Named for the River Akagera that runs through it, Akagera National Park is the only surviving refuge in Rwanda for savannah-adapted animals, where even the critically endangered Rhino has made a comeback. The scenery in Akagera Park is reminiscent of the expansive savannah reserves located right across the park’s eastern border in Tanzania, but the park also features two other eco regions; mountain and swamp. To the west of the park are rolling hills and valleys that are typical of the Rwandan countryside, while to the east the Akagera River feeds into a complex series of lakes and swamps that make this park Central Africa’s largest protected wetland.
Considering its fairly small size, Akagera National Park is extremely diverse with a variety of wildlife and bird species inhabiting the equally diverse habitats of the park. Species reintroduction in the park has also significantly boosted wildlife numbers – in 2015, 7 lions were reintroduced from South Africa and in 2017, 18 eastern black rhinos were reintroduced, 10 years after their extinction. A 120km solar powered predator-proof fence encloses the park, to protect the wildlife and keep out poachers and encroachers. Today, Akagera National Park is the only place in Rwanda and one of very few in Africa where all the ‘Big 5’ can be spotted.
Akagera National Park, which is also known as Parc National de l’Akagera in French was first gazetted for conservation by the Belgian colonial government in 1934, covering 2,500Sq.kms. For a long time, this park was one of Africa’s finest wildlife reserves however the civil unrest and political turmoil in the 1990’s that culminated in an ethnic genocide would take its toll on the park. In the late 1990’s the park was temporarily de-gazetted to settle Rwandans that were returning home in the thousands after the end of the genocide. In this time, the park was permanently halved in size and it lost much of its biodiversity to poaching. But, with committed dedication and investment, Akagera National Park is once again thriving and is well known as one of Africa’s most scenic reserves.