Rwanda - Akagera Park

This post on Akagera National Park will give you links and details of how to get there, what to do, and the costs. There are links to the official websites, plus contact information.

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Recently a friend came to visit, so we took the opportunity to visit Akagera National Park in Rwanda. I've done safaris before in Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa, so I wasn't sure what to expect, as Rwanda didn't seem to be known as a safari haven. The gorillas always seem to the popular attraction!

I was incredibly impressed with the park - the beauty is spectacular, and Rwanda is home to some of the most diverse wildlife, including birds, in East Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, even though I hate camping, yet I camped! I would highly recommend the park to anyone living in Rwanda, and anyone who wanted to see a lot of animals in an easy drive from Kigali. Definitely a weekend getaway option!

Akagera National Park - Getting There

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Akagera Park is about a 2 hour drive from Kigali. We recommend using a 4x4, and if you don't want to ruin your own car, rent one. We rented a newish automatic Toyota Prado for about 150,000 for 3 days, from a contact we know well named Gregoire (you can call him on +250 788447706, he's legit).  The road on the way there is paved, so you can race through a lot of the villages until you reach the South Entrance (you cannot enter in the North Entrance, only exit). Once you turn off the paved road at a petrol station, you follow a dirt road through more villages, past waving children for about 20-30 minutes, before reaching the official park entrance. From there, it's another 15 minutes until you reach the Visitors Centre, where you must pay your park fees in order to enter further.

You have a few options for the park - you can camp, visit once of the lodges, or go for the day. There are special rates for residents of Rwanda (and additional discounts for Rwandese), so make sure to ask. The latest park fees are listed in the link above. We arrived around 14:00 that day, and opted to stay at Ruzizi tented lodge for the first night, then drove North the next day, camping the second night. Then we left the next morning, out of the North Entrance, and back down towards Kigali. Although, in fact we got stuck behind 20 elephants walking down the Lake Shore Road at 7 am, so we had to turn around and drive all the way back down to the South Entrance!

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Where to Stay - Ruzizi Tented Lodge

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If you are not too broke, Ruzizi Tented Lodge is highly recommended. The prices include your meals, and the lodge is at the South Entrance, so easy to get to from Kigali. The lodge is a 14-bed tented eco-camp linked together using boardwalks, and as it's right on the lake, the views are one of a kind. You enjoy dinner out on a patio overlooking Lake Ihema, Rwanda's second largest lake. The atmosphere is calming, and the staff are really attentive, serving you dinner in front of a lovely fires with the sounds of the hippos in the background. Monkeys are everywhere! The accommodation is lovely, with full beds, and a private bathroom, which is actually built into the tent, and is almost like a house extension.

Where to Stay - Camping

There are  three campsites in the park. The two in the South allow you to rent equipment if needed, all of this is on the Akagera National Park website. We opted to stay in the North Campsite of Mutumba Hills (the best one!) See our full photography post on Mutumba Hills for more information. If you want more information, the Living in Kigali blog also does a good write-up of accommodation options.

As you can see, the views are stunning! Mutumba Hills is definitely the most picturesque places I've stayed in Rwanda, and cheap at $20 USD per person, per night. The short road between the North Entrance and the campsite is really, really bad in wet weather though. I would  recommend coming up the other way, through the middle of the park. But it was worth it to see this at the top.

Safaris and Activities - what to do

Activity 1: Akagera Sunset Cruise

We highly recommend the unique and unforgettable Akagera Sunset Boat Cruise (see our full photography post here). We arrived into Akagera Park on Friday afternoon, and spent a couple of hours watching the monkeys at Ruzizi Tented Lodge. Then we took the evening boat cruise at 17:30, just a 5 minute drive from Ruzuzi. Folks, this is spectacular! You spend an hour on the quiet lake, visiting an island full of birds, while passing hippos and crocodiles. The guides are excellent, and the cost is well worth it ($40 USD a person for one hour). The sun starts to set and all the stress rushes out of you, as you're on this crystal lake, a tiny peace of the serenity in Rwanda.

Activity 2 - Akagera Safari (Game Drive)

Of course, anyone visiting Akagera National Park plans to go on a game drive. We did, and saw such a variety of animals and birds (see our full photography post of our Akagera Safari here).

Akagera Park has community guides who can take you around in your car for either a full or half-day. We met our guide at 7:00 am, and a full-day of Didier's services cost $30 USD. We drove ourself through the park, and the roads weren't that bad, as there hadn't been a lot of rain. If you do not wish for this option (ie: drive yourself), you can also hire a car/driver/guide for 7 people at a cost of around $150 USD for half day, or $250 USD for full-day (fits 7 people). We drove through the park, stopped for lunch, then dropped him at the North Gate to take a moto back to the South.  For our first time there, we're glad we had Didier, as he was well trained and very professional. He told us a lot about the park, the animals and showed us the best roads. We were lucky enough to see over 20 elephants, including babies, which is extremely rare! But, if you feel up to it, you can certainly drive yourself.

We then continued up the steep road to Mutumba Hills Campsite, getting there for around 15:30. The drive was incredible - you see flatlands, lakeshores, forest, bush - all in one day! Great for children too. Although keep the windows up as there are horrible flies that bite!

After two lovely days/night, we headed back on Sunday morning to Kigali, in time for hot coffee, a shower and brunch.