If you're a traveller who loves adventure and nature, then you might want to consider visiting Akagera National Park in Rwanda; one of the oldest national parks on the African continent and the biggest in Rwanda. This stunning park offers a unique experience you won't find anywhere else in Africa. From its breathtaking landscapes to its diverse wildlife, Akagera is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in African travel, especially those who have visited traditional safari destinations before and wish to combine this experience with others, such as primate safaris and cultural experiences.
Located in eastern Rwanda, Akagera National Park is a protected area, small compared to some of its larger counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania, yet noteworthy in species and experience. The park covers an area of over 1,200 square kilometres, offering a varied landscape, including rolling hills, expansive grasslands, and numerous lakes and wetlands. This diversity of habitats makes it an ideal home for a vast array of wildlife. The park's name derives from the Akagera River, which flows through the eastern boundary and into Tanzania.
One of the main attractions of Akagera National Park is its wildlife. The park is home to the famous "Big Five" animals: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and Cape buffaloes. In addition to these iconic animals, you'll also find plains game, such as zebras, giraffes, hyenas, antelopes, and many other species of mammals.
The birdlife is equally impressive, with over 500 species recorded. The wetlands are particularly rich in birdlife, with numerous species of waterbirds and raptors, offering several endemics for keen birders.
One of the best ways to experience Akagera National Park is by going on game drives, walking safaris, and boat tours. During a game drive, you'll have the opportunity to see the park's wildlife up close and personal. A walking safari is an excellent way to explore the park's smaller creatures, such as insects and reptiles. Meanwhile, a boat tour on Lake Ihema is a perfect way to spot some of the park's many waterbirds and hippos, often ending with colourful cocktails for sundowners.
In conclusion, Akagera National Park is a must-visit destination for travellers interested in African wildlife and nature. It's stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife offer a unique experience you won't find anywhere else in Africa. So why not plan your next adventure to Akagera National Park?
Aside from the wildlife, Akagera National Park has a fascinating history and cultural significance. The park was established in 1934 to protect the local flora and fauna, but it suffered greatly during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Since then, the park has been slowly recovering, thanks to a partnership between the Rwandan government and African Parks, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving African wildlife areas.
Initially, the national park sheltered a large population of wild animals such as; elephants, lions, buffaloes, rhinoceros, leopards, lycanos (wolfs/wild dogs), antelopes, hippos, topi, and so many more. The national park had so many Lycanos that it was named the 'Park of Lycanos! However, most of these animals perished in an epidemic that spread in the area, with the last of the species reported in 1984.
After the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, most Rwandan refugees returned back home, with a great majority settling within Akagera National Park. As a result, most of the park's forests were cleared to get land for farming and grazing animals. Many of the animals in the park were hunted down and killed out of the necessity of food for the large masses.
As a result of the continuous poaching of wildlife in the park and deforestation, over 25% of Akagera National Park was destroyed. Some species became extinct, such as rhinoceros and lions. The last rhino in the park was reported to have been seen in 2007, and lions were last seen in the park around the same time. Akagera was originally home to over 300 lions and more than 50 black rhinos.
In 2009, the joint management agreement between African Parks and
the Rwanda Development Board brought effective management into the decimated area. Later in 2010, the formation of Akagera Management Company has seen massive success in the park's operations.
Among the successes of the Akagera Management Company (AMC) was the introduction of seven lions to the park in 2015, translocated from South Africa after a 15-year absence of the species.
Later in May 2017, they received 18 black rhinoceros from South Africa; thus seeing the reintroduction of rhinos in the park after their 10-year absence, with the numbers increasing following the birth of a calf a few years later.
In June 2019, five more black rhinos were translocated from a zoo in the Czech Republic, which marked the longest translocation of rhinos from
Europe to the continent of Africa, covering a distance of 2,485 miles. '
Today, tourists visiting the national park have an excellent chance of seeing rhinos while on a game drive, giving it an edge over many other areas offering rhino sightings in Africa.
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