Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park comprises approximately 2.3 % of the country of Rwanda and is different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterize the majority of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is archetypal African savannah landscape. It represents the confluence of several vegetation zones and as a result exhibits an unusually high diversity of associated animals, plants, and scenery comprised of lakes, swamps, savannah, plains, and dry forest. It is approximately 386 square miles in size, and is home to more than 540 bird species, including the endemic shoebill and papyris gonolek, which draw visitors from around the world to marvel at these great birds.
Akagera is Rwandas big game country. Herds of elephant, waterbuck, topi, and buffalo emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes, while lucky visitors might stumble across a leopard, a spotted hyena and lion.
Giraffe and zebra can be found through the savannah and highlands, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the chestnut-coated impala, but also roan antelope, the diminutive oribi and secretive bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world’s largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland.
Pods of hippopotami grunt and splutter throughout the day along the numerous shores, while outsized crocodiles soak up the sun. African fish eagles dominate the lake areas, asserting their status as the avian monarchs of Africa’s waterways. Lining the lakes are some of the continents densest concentrations of waterbirds, while the connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork – the latter perhaps the most eagerly sought of all African birds. From a birding perspective, the marsh, lakes, and river systems of Akagera rival the Okavango delta in richness and diversity. About 30% of all water that reaches Lake Victoria to the east passes through Akagera. There are two rainy seasons: mid-January to April and mid-October to mid-December. Annual rainfall averages 30-40 inches (800-1000 mm) per year.