Africa Destinations: Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s largest national park, covering an area of approximately 1,140 square kilometers (440 square miles) in the eastern part of the country along the border with Tanzania. Established in 1934, the park was named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary. It is characterized by diverse landscapes encompassing savannah plains, lakes, swamps, and woodlands, providing a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species.

The park underwent significant restoration efforts in recent years, reintroducing several species that had disappeared from the area due to poaching and human encroachment. Today, Akagera is home to the Big Five—elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, and rhinoceroses—after the successful reintroduction of lions and rhinos in the park. Visitors to Akagera can enjoy game drives, boat safaris, and guided nature walks, experiencing the park’s rich biodiversity, including a diverse array of birdlife with over 500 bird species. The park not only offers incredible wildlife viewing opportunities but also allows visitors to appreciate Rwanda’s natural beauty and conservation efforts.

Tourist activities in Akagera National Park


Akagera National Park offers a range of diverse and exciting tourist activities that allow visitors to explore and experience its stunning landscapes, observe wildlife, and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the region. Some of the prominent tourist activities in Akagera National Park include:

  1. Game Drives: Guided game drives are a popular way to explore the park and witness its diverse wildlife. Visitors can embark on morning, afternoon, or full-day game drives in the company of experienced guides. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, and if lucky, sightings of predators like lions and leopards.
  2. Boat Safaris: A unique experience in Akagera is taking a boat safari along the picturesque Lake Ihema. These boat trips offer an excellent opportunity to observe hippos, crocodiles, water birds, and other wildlife along the shores and in the waters of the lake. The serene experience of gliding through the water while spotting wildlife makes for a memorable excursion.
  3. Guided Nature Walks: Accompanied by knowledgeable guides, visitors can go on guided nature walks in designated areas of the park. These walks provide a chance to explore the park on foot, learn about the flora, smaller wildlife, and bird species while experiencing the sights and sounds of the natural environment up close.
  4. Birdwatching: Akagera National Park is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, boasting over 500 bird species. Birdwatching tours allow visitors to spot a wide variety of birds, including herons, egrets, kingfishers, raptors, and numerous migratory species. The diverse habitats within the park make it an excellent destination for birdwatchers.
  5. Camping and Accommodation: The park offers various accommodation options ranging from lodges to campsites, allowing visitors to stay overnight and immerse themselves in the wilderness. Camping provides a unique experience, especially for those seeking a more authentic and close-to-nature stay.
  6. Fishing: Lake Shakani in Akagera National Park offers the opportunity for sport fishing. Visitors can engage in catch-and-release fishing while enjoying the beautiful scenery around the lake.

These activities not only offer opportunities for adventure and wildlife observation but also contribute to the conservation efforts within Akagera National Park, supporting sustainable tourism initiatives and the protection of Rwanda’s natural heritage.



Akagera National Park in Rwanda is home to a diverse array of wildlife, encompassing various species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and more. Some of the notable animals found in Akagera include:

  1. African Elephants: Akagera is known for its population of African elephants, which roam the park in herds.
  2. African Buffaloes: Large herds of buffaloes are commonly seen grazing in the savannah and woodland areas of the park.
  3. Lions: Lions were reintroduced to Akagera in recent years, and the park now supports a population of these majestic predators.
  4. Leopards: Though more elusive and harder to spot, leopards also inhabit the park.
  5. Giraffes: Towering giraffes roam the savannah, adding to the park’s diversity.
  6. Zebras: Plains zebras can be seen grazing and moving in groups across the open grasslands.
  7. Antelopes: Various antelope species populate Akagera, including impalas, topis, bushbucks, oribis, and more.
  8. Hippos and Crocodiles: The park’s lakes and water bodies are home to large populations of hippos and Nile crocodiles.
  9. Warthogs: These distinctive-looking animals are commonly seen foraging in the park.
  10. Waterbucks: Large antelope species like waterbucks are found near water sources within the park.
  11. Birds: With over 500 bird species, Akagera is a haven for birdwatchers, hosting a diverse range of birds, including herons, egrets, kingfishers, raptors, and migratory species.
  12. Reptiles and Other Animals: The park also houses various reptiles such as snakes, lizards, and turtles, along with smaller mammals, insects, and diverse flora that contribute to the park’s ecosystem.

Akagera’s diverse habitats, which include savannah, woodlands, lakes, and swamps, support this rich variety of wildlife, making it a significant conservation area in Rwanda and a compelling destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Best time to go.

The best time to visit Akagera National Park in Rwanda largely depends on personal preferences regarding weather, wildlife sightings, and specific activities. However, here are some pointers to consider when planning a visit:

  1. Dry Season (June to September): This period, particularly July to September, marks the dry season in Rwanda. It’s generally considered the best time for wildlife viewing in Akagera National Park. The vegetation is thinner, making it easier to spot animals congregating around water sources, and the reduced foliage enhances visibility during game drives. The weather is cooler during these months, offering pleasant conditions for outdoor activities.
  2. Wet Season (October to May): The wet season, especially from October to May, brings lush greenery and an influx of migratory birds to the park. Although wildlife sightings might not be as concentrated due to thicker vegetation, this time offers beautiful landscapes and birdwatching opportunities. The wet season is also a time of newborn animals, making it an appealing time for visitors interested in observing young wildlife.
  3. Birdwatching: If your primary interest is birdwatching, the wetter months (October to May) are fantastic due to the increased bird activity, including resident and migratory species.
  4. Boat Safaris: While boat safaris on Lake Ihema are available throughout the year, the dry season might offer better opportunities to observe hippos, crocodiles, and other aquatic wildlife due to the reduced water levels.
  5. Climate Consideration: Rwanda generally experiences a moderate tropical highland climate, but it’s advisable to consider personal preferences for weather conditions when planning a visit. The dry season offers cooler temperatures and less rainfall, making it more comfortable for activities.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Akagera National Park depends on what you prioritize – whether it’s optimal wildlife sightings, birdwatching, or enjoying the lush scenery. Both seasons offer unique experiences, so choosing the timing that aligns with your interests and preferences is key to a fulfilling visit to the park.

Getting to Akagera National Park

Getting to Akagera National Park in Rwanda involves various transportation options depending on your starting point within Rwanda or neighboring countries. Here are the primary ways to reach the park:

By Road:

  1. From Kigali (Rwanda’s capital): The most common route is via road from Kigali. The park is approximately a 2.5 to 3-hour drive east of Kigali. Visitors can hire a private car, take a taxi, or rent a vehicle to drive to the park. The journey offers scenic views of the Rwandan countryside.
  2. From other Rwandan cities: If you’re traveling from other cities within Rwanda, such as Rwamagana or Kayonza, roads lead to Akagera National Park. Ensure you have reliable directions or a GPS, as signage might not be as prominent once you leave major highways.

Public Transportation:

  1. Buses and Shared Taxis: Public buses and shared taxis (known as “matatus” or minibusses) operate between Kigali and towns like Kayonza or Rwamagana, from where you might need to arrange further transport to the park’s entrance. Public transport can be more affordable but might be less flexible in terms of schedules and drop-off points.

By Air:

  1. Charter Flights: Some tour operators like Kenlink Tours arrange charter flights to Akagera. This option provides a quicker and more scenic journey for those preferring air travel. The park has an airstrip, and flights can be arranged from Kigali or other destinations within Rwanda.

Organized Tours:

  1. Tour Operators: Many tour companies in Rwanda offer organized tours to Akagera National Park. These tours often include transportation from Kigali, accommodation, safari activities, and guides.

Important Tips:

  • Prior to your journey, confirm the condition of roads and transportation options, especially if visiting during the rainy season when some routes might be more challenging due to mud or flooding.
  • It’s advisable to have a reliable map or GPS and consider local advice regarding the best routes and road conditions.

Regardless of the transportation mode, once you arrive at Akagera National Park’s entrance gates, you’ll need to pay the park fees and register before entering. Having a plan for transportation within the park for game drives or other activities is also essential.

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