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Rwanda is not particularly known as a safari destination. Buffaloes, leopards and elephants can all be seen here, but rhinos and lions are no longer in the area (although a reintroduction of these species is in the works). Because the Big Five are not found here, many safari goers don’t take the Akagera National Park very seriously. Unjustifiably so though as it boasts an unparalleled wildlife reserve.
Akagera is less famous than the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania. However, with a little less wildlife to be seen, it is also a lot quieter here. No traffic jams of droning Land Rovers full of people who vie for a spot to catch a glimpse of a snoozing lion or foraging giraffe. A safari in Akagera means travelling solo or only accompanied by a ranger. Take your time looking for herds of savannah elephants and Kaffir buffaloes and maybe even spot a leopard after its prey.
Akagera National Park covers an area the size of 1200 square kilometres in eastern Rwanda. It consists mostly of savannah but also features lakes, grasslands, hills and papyrus swamp. The park is home to large herds of zebras, every type of antelope, olive baboons, green vervets, graceful serval cats, spotted hyenas and striped jackals. A night safari is also worthwhile, if only to see the brown greater galago or the smaller moholi, a primate with bulging black eyes and large floppy ears.
The national park also boasts a variety of habitats that attract large numbers of birds. Here you will find almost 500 different species of songbirds, waterfowl and birds of prey including rare and endangered species such as the beautiful Papyrus gonolek and comical Shoe-billed stork. Visitor numbers are relatively low so you will be guaranteed to spot more wildlife than tourists.
“At night spot the little moholi with bulging black eyes and large floppy ears”
Lower visitor numbers also means a more modest selection of accommodations: there are in fact only 2 options. The Akagera Game Lodge, on the edge of the savannah, offers 80 rooms and suites, a restaurant and a refreshing pool overlooking Lhema Lake. The small new Ruzizi Tented Lodge provides guests with the real 'Out of Africa' experience. Up to 20 guests can be accommodated in 9 luxury safari tents with hardwood floors, king-size beds, bathrooms and verandas with sweeping views of the surrounding nature.