Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is located in the north east of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Although founded in 1934, much of the park was re-allocated as farms and in 1997 the park was reduced in size from more than 2,500 sq km (nearly 10% of the surface area of Rwanda) to its current extent of 1,122 sq km. Since 2010, a joint venture with African Parks has seen Akagera return to its former glories with some animals reintroduced.
The park is named after the Akagera River that flows along its eastern boundary and feeds into a labyrinth of lakes of which the largest is Lake Ihema. The forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands combine to make Akagera amongst the most scenic of reserves anywhere in Africa. It has exceptional levels of biodiversity and forms the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
The park has a variety of wildlife as it is home to many large plains game species as well as species restricted to the papyrus swamps such as the Sitatunga and the sought-after Shoebill Stork. Notable plains game includes elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelope are duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. Of the primates, olive baboons, vervets and the secretive blue monkey are seen during the day, with bush babies often seen on night drives. The park also has larger predators including leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and lion, which was reintroduced, are present. Recently the black rhinos too were reintroduced from Southern Africa to restore Akagera’s ‘Big 5’ status.
Due to its wide variety of habitats, Akagera is an important ornithological site with nearly 500 bird species. The rare and elusive shoebill shares the papyrus with other rarities such as the exquisite papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands in large numbers.
Where to stay while on a safari in Akagera National Park
Magashi Camp is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking beautiful Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera comprises some of the most scenic savannah in East Africa – open plains, woodlands, lakes, swamp, and grassy low mountains – and is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, some very large crocodiles as well as well as the rare sitatunga and more than 520 bird species.
Teeming with plains game, Akagera now also boasts a healthy population of lion, which were reintroduced into the park in 2015 after a 20-year absence, as well as black rhino which were reintroduced in 2017. Magashi – the only exclusive-use area in Akagera – also harbours a good density of leopard.
Six spacious and airy tents offer uninterrupted views over Lake Rwanyakazinga, while Magashi’s main area comprises a luxurious lounge, dining and bar area, pool, and expansive viewing deck with a convivial fire pit. The architecture and interiors pay homage to traditional Rwandan culture.
Akagera Game Lodge
Akagera Game Lodge stands on a hill on the southern tip of the Akagera National Park elevated above the savannah with exceptional views of the forest-fringed Lake Ihema and smaller Lake Shakani. Akagera National Park is in the Eastern Province of Rwanda and is central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda. Akagera Game Lodge is located 5km from the Akagera National Park South Entrance. The lodge is easily accessible, and guests can reach Lake Ihema within 20 minutes. The trip from Kigali to the hotel is 2 hours, and it is a beautiful scene of Rwandan culture, farming landscapes and rural settlements.
Comprising 60 rooms with balconies and ensuite bathrooms, Akagera Game Lodge is perfectly located for a phenomenal safari in the only Big Five reserve in Rwanda. The lodge has a bar and restaurant, and a conference room which can host up to 60 delegates. Nature lovers and those seeking to work in an inspirational environment will all find an exceptional place to be at Akagera. The large pool deck features a round swimming pool with crystal waters overlooking Lake Ihema which is Rwanda’s second largest lake fed by the Kagera River which flows for 400 km and also known as the Alexandra Nile.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge
Ruzizi is a luxury eco-lodge located on the banks of Lake Ihema. Its nine tents are set back from Ihema’s serene shores and hidden among swaying palms and fruiting fig trees. They flank a thatched reception and dining area, and wooden walkways lead to a stunning deck that hangs over the lake. It contains a central fire pit and is the perfect spot for a morning cup of coffee or post-dinner digestif.
With a 20-guest maximum, Ruzizi is an intimate retreat. Each tent boasts an en-suite bathroom with hot and cold running water, a bathtub or outdoor shower, a dressing area, and a cozy queen bed (alternatively, guests can request two twin beds, and camp beds can be added for children 15 and under). All of Ruzizi’s tents enjoy shaded verandas containing campaign chairs, a tree-trunk table, and a hammock.