Throughout the past several decades, Rwanda’s savannah-dwelling creatures have been slowly killed off. Elephants, lion, buffalo – all gone. This is due largely to the resettling of genocide refugees in areas where these animals once lived. But, the country has dedicated a considerable amount of resources and energy to bring them back. And, the future is beginning to look bright.
Akagera National Park, located a mere three hours north of the country’s capital of Kigali, is where the focus lies. Here, amongst the plains that straddle the border of Tanzania, herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe are beginning to reappear. Seven lions, a small pride, were relocated to Akagera from South Africa in hopes that they would breed and prosper.
On my recent trip to the area, I spent two nights at the cozy Ruzizi Tented Camp, on the shores of a lake teeming with hippos. I spent my days in the hot sun driving through the wild and nearly untouched park to see the developments in the country’s effort to make Akagera a viable destination for those who yearn to experience Africa’s wild cats, elephant, zebra and giraffe. I was impressed.
Akagera isn’t 100% there in terms of offering visitors guaranteed sightings of their favorite animals, but it’s on its way. I bore witness to elephant and giraffe, zebra and buffalo. Warthogs darted from bush to bush, trying not to be noticed by predators. I tried for two days to see one of the lions, but the park is big and it was hot. This meant they were likely hiding from the unforgiving sun under shrouds of foliage.
After two days in Akagera I realized that it has the potential to be Africa’s next amazing game park. Today, it is primed to offer visitors a quiet and personalized look at Africa’s most famous creatures – without the crowds of other more known parks. I recommend you visit now, though, before it becomes too noticed. If your travel plans take you to Rwanda soon, you’ll have nearly the entire area of Akagera to yourself.