Akagera National Park lies at the northeast corner of Rwanda, 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the capital, Kigali. The park is named after the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, which flows at the park’s eastern frontier, on the border with Tanzania. Akagera’s size was reduced in 1997 from the original 2,500 km² (965 miles²) to 1,122 km² (433 miles²), in order to provide land for returning refugees after the end of the Civil War. The park presents Central Africa’s largest protected wetland, and is a scenic labyrinth of lakes, papyrus swamps, savannahs and rolling hills. Different ecosystems complement one another, and provide a habitat for an array of mammal and bird species, including three of the big five: elephants, buffalos and leopards.
Akagera is known for its big game. Buffalo, zebras, Masai giraffes, defassa waterbucks and cape elands, can be seen grazing in the savannah. Elephants have been reintroduced, and their numbers are now estimated at around 120. These magnificent giants can be sometimes spotted at the waterholes. Once the fence at the park’s western boundary is completed, there is also a plan to reintroduce lions and black rhinos.
Baboons and vervet monkeys are among the commonly sighted primates. Leopards and hyenas, two large predators found in the park, can sometimes be spotted during a night drive. If you decide to go on a boat trip on Akagera’s largest lake, Lake Ihema, you are bound to encounter hippos and crocodiles. The papyrus swamps shelter a wide variety of water bird species, and are much loved by ornithologists, who are attracted by nearly 500 bird species living in the park.
Guided game drives are available, as well as bird safaris and boat safaris. The guides can advise you on areas of most dense wildlife and scenic spots.
The dry seasons run from June to September, and January to February, and this is usually the best time to visit. During the wet months, some roads can become impassable, although a lot of effort has been recently put into road development.