Rwanda might best be known as a gorilla trekking destination, but the rehabilitation of the once-famous Akagera National Park promises to secure the country’s position as one of the finest wildlife hubs in Africa. Located in northeast Rwanda along the Tanzanian border, Akagera National Park once protected nearly 10-percent of the country and was considered one of the best reserves on the continent after its founding in 1934. Yet following the conclusion of the Rwandan Civil War in the late 1990s, Akagera National Park saw its savannahs overtaken by refugees who resettled new villages, facilitated poaching and environmental degradation, and consequently nearly decimated Akagera’s wildlife population and reduced its size by half.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the Rwandan government began working alongside African Parks to return Akagera National Park to its former glory, implementing strict conservation laws, investing in luxury tented camps, and reintroducing wildlife back into the park. The fruits of these efforts have already been felt: an estimated 90 elephants reside in the park, as well as healthy masses of buffalo and hippos. Of the primates, olive baboons and vervet monkeys are very common, and the blue monkey—once thought to have been extinct in Akagera—was recently rediscovered. Furthermore, Akagera National Park recently released seven Transvaal lions from South Africa into its boundaries, the first lions in Rwanda in 15 years and a conservation milestone for both the park and the country.
While the wildlife populations of Akagera National Park are certainly growing, the park’s strongest draw remains its unique ecology, which represents an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland and open grassland. Between its standard savannah, immense swamps filled with forest-fringed lakes, and chains of jagged mountains, Akagera is among the most scenic and diverse reserves in all of Africa. One-third of the park is made up of a complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps, creating the largest protected wetland in central Africa and providing a home to some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds.
Whether taking a boat trip along the shores of Rwanda’s second largest lake, Lake Ihema, or soaking up the park’s splendid nature in complete peace and isolation, guests will find Akagera National Park a place where the past has been revived and the tourists have yet to arrive. Contact Ker & Downey today to round out your next Rwanda safari with a visit to Akagera National Park.