Akagera’s Horizons On The Rise

April 15, 2011

On Wednesday 30th March, I boarded a very flash VX wagon along with several other Rwandan tour operators and headed East of Kigali to the beautiful Akagera National Park, on the Tanzanian border. This is the one of the highlights of Rwanda, harbouring the most spectacular birdlife, incredibly healthy plains game and an ecological diversity second to none. The park is largely made up of true African savannah, as well as an awe-inspiring expanse of swamps and lakes which stem from the Akagera River (which incidentally is one of the most prolific sources of the Nile).

The park – prior to and during the 1994 genocide – took a severe knock with regards to animal populations and almost two thirds (1,800km²) of the existing park was overrun by human exploitation in the form of deforestation, poaching and commercial fishing. Fortunately, today’s government is driven by progression and thankfully, that largely includes the sustainability of wildlife and the environment as a whole.

With the recent amalgamation of the African Parks Network and the Rwanda Development Board – now jointly known as AMC (Akagera Management Company) – the park is taking on a new look. Within five years, AMC intend to rehabilitate Black Rhino and Lion, which will then put them back on the map as a carrier of the ‘big five’. The roads have now been dramatically improved and access on two separate routes from north to south is now possible. Recently purchased boats have shone put a whole new light on the Akagera experience. Now, visitors are comfortably able to venture across Lake Ihema, close to the Tanzanian border, to fully absorb the eco-diversity of the park. Access to aquatic bird and crocodile breeding grounds, as well as a closer look at the abundant hippo pods is now possible.

At present, the park hosts large herds of Roan Antelope, Sitatunga, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo, Masai giraffe, spotted and brown Hyena, Hippo, and Crocodiles. With regards to bird life, there are too many to list, but, suffice to say, there are an estimated 525 species – including the rare, elusive and endangered Shoebill and the Papyrus Gonolek.

Hats off to all those involved, as the task is immense… but having been there and met the staff, I have little doubt of the project’s imminent success. And, to all you fellows with nothing to do with your time and money, trust me the visit is well worth it; and while you’re here you might as well take a peek at the mountain gorillas too.
Watch this space for more info on Akagera…

Colin Hurlbatt

Posted by Anne-Marie Weeden

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