Traveling to the north eastern corner of Rwanda, the cultivated and heavily populated land comes to an end at the border of their National Park. Akagera was once one of the most highly populated and revered game park in Africa, and one of the oldest on the continent. However years of war and poverty led to the large park being decreased in size massively, to make way for refugee settlement, and its animals almost decimated by poaching. It was a sad story of wild animals suffering as much through unsettled times as the people.
Not only are the people of Rwanda now recovering, but so too is Akagera. Through serious conservation management, and strict anti-poaching efforts, the wildlife is recovering in the park.
Giraffe were introduced and have multiplied, and in both 2015 and 2017 massive strides forward were taken.
In 2015 seven lions were relocated into the park from South Africa. These 7 lions have become just over 20, in three distinct prides. Whilst they are not seen often (3 prides in a massive area of bush are hardly easy to come across), they are thriving in the park, and are a source of great pride ( excuse the pun) to the rangers. In 2017 black rhino were reintroduced to the park. Again, they are hard to find, as they tend to stick to the dense forested area. With the successful addition of the lion and rhino, the park has once again reached Big 5 status, and looks set to continue on its path to recovery.
When comparing the animal populations and game drives of the neighboring countries, with parks such as Serengeti and Masai Mara, Akagera falls short. However it’s stunning landscapes encompassing multiple large lakes dotted with islands, rolling hills and open Savannah’s, make this park one of the most scenic around. Campsites located on the waters edge, with hippo all around you, make for an idyllic overnight stay, and the fabulous road conditions and park management are a pleasure to experience. Added to that the fact that the strict 24hr entry fees of the other parks are not in affect here (one pays for a day/night and this permit lasts until gate closing time of 6pm the following day – irrespective of what time you entered), and Akagera has a lot going for it.
There was enough to see to keep it interesting, little enough that each sighting was valued, and enough scenery to keep one’s eyes roving in wonder.
We were thrilled with the park, with efforts being made by the Rwandan government and people to bring this once legendary giant back to life. Massive congratulations and we will keep coming, and keep supporting.