Akagera National Park, in the Northeast of Rwanda measuring over 1,200 square km, After being decimated by high levels of poaching following the return of refugees and farmers after the 1994 Genocide, has been revived and is now the only 'Big 5' (Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalo, and Leopard) reserve in the country. Its inspiring conservation journey has seen the reintroduction of black rhinos in 2017, lions in 2015, and other game animals over the years.
Akagera National Park is a protected area in eastern Rwanda covering 1,122 km2 (433 sq mi) along the international border with Tanzania. It was founded in 1934 and includes savannah, montane and swamp habitats. The park is named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary feeding into Lake Ihema and several smaller lakes. The complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps makes up over a third of the park, which is the largest protected wetland in Eastern-Central Africa.
History of Akagera National Park
The mass return of people who had fled the country in 1994 saw a large portion of the park's land handed over to people to farm. Conservation was not a high priority at this time and poaching took its toll on the park's wildlife including game species for bushmeat, elephants for ivory, and rhino. Lions were hunted out to keep livestock safe. The elephant and game populations vastly reduced and rhinos were last seen in 1997.
In 2010 African Parks assumed management of Akagera in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board. An overhaul of law enforcement and community engagement significantly reduced poaching to an all-time low. An anti-poaching canine unit was trained and deployed in 2015. A solar-powered fence was constructed to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the areas surrounding the park. Akagera is now Central Africa's largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah species in Rwanda. Tourism has significantly increased thanks to these changes and saw 44,000 visitors in 2018, enabling the park to be 80% self-financing - an incredible feat given its history.
Climate of Akagera National Park
Despite Rwanda's location so close to the equator, its higher elevation gives it a relatively temperate and stable climate. The wet reasons mainly runs from March - May and again October - November. The long dry season, June - September, is generally the warmest with the wet seasons cooling it down. Average annual rainfall is about 750 mm and average daily temperatures range between 24 and 28.
You can rent a car in Kigali and make the 2 hour drive to the park yourself. If you are staying at a lodge in the park, game drives and walking safaris are offered as part of your stay.
There are three campsite options available within the park - Muyumbu, Shakani, and Mutamba. Tents are available for hire at reception and firewood is provided but guests are asked to bring their own camping equipment and supplies.
A new walking trail is to be opened in 2020 during a short season every year - August through October. Trail de Akagera, is a 5-day backpacking trail led by a highly skilled and experienced guide. You carry everything with you and it's doubtful you'll see another soul on your journey through the park. This is an incredible way to truly experience this breathtaking landscape and its wildlife.
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