Akagera National Park – Rwanda

Akagera is, above all, a big game country! Herds of elephant and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a leopard, a spotted hyena or even a stray lion. Giraffe and zebra haunt the savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the handsome chestnut-coated impala, but also the diminutive Oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly Tsessebe and the world's largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland.

Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush. Pods of 50 hippos grunt and splutter throughout the day, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape. Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable high duetting of a pair of fish eagles, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa's waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continent's densest concentrations of water birds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus Gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill.

Safaris to Akagera National Park
The Park is 3 hours drive from Kigali and can be visited on a long day trip if you're short of time. However, although game densities aren't massively high, it's an exceptionally pretty park with pleasantly few other visitors, so it's worth staying a couple of days to explore it. The only entry to Akagera National Park is via Kiyonza Gate in the south, close to the Park Headquarters and Akagera best lodge and the Nyungwe Gate in the north is currently only available to exit the Park.

Wildlife of Akagera National Park
Akagera's wildlife has increased significantly over recent years and the latest count estimated that the Park is now home to some 8,000 large animals. In the meantime, because of the lack of predators, the game is surprisingly relaxed and relatively easy to spot - as long as you don't expect massive numbers, an Akagera safari won't disappoint. The game on an Akagera safari includes most of the usual plains species. Impala and topi (known as Tsessebe in Southern Africa) seem to be dominant, with eland, Oribi, Masai giraffe, Defassa waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck, sable and roan antelope also present. Burchall's zebra, hippo, and crocodile are commonly seen whilst game viewing; buffalo are more prevalent in the north as are elephants, although more restricted.
Birds of Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park is especially good for birding, with over 480 species attracted by its diverse habitat. Savannah birds and raptors are prevalent and several endemic species such as the red-faced barbet are often seen.

Short boat trips are available on Akagera's lakes which will give you the opportunity to get close to the plentiful water birds including numerous African fish eagles, marabou stork, crowned cranes, open-billed stork, cormorants, herons, and egrets. If you are lucky you may even get to see the elusive shoebill stork.

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