Rwanda National Parks

Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park – (Best Things to do and see – Wildlife safaris – Accommodation)

Akagera National Park, named after Akagera River is located in North East of Rwanda bordering Tanzania. It is 1,122 sq km and it was gazetted as a national park in 1934. In 1997, Akagera National park’s size was reduced from 2,500 sq km to its current size. Much of it was re-allocated as farms. The park is now managed by Akagera Management Company.

Akagera National park is the only national park in Rwanda for big five safaris. It features forest fringed lakes, papyrus swamps, savannah plains and rolling highlands, making it one of the most beautiful and scenic parks in Africa. It has the largest protected wetland in Central Africa.

Travellers on safaris in Rwanda can combine a wildlife safari in Akagera National park with a gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National park and Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park.

The park is home to Sitatunga, Shoebill Stork, elephant, buffalo, topi, zebra, waterbuck, roan antelope and eland. Other antelopes include duiker, oribi, bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, bushbuck and impala. It is also a home to a number of primates such as olive baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies seen on night game drives, and the shy blue monkey.

Predators in the park include leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and the lion which was re-introduced to the park.

For the bird watching travellers, there are about 500 bird species that can be seen from this park; the shoebill is one of them, then the papyrus gonolek and countless other water birds that inhabit the wetlands.

Things to do and see in Akagera National park

Day Game drive Safaris
Akagera National park can be explored on game drives with a driver guide. One can go for half day or full day games from the Northern to the Southern part of the  cool national park.           If you choose to go for a self-drive in the park, make sure to hire a guide. You must hire one and make sure you have a 4 x 4 WD safari vehicle. You do not need to hire the guide before you visit the park. There are always available.

Experience a classic African Safari in beautiful Akagera National Park. With Lake Ihema in the background and cooler temperatures, this is a safari experience unlike any of Rwanda’s neighbours. A 7 seat 4 x 4 WD with open sides is also available for hire. All this information can be got from the information centre. But we can also assist you.

Nocturnal  game drives in Akagera National park          
If staying over in the park, go for a guided nocturnal game drive which is very exciting. There are quite many animals which come out only at night and cannot be seen on day game drives. Other animals are more active in the night than the day and these include leopards, civets, hyenas, and bush babies which are seen easily at night

Nocturnal birds such as owls and night jars can only be seen in the night

Boat  Safaris   
Boat Safaris in Akagera National park are very exciting and take place on Lake Ihema. Boat safaris are scheduled and can be booked upon arrival or before through emailing us before hand.

Boat safaris are one of the highlight safaris in East Africa and Lake Ihema has the largest number of crocodiles. Look out for crocodiles too that you normally find basking at the shores of the lakes.
There are so many water birds that can also be sighted on this boat safari and one of these birds is the shoebill stork.

Animals like elephants come to the lake to drink water. This is a great way to watch them up close.
Let us know if you are interested in a boat safari in Akagera National park.

Bird Watching in Akagera National  park  
Akagera National park is a great birding destination with over 750 bird species found here and surely cannot be seen in one day. It is the birder’s watcher’s dream place to see the popular shoebill stork. Other birds to look out for include raptors, papyrus gonolek, migrant birds such as the lesser kestrel and the great sniper, the Zambian arnot chat, suaza shrike and the long tailed cistola, and many other birds like White-headed, Black and familiar Chats, Carruther’s and Tabora Cisticolas, White-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and Miombo Wren-Warblers.

Sport Fishing in Akagera National Park
Sport fishing in Akagera National Park is done on Lake Shakani. This can be combined with a game drive in the park or a boat safari on Lake Ihema. The method used for fishing here is catch and release although people can take the fish caught for a meal.

It is also possible for anglers to participate in a fishing tournament that takes place here.
All sport fishing activities are booked through the national park offices.

Guided Nature walks in Akagera National  Park
Nature walks in this beautiful national park give you an opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. You will see and learn about different bird and butterfly species which you may not see well in a car on a game drive. Nature walks here are a peaceful way to take in and appreciate nature at a close space.

The Behind the scenes     Experience
There is so much that takes place behind the scenes that a typical tourist may not know. Take part in the behind the scenes and learn more about the management of the park, law enforcement, how animals are collared and monitored by GPS, meet the staff of the park and hear about the day to day activities, meet the canine unit, meet the crowned crane conservation officers and other initiatives of the park. Learn about the efforts the management of the park are putting in to get surrounding communities get involved in the conservation of the park. Let us know if you are interested in this experience

Walk the  Line        
Akagera National Park is fenced and the fence line is walked everyday by fence attendants. With this activity, you will walk with them for a small part of 120km fence. The role of the fence is for conservation purposes. With a freelance guide from the surrounding community, you will take a 7km walk which takes about 2 hours depending on your pace. The walk is moderate to difficult. The walk starts from the entrance of the park, you then gently slope, meeting lots of singing birds and cattle herd’s men and farmers a long the way ready for the day’s activities. The fence goes up to the top of a hill along the ridge which offer beautiful views. There is also a stone fence known as the buffalo wall which was built to stop buffalos from crossing to people’s farms

Cultural Tours in Akagera National    Park
Cultural tours which show the daily lives of the people especially in Eastern Rwanda who are cattle keepers. You will learn how to milk long horned cows with your hands, how cow dung is used and the different art in the area.
You can also visit Kageyo village and see the different milk pots used in storing milk, drink warm milk from a traditional gourd and learn different rituals that surround milk.

On a lucky day, you will be able to visit a market where cows are being auctioned. This takes place once a month.
In this village, you will also get a chance to see local women weaving beautiful baskets.

Visit an Arts and craft workshop
You have an opportunity to visit a local workshop where local artisans make traditional imigongo art which can be used for decorations. You will learn are these are made and what they mean in Rwandan art. The imigongo have got black and white contrasts. You will try to make yours with your own hands.

You will also visit a blacksmith who learned this skill from generations back and who will pass on this skill to the next generation in his family, They use metal scraps to make traditional garden hoes, repair pots and so on. This activity will be wrapped up with a cultural dance. Of course you will participate and learn how to drum and dance like local Rwandese

Visit the Visitors Centre Museum in the park         
Visit Akagera National Park visitors centre museum and lean about its animals and dark past.
The museum has skulls of elephants, crocodiles and bones from other different animals that used to live in the park.

It also has different traps used by poachers and has information on what the park is doing to overcome this problem over the years.

Where to stay in Akagera National Park

Ruzizi tented lodge.     
This lodge was designed and built by the Akagera management company. It was opened in 2013 and has since been offering great accommodation for tourists visiting Akagera National park. It is an eco-friendly tented camp with only 20 beds. It is located at the shores of Lake Ihema and is decorated with African décor.

Akagera game lodge:      
Akagera Game Lodge was the only lodge in Akagera National park for a long time. It has comfortable rooms which tastefully furnished. It also has a restaurant, swimming pool, curio bar, tennis court, power supply, Wifi and a TV.

It is located inside the park which makes it very convenient to enjoy game drives

Karenge Bush Camp Akagera: 
Karenge Bush Camp is a seasonal camp which started in 2016. The camp is set up two times a year and removed out, and leaving no trace of its being. It is named Karenge which means a small foot in Rwandese because its aim is to leave a light foot print on earth. It is built with eco friendly materials which are all removed at the end of each season when the camp decomposes. It is a small camp with only 6 tents which can sleep only 12 people

Camping in Akagera National park:
Camping is perfect for the adventurous traveller. You will spend a night under the stars at the sounds of the bush.

Akagera National park has three campsites namely Muyumbu which is north of the park entrance. It is on a high ridge overlooking Lake Ihema and the hills of Tanzania at a distance and offers a beautiful sunrise early in the morning.
The second campsite is called Shakani located near a lake side. From this campsite, you will hear hippos and calls from different birds.

The third campsite is Mutumba which is located in the north characterised by game and rolling grassland hills. It is also the highest point of the park at 1,800 meters above sea level. It has basic facilities that include a small open rondavel shelter, firewood, stone BBQs and pit latrines. Two sites are fenced. No power and no running water is available and the sites are not staffed.

6-man canvas tents can be hired from the park (for Muyumbu and Shakani only) but all other equipment and supplies should be brought with you.

How to Access Akagera National park:         
The main entry into Rwanda is by Kigali international port. There are different airlines that fly into Kigali.
From Kigali, the park can be accessed by road which is about 2 hours on a good road. However, in the park strictly you need 4 x 4 WD vehicles. We use 4 x 4 WD safari vehicles for all our clients.

Helicopter flights to the park are also available for travellers who dread road transport.

Best Time to Visit Akagera National   Park:
The best time to visit Akagera National Park is during the dry season from June to September. This is the time when there is rain and offers some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities.

Game drive safaris in Akagera are not as nice during the rainy months

Suggested itineraries to Akagera National Park

8 DAYS GORILLA AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (RWANDA)

Introduction To Rwand National Parks

Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – Best Things to do and see – Gorilla Tracking / Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park – Accommodation

Volcanoes National park also known as Parc National des Volcans is Rwanda’s most popular national park known mostly for mountain gorilla trekking. And although the stars of Volcanoes national park are mountain gorillas, it offers much more.

The park is located in the northern district of Musanze, was recognized in 1925, making it the oldest national park in Africa.

It is part of the Virunga Conservation Area covering 125 km² and which spans to Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, continuing to Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park respectively and has five Virunga volcanoes that Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi which is the highest volcano at an altitude of 4.507 meters above sea level. All these five volcanoes are extinct and the active ones are in Congo with Nyiragongo which erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.

The Virunga is composed of 4 major vegetation zones that bamboo which is at the base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m).

It should be noted that this park was Dian Fossey’s base for a long time

Best Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

  1. Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Tracking
    Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Mountain Gorillas are highly endangered and can only be found in three countries in the whole world. These are Rwanda (Obviously), Uganda and DR Congo. Tracking Mountain gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes is an experience that cannot be compared to another. The tracking is highly guided by a great team of rangers, guides and porters who make sure that you have a magical experience. The trek starts by a briefing at the park offices with a cup of Rwanda coffee and entertainment from the cultural dancers.

You are then led into the park, searching for the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park takes 2-7 hours before meeting the mountain gorillas. The time taken to see mountain gorillas depends on where these beautiful giant gorillas nested the previous night. Once you come face to face with them, you are allowed only one hour with them. The whole experience observing them how they interact with each other, feed and play is a once in a life time experience.

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park can be done on a 2 Days gorilla trekking tour (Day 1: Pick up from Kigali and transfer to Volcanoes National Park, Day 2: Gorilla tracking and transfer back to Kigali) or you can choose from the different suggested itineraries in Rwanda which can be tailor made to suit your tour needs and budget.

  1. Golden Monkey Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
    The other popular activity in Volcanoes National Park is golden Monkey tracking. Golden monkey tracking is a great experience as well and should not be missed out while visiting the park.

There are two habituated troops that can be tracked with the guidance of rangers and guides. The track allows visitors to come up close learning more about them and taking their beautiful photos.

The activity can be combined with gorilla tracking and or with other activities in the park. It starts in the morning at 8am with a briefing.

Golden monkeys are highly endangered and could face extinction. They can only be found in the Virunga mountain ranges of DR Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda and Rwanda. They mostly live in the bamboo forests.
The largest habituated troop lives in the Sabyinyo are and has about 80-100 members and this is the most visited too.

There is no age limit for Golden Monkey tracking and can be done throughout the year.

  1. Golden Monkey Habituation
    Golden Monkey Habituation takes goes for a whole day and begins at 7am. The golden monkeys being visited here are very shy and not used to human presence and the habituation process is to prepare them for future treks.
  2. Iby’lyacu Cultural village
    After you gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park, you can visit Iby’lyacu Cultural village. You will learn about the cultural of Rwanda that includes music and dances and learning about herbal medicine that the people used before modern medicine, learn ways of the ancient Rwanda Kingdom. Visitors will be welcomes by the beautiful sounds of drums and joyful dancers. Most of the dancers and performers at the village are ex-poachers. The activities at the center are interactive and can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
  3. Bird Watching
    Volcanoes National park is home to many birds and butterflies which can be explored on guided bird watching trails, by a knowledgeable bird watching guide.
  4. Bisoke Hike           
    Take a hike to Mount Bisoke, one of the Virunga Volcanoes. Although challenging, this hike offers great views especially of the beautiful Crater Lake at the top. Bisoke Mountain peak is at 3,000 Meters above sea level.
  5. Visit Dian Fossesy Grave
    Visitors staying around Volcanoes National park can hike the ‘Dian Fossey Tomb Trail’. She is very key in mountain gorilla conservation and did most of her research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National park but also in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Congo’s Virunga National park.
  6. Visit the twin lakes:
    Go for a visit to the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhondo located a stone throw away from Volcanoes National park. They offer breath taking sceneries

Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

There are about 5 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park that can be visited during gorilla trekking. These are;

  • Susa group has 35 individuals
  • Amahoro group has 11 individuals
  • Sabyinyo A – group has 13 individuals
  • Sabyinyo B – group has 4 individuals
  • Group 13 has 7 individuals

Some of the Gorilla trekking requirements in Volcanoes National Park

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Water proof trousers
  • Long sleeved Shirt/blouse
  • Water proof raincoat/jacket
  • Sun Cream
  • Gloves
  • Insect repellent
  • Backpack for carrying water/packed lunch
  • Camera

Cost of Activities in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

The costs of the activities are per person.

  • Gorilla Trekking permit: US$ 1500
  • Dian Fossey Hike: US$ 75
  • Golden Monkey Tracking: US$ 100
  • Crater Lake Hike: US$ 75 Permits should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda’s high season of June

Weather  conditions:       
Volcanoes National Park is at a high altitude and is generally very cold especially in the evening.
Gorilla trekking takes place throughout the year and all activities in and around the park can be done throughout the year.

Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes National Park takes place anytime of the year.

March to May – These are long rainy months and gorilla trekking in Rwanda and golden monkey trekking is a bit challenging. Few travellers visit the park around this time and the advantage of this is it always feels like you own the whole park.

June to Mid-September – These are dry months which makes it the best time for gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking. Hiking through the forest is much easier but you will still need a rain jacket, water proof shirts and hiking boots since it can rain anytime in the forest.

October to November – October and November are also rainy months but short rainy months. Trekking in the park may be a bit touch too.

December to Feb – These are also dry months and favourable for visiting Volcanoes National Park. This time is also the best time for gorilla and golden monkey trekking. So many birds can be seen around this time and most of the trees flower too.

The  vegetation is    still     very    green and the skies very      blue.
We recommend photography safaris in Rwanda around this time.

Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park

There are many accommodation options for each traveller. One can choose to stay in luxury lodges like Bisate Lode, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Viruga Lodge, Gorilla Nest Lodge and Five Volcanoes Lodge.

The mid-range lodges are Le Bamboo Lodge, Davince Lodge and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.

And the budget lodges include Hotel Muhabura, Kinigi Guest House, Virunga Hotel among others.

Just let us know what your budget is and we will always get back with a customized itinerary quotation

How to access the park.
The park can be accessed by road transport. It is about 3 hours from Kigali aiport or town to Volcanoes National Park. We use 4 x 4 WD safari vehicles; either safari vans or        safari land    cruisers.         The park can also be accessed by charter flights and helicopters.

Interesting Facts about Volcanoes National Park
Below are some of the interesting facts about Volcanoes National park. When you visit, you find discover more which you can add to this list

  • Volcanoes National Park is the oldest national park in Africa. It was gazetted as a national park in 1925.
  • It is the only national park in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. So this is the best and the only national park to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda
  • The park has five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes namely (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo). These can be hiked while visiting the park. The others are in Uganda and Congo
  • This is the smallest of Rwanda’s National Parks at 160km2. Imagine it being the smallest but housing five volcanoes.
  • The book “Gorillas in The Mist” by Dain Fossey was written based on mountain gorillas in this park. She spent most of her research time about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
  • The Park has been closed on more than two occasions in the last 25 years due to several security issues.
  • It has the least primate species compared to the other national parks in Rwanda.

How to secure Rwanda Gorilla Tracking Permits

If you are interested in Rwanda Gorilla Trekking safaris, you require a gorilla trekking permit.
A gorilla trekking permit for a foreign non-resident costs 1500USD dollars compared to 600 USD dollars in Uganda and 400 USD dollars in DR Congo.

There is also a special discount for a person visiting all the three national parks in the months of May to November to track gorillas for $1050 and $1275 for any delegate that is in Rwanda for conferences and meetings. There is also another offer of $5000 for 3 consecutive days Mountain Gorilla filming and professional photography then $12,000 for filming and photography crew per day (maximum 8 people).

When you book a gorilla trekking safari for Rwanda with us, we spare you the hustle of going back and forth with RDB to buy your gorilla trekking permits.

You can book your permits directly through this website. Simply mail us on:info@birdsnestsafaris.com and we should be able to respond to you within a few hours of time.

Suggested Itineraries for Volcanoes National Park

3 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING EXPERIENCE RWANDA

8 DAYS GORILLA AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (RWANDA)

3 DAYS RWANDA SPECIAL

5 DAYS EXCLUSIVE GORILLA SAFARI (RWANDA)

4 DAYS GORILLA TRACKING EXPERIENCE (RWANDA)

8 DAYS EXCLUSSIVE GORILLA,CHIMP AND PREDATOR EXPEDITION (UGANDA-RWANDA)

13 DAYS PRIMATES, PREDATORS AND WILDLIFE SAFARI (UGANDA-RWANDA)