Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could barely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterize much of Rwanda. Dominated to the east by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is a diverse landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland, high rolling hills along the western boundary and patches of thick forest.
Akagera is big game country. Large herds of buffalo, giraffe and zebra move across the savannah, lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of elephants emerging from the woodland to drink at the lakes. Akagera is home to more than a dozen types of antelope, most commonly the handsome impala, but also oribi and bushbuck, as well as the ungainly topi, the rare roan and the world’s largest antelope, the cape eland. Leopard and hyena might be seen on a night drive as well as other secretive creatures of the night. And hippo and crocodile are almost guaranteed on a boat trip in Akagera’s largest lake, Ihema. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds and with a species list of 525, Akagera is birders paradise. Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera, or atop Muyumbu ridge overlooking the lakes and Tanzania in the distance, is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush.
African Parks has been responsible for the management of Akagera since early 2010 after signing a 20 year management agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in late 2009. The Akagera Management Company (AMC) was established in 2010 with board members from both RDB and African Parks in a joint management initiative for Akagera National Park. African Parks is responsible for the day to day management of the park, while the Rwandan Government retain all statutory rights. Infrastructure development has seen significant progress since AMC’s involvement. Akagera Management Company has completed the construction of a new office block, fully functioning mechanics workshop and stores facility, 3 management houses and a law enforcement operations room. Renovations have been carried out to several staff housing blocks and a community centre. A new Day Visitor’s Centre and Reception with cafe, shop and Education Centre is currently under construction as well as a new tented camp accommodation facility on the edge of Lake Ihema.
Significant improvements have been made to the condition of the roads and the road network developed with new loops and signage in place. New vehicles, a tractor and motorbikes have all been purchased to facilitate park management activities. One of the priorities for the new management company is law enforcement and securing the park against illegal activities. Intensive training has been carried out and new communications equipment, uniforms, boats and motorbikes, GPS and patrol equipment has enabled an increase in law enforcement activities in the park.
Akagera is a home of 670 spices of birds, this is a place where it can best be seen, the experience of bird watching ends at the further south west of the park.