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Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park In Rwanda, A Park Named After River Kagera

Akagera National Park in Rwanda comprises savannah, woodland, wetland, and a dozen lakes. It offers a beautiful view of the country’s wildlife and birds. The Big Five i.e. leopards, lions, elephants and Buffaloes, and other animal species like Zebras, impala, hippos, crocodiles, etc.

Akagera National Park was named after River Kagera also known as Akagera River which feeds several Lakes (Lake Gishanju, Lake Ihema, Lake Mihindi, Lake Rwanyakizinga, and Lake Shakani) within and around the park.


Wildlife In Akagera National Park

The park is Rwanda’s only savannah reserve and is again a Big Five destination after the recent reintroductions of lion and black rhino. Other animals include elephant, buffalo, giraffe and hippo. In terms of pure wildlife viewing, Akagera can’t quite compete with the more famous parks in Kenya and Tanzania. However, the park is very scenic and the birdlife is particularly rewarding.

Wildlife numbers are on the increase in Akagera National Pak and animals are slowly becoming less skittish (problems have included human encroachment and poaching). Buffalos are easily seen, and elephants are quite common. Leopards are around, but very secretive. Lions were reintroduced from South Africa in 2015 and there were 19 in the park as of early 2018, along with the same number of black rhino, which were reintroduced in 2017.

Scenery Of Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is particularly scenic and offers a wide diversity of habitats in a small area. Visitors can drive along a string of forest-fringed lakes and wetlands fed by the Akagera River. Tall mountains form a lovely backdrop to the ever-changing vegetation, which includes papyrus swamps and acacia woodland.

Best Time To Visit Akagera National Park

Although Akagera National Park can be visited at any time, the best wildlife-viewing months are from June to September. This corresponds with the Dry season, when animals are drawn to the lakes as a source of water. At this time the bush is not as lush either, which makes spotting animals a bit easier.

The Big Five in Akagera National Park| Big 5

Akagera National Park officially became a “Big Five” park in May 2017. It now boasts thriving populations of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo, as well as zebra, giraffe, and hundreds of bird species. Akagera National Park is the only national park in Rwanda with all the big five.

The most common throughout the park is the gracious impala, but the big herds of topi are of particular interest. Defassa waterbuck regularly graze around the lakes and bushbuck is a widespread resident in the woodland areas. Additionally, the lakes support some of the highest concentrations of hippos and large crocodiles on the continent.

Lakes In Akagera National Park

There are 10 lakes located within Akagera national park and these can be explored by visitors in the park. Some of the most commonly visited lakes in the park include Lake Ihema and Lake Shakani.


Of the primate family, olive baboons and vervet monkeys are common in Akagera. Far rarer is the secretive blue monkey that, until a few years ago, was believed to be extinct in the park.


Elephant, rhino, giraffe, and hippopotamus are the largest mammals found in the park. They join several naturally occurring large plains game species, including buffalo, topi, zebra, defassa waterbuck, the elusive roan antelope, and the statuesque eland. Smaller herbivores include duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck, and impala. The endangered Masai giraffe was introduced to Akagera from Kenya in 1986, and the current population contains an estimated 78 individuals.

    • Elephants have always naturally occurred in Akagera, but poaching wiped them out until an initial reintroduction returned a young group of 26 individuals—all under the age of eight—in 1975. The founder population has since grown to roughly 100 individuals.
    • 2017 saw the historic return of 18 eastern black rhinoceros to Akagera—and Rwanda—after a 10-year absence. The first calves were born in 2018, and five black rhinos translocated from European zoos in June 2019 promise to boost genetic diversity.

counter-poaching canine unit, African Parks overhauled law enforcement to help secure Akagera National Park and, as a result, not one high-value species has been lost to poaching since 2010.

In 2017, 18 eastern black rhinoceros were reintroduced to Akagera, bringing the species back to the park and the country after a 10-year absence. The population was further supplemented by an additional five individuals translocated from European zoos in 2019.
Lions were reintroduced in 2015, and with the addition of two males in 2017 to increase genetic diversity, the population has since quadrupled.

More than 2,000 schoolchildren visit Akagera National Park each year, along with teachers and local leaders, as part of the environmental education programme.
By the close of 2019, Akagera was 90% self-financing, with revenue generated by almost 50,000 tourists, 50% of whom were Rwandan. Even though 2020 saw a 68% reduction in visitors due to COVID-19, Akagera continued to provide for the 300,000 people living on its boundary.

Top 5 Things to Do In Akagera National Park

  1. Game Drives

On a game drive during the day, you get to be driven along the tracks, through the green savannah plains, past wide-leaved woodlands and into the habitat of bountiful mammal species in the Akagera National Park. Your tour guide knows the areas where most animals usually spend their day and will endeavor to drive by. Some of the animals to look out for while on a day game drive include; The Defassa Waterbuck, Topis, Bohor Reedbucks, Oribis, Semi-Aquatic Sitatunga, Eland, Giraffes, Buffaloes, Elephants, Lions and the recently reintroduced Rhinos are some of the mammals found in the park.

The night game drive is an experience in which you step into the wild to view the nocturnal animals especially the wide-eyed bush babies, serval cats, civets, leopards. You will be guided by your flashlight and an experienced ranger. experience if you are setting out to see the wild

  1. Nature Walks

Akagera national park management offers nature walks in some areas of the park with a ranger guide. This is a good way to explore the park outside of a vehicle which you use while on a game drive. Also it allows more time and engagement concerning butterflies, insects and plants that you could easily miss while on a safari.

  1. Fishing

You have an opportunity of fishing while in Akagera national park. You can do this on both Lake Ihema and Shakani which is a thrilling experience. At the serene waters you can fish to the background music of chirping birds and hippos that grunt as if to cheer you on. You are free to keep your catch to roast, fry or grill it and enjoy the taste of fresh fish from Rwanda.

  1. Birding in the park

Akagera national park is home to over 480 species of birds with many only found in this park in Rwanda. The diverse habitats for birds at Akagera National Park gives you an opportunity to view different kinds of bird species. There will be birds in the savannah plains, in the hills, forests, by the lakes and at the river. The Red Faced Barbets, the Great Snipe, the Lesser Kesterel, the Armot Chat, Swamp Fly Catchers, the Papyrus Gonolex and the Shoebill are some of the most rewarding sights while birding.

Akagera is an important ornithological site, with rarities such as the shoebill and papyrus gonolek – both restricted to papyrus swamps – as well as the localised red-faced barbet and the swamp flycatcher. Six vulture species, including the lappet-faced and white-backed, were documented a rare find for the park.

  1. Boat Safari

A boat safari is a relaxing yet rewarding way to view wildlife. It is an even more rewarding experience when on the lake. Lake Ihema is the second largest lake in Rwanda known for its abundant hippo population and crocodile dotted shores. The boat safari on Lake Ihema offers the opportunity to take up-close photos of these animals. As other animals come to the lake for a drink or bath, you can take a look at those that you may have missed while out on a game drive in the wild.

When To Visit
How To Get There
Where To Stay

Overview of  Akagera National Park

Akagera national park found in eastern Rwanda is a 1,222 sq km of mainly Savannah land. The park is named after the Kagera River that flows along Rwanda’s eastern boundary with Tanzania. The river feeds into Lake Ihema and other smaller lakes in and around the park.

The park protects an African Savannah landscape of acacia and bush with patches of open grassland and a dozen swampy lakes. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms a large protected wetland. Akagera national park is the only Savannah national park in Rwanda and the only place to sight most of the large mammals while on safari. Whereas there are forest elephants in the other parks, it is very difficult to sight them. Explore the park in the comfort of your safari vehicle while on a game drive.


History And Facts

Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation, Akagera national park is the largest protected wetland in Africa. It was named after the Akagera River which flows along its eastern boundary.

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, Rwanda Development Board and Africa Parks signed a joint management agreement in which the Akagera management company (AMC) was established to help both bodies manage the park. AMC is therefore responsible for the day to day management of the park.

Wildlife And Birding

The Akagera national park is the best savanna destination in Rwanda where you can enjoy game viewing during the thrilling game drives and boat rides during which you will get a chance to see a variety of large mammals and a profusion of birds as highlighted below.


Akagera national park is home to a variety of wildlife which includes, elephants, buffalos, giraffe, zebras, leopards, hyenas, lions. It is home to several antelopes like bushbucks, Topis, Oribis, water-buck, roan antelope and duiker, klipspringer, impala, and the world’s largest antelope – the Cape eland.

There are a number of primates species found within this park such as the olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, blue monkeys and the nocturnal bush babies. The shallow waters of Lake Ihema are home to a large number of crocodiles and hippos which can best be viewed during boat rides.


Akagera national park has a wide variety of habitats that provide great habitat for 520 bird species. The bird species to look out for include the remarkable shoebill, papyrus Gonolek, African Wattled Plover, Giant Kingfisher, Senegal Lapwings, Squacco Herons, African Openbill stock, Grey Crowned Crane, African Darter, Long-toed and Water Thick-knee.

More bird species likely to encounter are, fish eagles, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, Augur Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, and Pied Crow. Black-headed and Viellot’s Black Weavers, Grey-backed Fiscals, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and Caruthers Cisticola.

The birders who visit Akagera National Park are always impressed by the large number and great diversity of the bird species that range from water birds to forest birds, and also savannah species as well as migratory bird species.

Akagera National Park can be visited all year round however the best time for game viewing is during the dry season that runs from June to September as the vegetation is thin offering clear views of the animals and many of the water sources have dried up which leads to most of the animals congregating around the few available sources of water.


The best time to travel to Rwanda is during the drier seasons, periods between December to early March and June to September. December to March is a long dry season for Rwanda, with temperatures going up to 29 degrees Celsius for some days while the months of March – Mid May, July to September, on the other hand, are regarded as the rainy season in the country.

Overall Rwanda has good weather throughout the year but the dry season is more preferable.

How To Get There:

By air:

The flight from Kigali can give visitors a beautiful aerial view of the park. The Akagera Aviation organizes flights from the park to Kigali and back.

By road:
It takes at most 3 hours of driving on a well-paved tarmac road to reach the park from Kigali. Those starting their journey from Rwamagana or Kibungo travel for one hour before reaching the park. The 27km road leading to the park entrance from the main road is dusty though passable by vehicles even in the rainy period. The roads inside the park are not as good as those leading to the gate and will require a good 4 Wheel drive car especially during the rainy season.

Where To Stay: 

The lodges range from permanent brick structures to luxury tents. 

Here are some of the places you can stay at in the Akagera area.


Karenge Bush Camp

This Luxurious Camp is opened only during the peak seasons of June – August, and December – February. The staffs are very professional and take great care of visitors. Services are full board and visitors should expect good rooms and meals/water three times a day.

Magashi Lodge

This is a new Luxury hotel that has just been opened recently in an exclusive area within the park but far away from the main park offices. The intention is to offer more privacy for those who desire more intimate moments.

Ruzizi Tented Lodge

This Luxury lodge was built by the park management in 2013 and profits go directly to conservation programs. 

Ruzizi Tented Lodge is the only Luxury / Upmarket accommodation in Akagera National Park. Accommodation is offered in nine (9) tents that are widely spaced providing a tranquil stay for the affluent travelers on Safari in Rwanda. The maximum occupancy at Ruzizi is 20 guests.

Room Facilities at Ruzizi Tented Lodge

  • En-suite bathroom with hot and cold running water
  • A dressing area
  • Either comfortable queen or ¾ twin beds
  • Small patio at the front
  • Wooden boardwalks.

General Facilities at Ruzizi Tented Lodge

  • The fireplace sits under a shady fig tree overlooking Lake Ihema.
  • solar energy
  • Restaurant
  • Bar

Because of its location near the lake Ihema, it is possible to see the animals feeding and drinking nearby. The international and local dishes are served.

Moderate (Mid-range):

Akagera Game Lodge

 Akagera Game Lodge is perched atop a ridge that offers panoramic views of Akagera Park. Comprising a series of two-story motel-like structures with stone detailing, the lodge includes a lounge with an upper-level bar and two swimming pools, one of which is suited for guests with children.

In addition to its 62 rooms and suites, the lodge also offers two distinct rondavel cottages, one with three bedrooms and the other with two. These cottages include a kitchenette and dining area.


Dereva Hotel

Dereva is a budget hotel built outside the game park in Rwamagana District. It takes only 40 minutes of driving from the hotel to the park. There are both single and twin self-contained rooms with WiFi, phones, and Flat TV Screens. There are a lounge area and meeting rooms of different sizes.

Hotels outside the park:

There are a few hotels outside of the park nearby such as Seeds of Hope Guesthouse, Cari hotel. LeMigo hotel, Discover Rwanda youth hostel, top tower hotel, Umubano hotel, Grand legacy hotel. The manor hotel, and so many more.

If you are not sure about where to stay or how to make bookings, kindly ask us to make the bookings on your behalf, we will be sure to find something that fits within your budget, and that suits your needs.


This means sleeping in the park with completely nothing between you and the animals but just a thin sheet of super nylon and this is an exciting adventure and it’s so fair to Akagera Park. However, be aware of the roaming gangs of the baboons. These are so cheeky and will also do their best of stealing the food as well as terrorizing you since they are jerks and have got weird bums.

Also spending the night around the campfire with friends, beers as well as the open sky which also makes a good break from city life and is also one of the best overnight or weekend tours that can be done in Rwanda.  There are also three campsites with the one in the north at Mutumba and it’s known as the most fantastic camp.

Camping also costs $25 per person per night and the park can always rent you a 6 person tent for an extra $ 25 per person and this is for the two southern campsites. The campsites don’t have any other gear and make sure to always bring yours. Both campsites are well equipped with the BBQ and the firewood are provided and there is also a pit latrine and small shelter. The views at the campsites are so great and you can camp in the park with the wild animals that roam in the bush and this is so pretty cool.

Reasons To Visit Akagera NP
Trip Ideas
Things To Do
Tourist Tips

10 Top Leading Reasons Why You Should Visit Akagera National Park In Rwanda

Unlike other East African countries, Akagera national park stands on a 432 square mile of land offering lakes, savannah, mountains, and woodlands that make up for the excellent scenery of the park. More to the scenery, there are a number of reasons to visit Akagera park while in Rwanda, and some of these include;

a) Breathtaking Wildlife

Akagera has an inspiring conservation story as it is now home to lions and rhinos, and is the only Big Five park in the country.

Read more about the reasons why you should visit this park.

Suggestions and trip ideas for your safari

After your wildlife experience in Akagera, you can go for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park or the primates of Nyungwe.

Other activities outside the park:

There are a couple of activities that visitors can take part in near the park and in Kigali the capital. visiting the following places;

  • Genocide war memorial centers
  • Rusumo Falls
  • Presidential palace
  • Museums
  • Kigali city markets.

Those interested in buying souvenirs can stop by one of the local art and craft shops along the way to the park.

Outside Rwanda:
  • You can also visit Uganda for another breathtaking safari in Murchison falls national park and a Gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga National Park.
  • Tanzania’s safari experience is something rewarding.
  • Kenya’s Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park and other national parks.

Things To Do (Activities)

Game Drives:

Game drives in Akagera national park are done in safari vehicles starting the early morning in search of the leopards, hyenas, and the re-introduced lions. This is because the predators prefer to hunt at night or early morning and usually go into hiding as the heat from the sun increases. Along with the carnivores, enjoy the scenery of this beautiful park and several other big mammals like Elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, Zebra, and Giraffes. The landscape and beautiful wildflowers will make for good pictures for the interested photographer.

Bird Washing:

Akagera national park is a popular birding area in Rwanda. Bird watching enthusiasts will find birding Akagera national park rewarding as it offers birders opportunities to sight both the endangered bird species like papyrus gonolek and shoebill and the more easily sighted species like weavers, egrets, and several Kingfishers. Birding is done while on a game drive, nature walks with a ranger guide, and on a boat safari on Lake Ihema. Birding on Lake Ihema will accord one the pleasure of water species which are otherwise not seen while on the game drive in the Savannah grassland. Overall we highly recommend birding Akagera national park for both variety and the ease with which you see the birds.

Boat Cruise:

The best way to spend an afternoon in Akagera national park is to take a boat ride on Lake Ihema. Most animals are hiding under the shade because of the heat from the sun as others come to the water for cooling off and drinking. In addition to a variety of water birds, you will watch schools of hippos in the water and crocodiles by the shores of the lake. There are scheduled boat trips that happen during the day but one can book for a private unscheduled boat trip at their own timing.


The park offers an opportunity for sport fishing on Lake Shakani. You are required to make a booking with the park for sport fishing on this lake. Even though the expectation is catch and release, you are given an opportunity to take one catch for a meal if interested.

Nature Walks:

Akagera national park has so many beautiful sights that can be best admired up close. Nature walks give you the opportunity to see things up close. The exotic plants, colorful butterfly species, the still water in some of the lakes, the water birds, the smaller animals that you couldn’t see quite well on the game drive. Nature walks are peaceful and a very good opportunity to appreciate nature at a much slower and easier pace.

Cultural And Traditional Interactions:

Experience the rural Rwandan life around the cattle keeping communities near Akagera national park. During these cultural visits, you have the opportunity to observe and or participate in;

  • Traditional cattle grazing (long-horned cows)
  • Milking
  • Traditional milk storage in calabashes for preservation
  • Prepare the local food
  • Making local beer

You then go through the process of converting milk into different products like traditional yogurt, ghee, and lastly take part in preparing a meal with some of the ingredients from the milk products.

This is an authentic cultural experience shared by the locals living adjacent to the park, they get to earn from this supplementing their agricultural income. This eventually contributes to conservation culture and wild animals in the park.


Plastic bags:

Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, and visitors will be asked to dispose of them on arrival at the airport, including those carrying duty-free purchases. In supermarkets, brown paper bags are provided. Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment is pushing for measures that reduce single-use plastics including straws, water bottles, and cups.


The morning of the last Saturday of every month is Umuganda or community service. This initiative was introduced by the Rwandan Government to get the entire population to devote time to their local community by cleaning the streets, cutting grass verges, repairing dirt roads, etc.. International visitors are not required to participate, but some tour operators are able to organize opportunities for tourists to participate in Umuganda. Please note that during these community service days, shops and public transport are closed during morning hours.  

Car Free Day:

Kigali has bimonthly car-free days. On the first and third Sundays of each month, long stretches of main roads are closed to allow cycling, jogging, and other sporting activities between 7 am – 11 am. Everyone is encouraged to participate, and a large open-air exercise class, which anyone can join, is also held. Although road closures may affect travelers coming in and out of Kigali, disruptions are minimal since local drivers usually know alternative routes.