Akagera National Park safaris, tours & holiday packagesRwanda's renascent savanna gem
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Exploring Rwanda's only protected savanna is the perfect complement to a trek through the forests of the better-known Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks in search of gorillas and chimpanzees.
The unsung gem among Rwanda's trio of national parks, Akagera lies in the relatively hot and low-lying east of this otherwise mountainous country, It is named after the meandering Kagera River, which feeds a vast and varied wetland complex of open lakes, dense swamps and connecting channels on its border with Tanzania. Gazetted in 1934, Akagera was reduced in area by some 60% and suffered terrible poaching in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, when many returned refugees settled along its borders.
However, it is currently undergoing something of a renaissance, following the appointment of the African Parks Network (APN), a non-profit NGO that took over most aspects of its day-to-day management and long-term planning in 2010.
Akagera is one of my favourite birding destinations in East Africa. I've witnessed a definite increase in most mammal populations over several visits in the past 15 years. The recent fencing of the reserve and planned reintroduction of lions will go a long way to restoring its former reputation for five-star game viewing.
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In its original 1934 incarnation, Akagera supported large numbers of elephant, buffalo and lion, as well as a small population of the endangered black rhino. Wildlife numbers are greatly diminished today, with lion and rhino being the most high profile local extinctions. Still, it remains a worthwhile safari destination, with elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, baboon, zebra, impala, roan antelope, oribi and eland likely to be seen over a couple of days there.
It is also a superb birding location, with some 550 bird species recorded, including the localised red-faced barbet and a host of papyrus endemics, including papyrus gonolek, white-winged warbler and the gigantic shoebill, which is quite often observed on Lake Birengero.
The APN has transformed several aspects of Akagera since 2010. New game-viewing roads have been opened, a 120-kilometre western boundary has been erected and 2012 saw the opening of a lovely upmarket tented camp on the shores of Lake Ihema. Next up, hopefully, is the restoration of the park's former status as a Big Five reserve through a programme of reintroductions similar to that implemented by the APN in Malawi’s Majete Game Reserve.
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Africa is a great continent to go horse riding and the fact that many destinations in Africa that you may want to visit may not have functioning roads, so horse riding could be one of your only options to achieve seeing all there is to see. go there.