Akagera National Park, bordering Tanzania, has beautiful undulating plains with dense, broad-leafed woodland, lighter acacia woodland and rolling grassland with an extensive series of lakes linked by papyrus swamps forming a sprawling wetland.
The game in the park is recovering after years of poaching and human presence, with elephant, buffalo, giraffe and lion and a variety of antelope to be seen.
You should see topi, Masai giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodiles; elephant, eland, reedbuck and sable and roan antelope are among other mammals present. Leopard, spotted hyena, civet and cerval are present, but rarely observed. Exciting developments include the reintroduction of Lions - which in 2017 have bred in the park - and of a breeding nucleus of Black rhinos.
The birdlife is genuinely phenomenal. Akagera is one of the best places in Africa to view papyrus swamp endemics such as the papyrus gonalek and white-winged warbler. There are enormous concentrations of waterbirds on the lakes: pelicans, marabou storks, goliath and purple heron, a variety of egrets and other storks and herons. There is an incredible number of fish eagles. Akagera also contains a good range of savannah birds and raptors.
Akagera cannot boast of high game densities at present, but the compensation is that this is a reserve you can explore for hours without encountering another soul.
You can visit Akagera National Park on a day-trip from Kigali, the drive takes about two hours on a pretty good road, but it is preferable to overnight at Akagera Game Lodge. Then you have time to explore different habitats, take a boat trip on Lake Ihema and enjoy being off the beaten track.
The guiding is not yet that good, and there is a shortage of vehicles. When our Travel Specialist, Derek was there the game drive was abandoned because of a rogue elephant! However, apart from this rogue beast, he did see giraffe, hippo, buffalo, orabi and topi. Things are improving all the time, and will improve more if more people go there.
If you are considering whether or not to visit Akagera National Park, we suggest you read about it in the Bradt Travel Guide to Rwanda. The writer is eloquent on both the park's conservation role, and its place in Rwanda's peaceful development.