Located in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania, is Akagera National Park.
Named after River Kagera, this National Park is dominated by swamps and small lakes that flow in the wake of River Kagera. These water sources create a spectacular backdrop for the rolling hills and is quite a remarkable eco-system.
A common view around Rwanda, the mountainous scenery surrounding Akagera National Park is quite simply beautiful. The landscape inside the park ranges from low, wide, plains dominated by grass and cactus-like Euphorbia candelabra shrub that morphs into both thick and thin forests amongst rugged terrain that is so characteristic of Rwanda.
It is here you can experience the Big 5, and more, in Rwanda. The game drive experience is a scenic one, with wildlife like elephants, rhino, buffalos and antelope species including; elands and topis. There are also Maasai girafffes, monkeys, savannah birds, civets, leopards, hyenas, as well as serval cats.
While you can self-drive around the park (staying on the designated roads), it is recommended you hire a guide who is so knowledgeable about the flora and the fauna that is found in the park.
As you are carrying out the game drives, one should remain in the vehicle unless the park guides see that it’s safe for you to get out, at a designated area, taking a look. For the longer game drives, you are advised to take a snack or lunch and a lot of drinking water.
Birding in Akagera National Park is popular on land and via a lake boat cruise. It harbors over 520 species of birds which are found in this national park. The birders who visit Akagera National Park are always impressed by what they find, mostly the many bird species that range from water to forest and also savannah as well as the migratory bird species, and many of these are endemic to the park and are so rare like the papyrus gonolek which is found in the papyrus swamps.
Taking to Lake Ihema by boat is an activity not to be missed. Lake Ihema has got one of the largest concentrations of hippos in East Africa and there are many crocodiles that you will find along the shores of the lake. Water birds can be seen on a boating safari on Lake Ihema as well as a stunning sunset over the lake.
Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation, Akagera national park is the largest protected wetland in Central Africa. The park used to cover over 2,500 sq. km but in 1997, it was reduced in size by close to 50%. A lot of the land was reallocated to refugees returning to Rwanda after the civil strife of the genocide. Before 1997, many refugees returning to Rwanda had settled in the area and the conservation area was harmed by poaching and cultivation.
In 2009, the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks signed a joint management agreement in which the Akagera Management Company was established to help both bodies manage the park. AMC is therefore responsible for the day to day management of the park.
How to get there
Akagera National Park is located in the north Eastern region of Rwanda about 110 km from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, which is about a 2 ½ hour drive. From Kigali drive out of town towards the airport. Just before you reach the airport, about 100m out, take a left turn. You will then be heading east towards Rwamagana. Drive through Rwamagana and on to Kayonza. When you get to Kayonza, take the right turn at the roundabout and drive on till you get to a Discentre station on the left side of the road as you get into the town of Kabarondo. There is a dirt immediately after the petrol station. Take a left turn onto that road and drive on for about 15km till you come to a junction at Rwinkwavu. You will see a signpost that reads Akagera National Park on the left. The park gates are about 13km ahead after the signpost.
The park entrance fees are charged in USD per day per person and payable at the information entrance gate to the park.
Adults 13 years and above:
Foreign international visitors – $40 per person
For Rwanda/ East Africa resident – $30 per person
Rwanda / East Africa nationals – $7 per person
Children of 6 to 12 years
Foreign international visitors – $20 per person
Rwanda/ East Africa residents – $15 per person
Rwanda / East Africa nationals – $3.50 per person
Vehicle Entrance fees
Rwanda/ East Africa registered Motor vehicles/ Minibus – $ 10 per motor vehicle
Rwanda/ East Africa registered Minibus / Buses – $ 20 per vehicle
The foreign registered minibus/ Motor vehicles – $ 40 per motor vehicle
Foreign registered minibus / Buses- $ 100 per motor vehicle
The guides for the self-drive game drives charge USD$40 for the full day game drives. It’s advisable to get a guide while carrying out a game drive since they are always knowledgeable of where the animals are and can give informative talks on the wildlife and the park. Guides can be picked up from the reception between 6am9am and then returned to the reception within 5 hours for a half day activity. The guides that are picked from the reception and traveling with the visitors through the park, exiting from the north, will be charged for a full day activity regardless of the time of exiting the park. In case you want to exit the park from the north with a guide, please drop the guide off at Kayonza and they will then get public transport back to the park.
For an enjoyable safari experience to Akagera National Park it is suggested you stay in the area or even in the park. Here are some of the places you can stay at in the Akagera area:
Designed and built by the Akagera Management Company, Ruzizi Tented Lodge was opened in 2013. Located on the shores of Lake Ihema, it is a 20-bed tented eco-camp linked together using boardwalks. Its impressive African styled décor matches with the design to blend in with the surrounding environment giving it a very natural habitat feel. It is intimate, accommodating a maximum of 20 guests, but it’s so worth staying here as 100% of profits go towards the budget for management of the park, so your stay is making a contribution to conservation. The peace and quiet create the perfect atmosphere to commune with nature.
The original accommodation in the park, Akagera Game Lodge, offers some pretty amazing views of Lake Ihema. The comfortable accommodation is simple but adequate. The property boasts a restaurant, swimming pool, curio bar, tennis court and a few other life comforts. There is constant power supply, access to wifi and television for those who cannot live without communication channels. The lodge does not accept debit or credit cards, payment can be made in cash in either RWF, US dollars, Euros or British pounds.
Magashi Camp is a part of Wilderness Safaris, a company with over 40 camps in seven countries that exist to protect wilderness areas and the fauna and flora they support. You get a sense of this responsibility the moment you enter the camp. Magashi is nestled in the north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park in Rwanda overlooking the beautiful Lake Rwanyakazinga. Open plains transition into grassy low mountains and woodlands before rising into colourful mountains of greens, deep ochre and reds. Lakes break the horizon, surrounded by swampy marshlands thick with papyrus. The camp is the only exclusive-use area in Akagera, which means guests are the only ones who will be on game drives and wildlife viewing activities in the area. There is an abundance of plains game and a healthy population of lion, which were re-introduced into the park in 2015 after a 20-year absence. Black rhino were also re-introduced in 2017.
If you are an outdoorsy person, or more adventurous looking to enjoy the African wilderness in all its splendour, then you can opt for the camping sites. Camping information can be gained at the information desk at the entrance gate.
Outside of the park
There are a few hotels outside of the park or back in Kigali, such as Seeds of Hope Guesthouse, Cari hotel. LeMigo hotek, Discover Rwanda youth hostel, top tower hotel, Umubano hotel, Grand legacy hotel. The manor hotel and more.
For more visit www.akagera.org
For more information on activities in the park or to book, visit [email protected] or phone our reception on +250 (0) 786 182 871.
Check out the amazing work non-profit conservation organization, African Parks, are doing in Akagera, and other protected areas across the continent, on their website www.africanparks.org
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