If it is big game you are looking for, Akagera will not disappoint. Located on the border with Tanzania, Akagera is comprised of swamps, lakes, savannah, woodland and open grassland. The lakes draw out herds of elephant and buffalo, while the savannah typically attracts giraffe and zebra. That is just the beginning! The park hosts, leopard, hyena, lions and more than a dozen types of antelope. Also found in and near the lake are large pods of hippopotami as well as ominous crocodiles basking in the sun.
For the bird-lover, you can be entertained by majestic fish eagles and the large concentration of waterbirds. In the marshes, keep an eye out for the papyrus gonolek and the often sought-after shoebill stork.
Akagera National Park is located in the east of Rwanda. Kibungu is the city that is nearest to the park and the best starting point.
The park covers over 2500 sq km of savannah west of the Kagera River, which denotes the frontier with Tanzania. The park has a variety of wildlife and is a habitat for over 500 different species of birds. There are accommodation facilities on the edge of the park at Gabiro, 100km (60 miles) to the north. It is best not to visit the park in the rainy season (December, March and April) since many of the routes become impassable.
“Akagera, with its complex mix of terrains, vegetation and animal life… is a very special place on earth, a place to preserve at all costs for future generations.”
– Jean Pierre Vande, writing in the award-winning conservation magazine Africa Environment & Wildlife.
Akagera comes as an exciting surprise after the steep cultivated hills and breezy climate that characterizes the rest of the country. Set at a relatively low altitude along the Tanzanian border, this beautiful game reserve protects an archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia and brachystegia bush, interspersed with patches of open grassland and a dozen swamp-fringed lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River.
Those especially looking for primates or birds will want to be sure to spend time in Nyungwe National Park. The forest is teeming with a vast array of flora and fauna throughout the park’s 1,000 square kilometres.
Nyungwe’s primates are just one reward for a walk through the forest with its viewing points and waterfalls. There are 13 species, including the chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey and Angola colobus.
Bird enthusiasts can imagine the delight of seeing the great blue turaco, as well as many of the other almost 300 bird species found in the park.
Nyungwe forest is an Albertine rift montane rainforest. The Albertine rift forms the epicentre of Africa’s montane rainforest circle. It is dominated by a series of mountain chains, originating on the Lendu Plateau in northern Uganda and Congo, running south through the Rwenzori mountains, western Rwanda and Burundi, to some isolated massifs on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Albertine rift eco-region is one of Africa’s most endemic rich regions.
Nyungwe forest received only recently the status of National Park and became the largest protected high-altitude rainforest of East Africa. It was particularly important to protect the forest reserve when you know that the highest population pressures in Africa are to be found within the Albertine rift and that the forest is the biggest water reservoir for the country.
The highland forest covers 970 km² and has a unique habitat. It’s the only place where we have seen troops of more than 300 colobus monkeys travelling in the trees. The park has 25 % of the primates of Africa with its 13 recorded primate species. It’s a primate nirvana!
Perhaps best known as the home of the rare mountain gorilla, the Virungas are that and so much more. Trekking through the park in far northwest Rwanda, one will find a tapestry of sensory delights. The visitor in the rainforest can hear the calls of birds and monkeys, and through the forest see the peaks of the ancient volcanoes. In addition to the rainforest, the park offers evergreen and bamboo forest, grassland, swamp and heath.
Rwanda also known as the land of “Gorillas in the Mist” has its star tourist attraction in the Mountain Gorillas. The giant but gentle primates were the subject of the late Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to their protection and conservation. Her detailed work is best seen in the international acclaimed film “Gorillas in the Mist”, which was shot in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
The Parc National des Volcans (PNV) is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and covers more than 125 km². PNV is home of five Virunga volcanoes: Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi, the highest volcano with an altitude of 4.507 m. All five volcanoes are extinct, the active ones are located in Congo. Two of them erupted recently; the Nyiragongo erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.
The Virunga ecosystem is composed of 4 major vegetation zones: bamboo (base altitude), Hagenia and Hypericum forest (2600-3300m), Sub-alpine (3300-4000m), and Afro-alpine (4000m+).
The mountain gorillas spend most of their time in the hagenia woodlands and bamboo forests. During the raing season when new bamboo shoots are growing, the gorillas spend more time foraging in the bamboo forests (base altitude). The climb to the natural habitat of bamboo forest and Hagenia woodlands offers fantastic views.
The PNV was Dian Fossey’s base a long time ago (She died on the 26th of December 1985), and it is at the Karisoke Research Center that during 18 years she carried out her study on mountain gorillas.
After the exciting but perhaps also tiring mountain gorilla trekking safari, chimpanzee trekking and extensive game driving in Akagera National Park, Lake Kivu provides the ideal place for rest and recuperation. For sunbathing, swimming and water sports, the Rwanda Riviera town of Gisenyi is the place to be. If you prefercomplete seclusion for mental and physical relaxation, we recommend the Kibuye Guest House, in the south of Lake Kivu. If you love speed boats, canoe sailing, or just mountain walks and picnics, Kibuye will provide these facilities to your satisfaction.
There are lovely villas along the tree-lined shore… a beautiful white sandy beach… the lake is crystal clear. This is a spot that deserves a longer stay.”
– Daniel Stiles, writing about Gisenyi on Lake Kivu in Swara magazine
Lake Kivu is an extraordinarily beautiful inland sea enclosed by steep, green terraced hills along the Congolese border Three resort towns, Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu stand on the littoral, connected by a wild roller-coaster road that tumbles through lush plantain fields and relic patches of misty rainforest to offer sweeping views over the blue water.
It is one of the classic road journeys in all of Africa There is also charter boat service on the lake connecting the 3 towns.
Gisenyi, the most developed of these resorts, lies less than an hour’s drive from the Parc des Volcans, and is set on a sandy beach lined with swaying palms and colonial-era hotels that exude an atmosphere of tropical languor. At Kibuye, to its south, Rwanda Safari tourist activities are centred on a modem lakeshore guesthouse overlooking pine-covered hills seemingly transplanted from the Alps. Different again is Cyangugu, close to Nyungwe Forest, whose more subdued tourist development is compensated for by a stirring setting of curving inlets winding into narrow valleys.
Lake Kivu is the largest of numerous freshwater bodies that shimmer in the valleys of Rwanda. Lakes Burera and Ruhondo, close to the gorilla-tracking centre of Ruhengeri, are oft-neglected gem, deep blue waters ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls, with the nearby Virunga Volcanoes providing a spectacular backdrop.
Away from the main resorts, Rwanda’s lakes offer visitors rewarding glimpses into ancient African lifestyles. Here, fishermen ply the water in dugout canoes unchanged in design for centuries, while colourfully dressed ladies smoke traditional wooden pipes and troubadours strum sweetly on stringed iningire (traditional ‘guitars’) And. the birdlife is fantastic; flotillas of pelicans sail ponderously across the open water majestic crowned cranes preen their golden crests in the surrounding swamps, while jewel-like malachite kingfishers hawk silently above the shore.