Akagera National Park is found in the east of Rwanda with Kibungu being the nearby town to the park and the finest preparatory spot. Akagera National Park covers over 1500 sq km of savannah west of the Kagera River, which stands for the boundary with Tanzania. Akagera National Park could almost not be more different in atmosphere to the windy cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Its landscape dominated by the clutter of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile; this is a distinctive African savannah panorama of twisted acacia forest scattered with open plain.
Founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three Eco-regions, savannah, mountain and swamp, Akagera Park was named from the Kagera River which flows along its eastern frontier feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The multifaceted system of lakes and connecting papyrus swamps makes up over one/third of the park and is the biggest protected wetland in central Africa.
Akagera Park boasts of a diversity of wildlife and is a home for over 500 different species of birds. There are accommodation facilities on the periphery of the park at Gabiro, 100km (60 miles) to the north. The park is a big game target with flocks of elephant and buffalo come frontward from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might come across a leopard, a spotted hyena or even a wandering lion. Giraffe and zebra appear at the savannah and more than a dozen types of antelopes dwell in the park, most on a regular basis the gorgeous chestnut-coated impala, but also the very tiny oribi and reserved bush buck, as well as the bumbling tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland.
Taking a camp by the side of the fascinating lakes of Akagera is a beyond doubt a magical preamble to the wonders of the African bush. Groups of 50 hippopotamus sound and foam all through the day, while large crocodiles plunge up the sun with their enormous jaws extensively open. Captivatingly, the air is torn apart by the memorable high pair of duetting fish eagles, asserting their strength as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Covering the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds, whereas the linking marshes are the trouble of the endangered and stunning papyrus gonolek, and the out of the ordinary shoe bill stork, which is believably the most eagerly sought after of all African birds.
A large part of the Savannah area of the park was settled in the late 1990s by former refugees returning after the end of the Rwandan Civil War. In 1997 the western boundary was regazetted and much of the land allocated as farms to returning refugees. The park was trimmed in size from over 2,500km² to its current size of 1,500km². Even though much of the best Savannah grazing land is now outside the park margins, what is left of Akagera is some of the most varied and attractive scenery in Africa.
In 2009, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the African Parks Network came into a 20 year renewable contract for the joint administration of Akagera leading to the founding of Akagera Management Company in 2010 as the joint management body for Akagera National Park. In the next 5 years, about $10 million spending is planned for Akagera including the building of a 120km western boundary fence and the re-introduction of lions and black rhinos.