Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is found in the east of Rwanda with Kibungu being the nearby town to the park and the most excellent preparatory spot. Akagera National Park occupies 1500 sq kms of savannah west of the Kagera River, which stands at the border line with Tanzania. Akagera National Park is almost not being more different in atmosphere to the windy cultivated hills that characterize much of Rwanda. It has scenery dominated by the muddle of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Kagera River , the most remote source of the River Nile; this is a typical African savannah panorama of twisted acacia forest scattered with open plain.
Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three Eco-regions, savannah, mountain and swamp, Akagera National Park was named from the Kagera River which flows along its eastern frontier feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The multifaceted system of lakes and connecting papyrus swamps makes up over one/third of the park and is the biggest protected wetland in central Africa. Akagera National Park boasts of a variety of wildlife and it’s a habitat for over 500 different species of birds. There are accommodation facilities on the outside edge of the park at Gabiro, 100km (60 miles) to the north. Ideal for a Rwanda Safari, the park is a big game target with flocks of elephants and buffaloes coming forward from the forest to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might come across a leopard, a spotted hyena or even a roving lion. Giraffe and zebra appear at the savannah and more than a dozen types of antelopes inhabit the park. On a normal basis, the gorgeous chestnut-coated impala, the very tiny oribi and reserved bush buck, as well as the bumbling tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland are seen at the park.
Camping by the side of the captivating lakes of Akagera is a magical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Groups of 50 hippopotami sound and bubble all through the day, while large crocodiles pitch up the sun with their huge jaws broadly open. Attractively, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high pair of duetting fish eagles, emphasizing their strength as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Covering the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, whereas the linking marshes are the trouble of the endangered and stunning papyrus gonolek, and the out of the ordinary shoe-bill stork, which is believably the most eagerly sought after of all African birds.
A large part of the savannah area of the park was settled in the late 1990s by former refugees returning after the end of the Rwandan Civil War. In 1997 the western boundary was regazetted and much of the land allocated as farms to returning refugees. The park was trimmed in size from over 2,500km² to its current size of 1,500km². Even though much of the best savannah grazing land is now outside the park margins, what is left of Akagera is some of the most varied and good-looking panorama in Africa. In 2009, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the African Parks Network came into a 20 year renewable contract for the joint administration of Akagera leading to the founding of Akagera Management Company in 2010 as the joint management body for Akagera National Park. In the next 5 years, about $10 million spending is planned for Akagera including the building of a 120km western boundary fence and the re-introduction of black rhinos and lions.
Akagera National Park has ten lakes, a number of whom watering holes for the animals and others being havens for bird lovers—the extraordinary shoe bill stork calls Akagera’s lakes home. A distance from the main resorts, the country’s lakes provide visitors with gratifying sights into prehistoric African lifestyle. Here, fishermen ply the water in dugout canoes unmovable in design for centuries, while colorfully dressed ladies smoke traditional wooden pipes and troubadours strum sweetly on stringed iningire (traditional ‘guitars’). And, the bird life is extraordinary: flotillas of pelicans cruise laboriously transversely the open water, splendid crowned cranes preen their golden crests in the surrounding swamps, while jewel-like malachite kingfishers hawk noiselessly over the shore.