Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park (also known as Kagera National Park), located in northeast Rwanda along the border with Tanzania, is Rwanda’s largest national park covering over 400 square miles of savannah, swamplands and rolling highlands. Founded in 1934 to protect Rwanda’s wildlife and flora, Akagera National Park was named for the Kagera River which flows along its eastern boundary. Originally Akagera National Park was nearly 1,000 square miles; however, in the late 1990s, over half of the national park became farmland for returning refugees of the Rwandan Civil War, and the related Rwandan Genocide.
Akagera National Park has very high levels of biodiversity, in part because of the many different ecosystems found in this national park. Much of the national park is savannah and grasslands. Akagera National Park is home to many savannah animal species, including the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), African cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), zebra (Equus quagga boehmi), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), olive baboons (Papio anubis), vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythus),blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), topi (Damaliscus lunatus topi), reedbuck (Redunca redunca), impala (Aepyceros melampus), oribi (Ourebia ourebi), defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), eland (Taurotragus oryx), Bushbabies or Galagos (Galago moholi and Otolemur crassicaudatus), leopard (Panthera pardus), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), serval (Leptailurus serval), side-striped jackal (Canis adustus) and several species of mongoose.
Akagera National Park also has many freshwater lakes, including Lake Ihema. These lakes and their associated papyrus swamps form one of the largest protected wetlands in Africa. Many wetland animal species make their home in the papyrus swamps of Akagera National Park, include the Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei), papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri) and the elusive shoebill (Balaeniceps rex).
Akagera National Park is home to nearly 500 species of birds, including the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus), saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) and white-breasted cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus).
Two animal species noticeably missing from Akagera National Park are the lion (Panthera leo) and the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Both of these species former lived in this region, but were completely exterminated within the national park. Plans have been made to re-introduction the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) into Akagera National Park in future and the first lion (Panthera leo) re-introductions were made in 2015.
Unlike many of the most popular national parks in the world, Akagera National Park is not crowded with dozens of other tourist following right behind you. When you visit Akagera National Park it feels like you are in your very own private game reserve, although this may change once the secret of this rare gem becomes more widely known.