slippery, and it is not a good time for night game drives. However, during the rainy season, the accommodation is at discounted rates, and you can travel on a budget.
Things to Consider While Planning to Visit Akagera National Park
When planning to visit only the protected savannah environment in Rwanda, Akagera National Park is open between 6 am and 6 pm, and $40 is charged as a park entry fee for international visitors.
The country is located in the tropics and hence with insects and tropical diseases that foreigners are not immune to.
You should know that game drives are done in park vehicles which are open-sided and remember to always carry your vaccination certificates.
Also, if interested in exploring more of the eastern province’s outdoor activities, do not forget to eastern province admission tickets to show at the park reception so that you enjoy eastern province nature with its spectacular scenic beauty.
When coming for safaris in Akagera, there are essential items that you need to pack when coming to this very good park and they include;
- A good camera with extra batteries
- Travel documents
- Personal prescription
- Personal first aid kit
- A day bag pack
- Insect repellent
On your visit to Akagera Park, you should also put on appropriate wear and the clothes should be eco-friendly.
Below is what you can wear for your tour;
- Light long-sleeved shirts and trousers
- Light shoes
- Cap or Hat
- Socks and underwear
- Poncho or rain jacket
Where to Stay in Akagera National Park
When visiting Akagera National Park, there is no need to worry about accommodation as this park has amazing facilities where you can stay. The accommodation ranges from luxury to midrange, and budget lodges.
Many tour operators or local tour companies can help you choose the best lodges that you can enjoy on your visit with hotel-class popular amenities.
Some of the lodges in Akagera Park include;
- Ruzizi Tented Lodge
- Akagera Game Lodge
- Dereva Hotel
- Karenge Bush Camp
- Magashi Lodge
How to Get to Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is a very good park about 108 km from Kigali city and it can be accessed by either road or by a short flight. By road, it takes about 2 hours and a 30-minute drive from Kigali City via the town of Rwamagana to the southern gate of the park which is the same visitor center.
If you wish to fly to the park rather than drive, Akagera Aviation offers flights to the park. Many tour operators can help you book the scheduled or chartered flights.
Best Akagera National Park Safaris in Rwanda – Rwanda Tours
These are amazing tours offered by local tour companies and take you to explore Akagera National Park and they combine other destinations to give a memorable experience.
These safaris are based on Akagera National Park reviews;
- 2 days Akagera National Park Safari
- 3 Days Akagera National Park Safari trip
- 6 Day Rwanda Safari – Gorillas, Chimpanzees & Wildlife in Akagera
What are the Entry Rates for Akagera National Park?
The Akagera National Park entry rates for 2023 are for 3 categories of visitors. There are international visitors, EAC Residents, and Rwandan residents as they are charged differently per activity and are paid at the park entrance gate.
The fees are implemented by Akagera Management company not government as is the case with most National Parks in Rwanda.
Akagera Management Company – Pricing for Akagera National Park 2023:
|Entry fee / self-drive permit||Details||1 Day/Night||2 Nights||3 Nights|
|Rwandan/EAC Citizen||Per person||~16||15,000||~24||22,500||~32||30,000|
|Rwandan/EAC Citizen 6 – 12||~ 11||10,000||~16||15,000||~21||20,000|
|Rwandan/EAC Resident 6 – 12||30||45||60|
|International Visitor 6 – 12||50||75||100|
Children 5 or below do not pay entry fees
Entry fees are not charged beyond 3 nights for up to one week.
|Vehicle fee||Vehicle / Minibus (Rwandan/EAC registered)||10|
|Omnibus / bus / overlander (Rwa/EAC reg.)||20|
|Vehicle / Minibus (Foreign registered)||40|
|Omnibus / bus / overlander (Foreign reg.)||100|
|Guides (Park and Community Freelance)||USD|| |
|Guide for a self-drive game drive||Per guide / ½ day||25|
|Guide for a self-drive game drive||Per guide / full day||40|
|Adults 13+||Children 6 – 12|
|Night Drive (operated by AMC)||Pp/2.5hrs / vehicle, driver, guide/min. 2/max. 7||40||25|
|Fishing||Pp per day (own equipment)||25||15|
|Boat trip – scheduled morning/day||Price pp / 1 hr. / max. 11 pax||35||20|
|Boat tour – scheduled sunset trip||Price pp / 1 hr. / max. 11 pax||45||30|
|Boat tour – private, non-scheduled||Per boat / 1 hr. / max. 11 pax||180||–|
|Behind-the-scenes tour||Price pp/min 4 pax / 1.5 hrs.||25||15|
|Group rate for 8+ pax / 1.5 hrs.||180||–|
|Game drive day (AMC operated)||Half day max. 5 hours/vehicle, driver, guide/max. 7||180||–|
|Full day/vehicle, driver, guide/max. 7 pax||280||–|
|Walk the Line||7km walk along the fence/min. 3 approx. 2 hrs.||30||20|
|Community Cultural Experiences||Various activities offered / half day/min. 3 pax||30||20|
|Other fees||USD|| |
|Tent hire||Per 6-man (3m x 3m) canvas tent (south sites)||20|
|Recovery fee||Breakdown or assistance from the park||70|
|Recovery fee coasters||Breakdown or assistance from the park||150|
|Fines||For breaking any park rules & regulations||150|
|Landing fee||Per landing within Akagera||50|
|Research fee||Contact the management before any research||200|
|Ranger assistance fee||For researchers / per day/conditions apply*||25|
|Commercial filming/photography||Per day. Contact the park for all filming||300|
|Rwandan/EAC Citizen||Single pass||95,000|
|Rwandan/EAC Citizens||Couples pass||150,000|
|Rwandan/EAC Citizens||Family pass||205,000|
|Rwandan/EAC Residents||Couples pass||500|
|Rwandan/EAC Residents||Family pass||700|
Animals of Akagera National Park – Wildlife in Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is the only haven for savannah wildlife animals in Rwanda. The national park has several large animals with over 100 African bush elephants, 80 Giraffes, over 15 lions, and 25 Black eastern Rhinos.
The lion population has increased recently due to proper conservation. Some of the animals include; Roan antelopes, Bushbucks, Bohor reedbucks, Oribis, Bush babies, Hartebeests, Zebras, Hyenas, Crocodiles, etc.
The park also shelters over 500 species of birds like the Senegal Lapwings, Squacco Herons, Giant Kingfisher, Grey Crowned Crane, Shoebill, Gonoleks, etc.
Can you see the Big 5 in Rwanda?
Yes, you can see the Big 5 in Rwanda in Akagera National Park. The Big Five are the Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Cape buffalo, and Rhino. The best way of seeing these animals is through game drives and nature walks.
What Is the African Park in Akagera?
Akagera National Park is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda. In 2010, African Parks signed a joint management agreement with the RDB establishing the Akagera Management Company.
How Many Lions are there in Akagera National Park?
The Lion population has increased in the past years and there are about 58 Lions in the park thanks to the park management. You can see these during game drives in a Game Park vehicle.
What Country is Akagera National Park?
Akagera Park is situated in the eastern province of Rwanda the land of a thousand hills. It is the only savannah national park in the country having the Big Five and many big game animals. The special occasions contribute reviews for more people to visit this park.
How Much Does It Cost to Game Drive in Akagera National Park?
The guides both freelance and park guides for the self-drive game drives charge $25 for a half-day safari drive and $ 40 for the full-day game drives and this money is paid at the park entrance gate.
It is always advisable to get an amazing tour guide when going for game drives since they are well-informed about wild animals and their habitats.
In summary, Akagera National Park Rwanda is a unique and picturesque park offering amazing wildlife viewing. This incredibly beautiful park also offers a boat trip on Lake Ihema, cultural tours, sport fishing, and bird watching within the green hills with endemics, especially on the mountainous western boundary of the park.
It is the only park amongst all the national parks in Rwanda where you can see the Big Five (Lion, Elephant, Cape buffalo, Leopard, and Rhino). Visiting the Park is rewarding with unforgettable memories on your African safari.
Book your Akagera National Park safari with us so that you write your own story of a Rwanda safari adventure!