The Akagera National Park covers 1,200kms in eastern Rwanda, against the Tanzanian border. It was founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three ecoregions: savannah, mountain and swamp. The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into several lakes the largest of which is Lake Ihema. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over 1/3 of the park and is the largest protected wetland in central Africa.
Much 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. Due to land shortages, in 1997 the western boundary was re-gazetted and much of the land was allocated as farms to returning refugees. The park was reduced in size from over 2,500kmï¿½ to its current size. Although much of the best savannah grazing land is now outside the park boundaries, what remains of Akagera is some of the most diverse and scenic landscapes in Africa.
Akagera’s Animal Species
Impallas at Akagera RwandaMost of the large mammals of the East African plains can be found in Akagera. Although species like elephants and lions are less abundant than in some larger and more famous reserves, Akagera more than makes up for this with its stunning scenery and lower tourist numbers. Rwanda focuses on lowdensity sustainable tourism, making it unusual to meet more than a handful of other vehicles in a dayï¿½s drive; often visitors will find themselves the only human beings in this vast landscape.
Akagera’s Conservation efforts
Akagera National Park is known for its immense potential for both conservation and tourism development. Currently, the park is the second most frequently-visited park. In 2009, 15,244 park activities were registered. Tourism revenues recorded in 2009 were estimated at 156M Rwanda Francs. There is no doubt that Akageraï¿½s potential will be developed to the fullest for the benefit of all Rwandese, including the local communities living around the park.
Since 2005 to date, 31 community projects worth 251,556,854 M Rwanda Francs have been funded in communities adjacent to Akagera National Park under the Revenue Sharing Policy of allocating 5 per cent of park revenues generated to the development of projects. Water tanks, schools, curio shops, cultural centres, tile factories, and income-generating projects such as milk cooling plants and beekeeping, among others, have been set up.
As a means of mitigating poaching and the recurring human-wildlife conflicts, the tourism office set up measures to contain the wildlife within the park boundaries such as:
–3.5 km stone wall
–15 km trench in Ndego
–one valley dam to prevent wildlife from going out of the park in search of water
–an electric fence will be erected around the park
–ex-poachers associations have been set up to participate in joint patrols with park rangers
Activities in Akagera include:
Shoebill at Akagera Rwandacamping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera is truly a mystical introduction to the African bush. Pods of hippopotami grunt and splutter the day away, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun with their vast jaws menacingly agape. Magically, the air is torn apart by the unforgettable duet of a pair of fish eagles asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterway. Also lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds such as the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek and perhaps the most eagerly sought out of all African birds, the bizarre shoebill stork.
For facilitating the tourists to enjoy to the maximum the numerous varieties of wonderful wildlife including the one-elephant MUTWARE (found only in Akagera), the ferocious tigers, leopards and birds in their free natural habitat the park, the manifold beauties of the dense lakes. Dominated scenically 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 an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland.