Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park could scarcely be more different in mood to the breezy cultivated hills that characterize much of Rwanda. Dominated to the east by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is a diverse landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland, high rolling hills along the western boundary and patches of thick forest.
Akagera is big game country. Large herds of buffalo, giraffe and zebra move across the savannah, lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of elephants emerging from the woodland to drink at the lakes. Akagera is home to more than a dozen types of antelope, most commonly the handsome impala, but also oribi and bushbuck, as well as the ungainly topi, the rare roan and the world's largest antelope, the cape eland. Leopard and hyena might be seen on a night drive as well as other secretive creatures of the night. And hippo and crocodile are almost guaranteed on a boat trip in Akagera’s largest lake, Ihema. Lining the lakes are some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds and with a species list of 525, Akagera is birders paradise.
Camping alongside the picturesque lakes of Akagera, or atop Muyumbu ridge overlooking the lakes and Tanzania in the distance, is a truly mystical introduction to the wonders of the African bush.
African Parks has been responsible for the management of Akagera since early 2010 after signing a 20 year management agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in late 2009. The Akagera Management Company (AMC) was established in 2010 with board members from both RDB and African Parks in a joint management initiative for Akagera National Park. African Parks is responsible for the day to day management of the park, while the Rwandan Government retain all statutory rights.
Funding for the operational costs of Akagera National Park has been successfully secured with generous financial contributions from the Walton Family Foundation, Stichting DOEN, Stichting African Parks Foundation and the RDB. The Rwandan Government is unique among the African Parks portfolio as the only Government assisting financially towards the management of the park. Approximately USD 10 million has been secured for the restoration and development of Akagera over the first 5 years of the project, including a USD 2 million 120km boundary fence project funded by RDB.
Infrastructure development has seen significant progress since AMC’s involvement. Akagera Management Company has completed the construction of a new office block, fully functioning mechanics workshop and stores facility, 3 management houses and a law enforcement operations room. Renovations have been carried out to several staff housing blocks and a community centre. A new Day Visitor’s Centre and Reception with cafe, shop and Education Centre is currently under construction as well as a new tented camp accommodation facility on the edge of Lake Ihema.
Significant improvements have been made to the condition of the roads and the road network developed with new loops and signage in place.
New vehicles, a tractor and motorbikes have all been purchased to facilitate park management activities. One of the priorities for the new management company is law enforcement and securing the park against illegal activities. Intensive training has been carried out and new communications equipment, uniforms, boats and motorbikes, GPS and patrol equipment has enabled an increase in law enforcement activities in the park.
For more information, please contact us:
Tourism and Marketing Manager
Akagera Management Company
+250 (0) 782 166 015
“Friends of Akagera National Park” on Facebook
Strengthening Sustainable Ecotourism in and around Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe Nziza: Beautiful Nyungwe
Rwanda is an emerging tourist destination, and in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Nyungwe Nziza seeks to help the country reach its tourism potential. To do so, the project targets the spectacular and protected Nyungwe National Park (NNP), focusing on inclusive ecotourism development for the benefit of local communities surrounding the park, and leveraging private sector investment in the management, construction, and maintenance of new and existing park infrastructure.
RDB and the Nyungwe Nziza project are working to transform NNP into a viable ecotourism destination, capable of generating employment and sustainable and equitable income for local communities and other stakeholders, thus providing economic incentives to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Park. The ultimate goal is a thriving economy in NNP with engaged communities and a private sector that realize they can benefit economically by protecting and leveraging the unique environment in which they live and work.
However, one of the central challenges facing NNP as an ecotourism destination is the low volume of tourists, which does not create enough market demand to generate alternative economic opportunities for local communities or investment incentives for the private sector.
Strengthening Nyungwe as a Destination
In addition to establishing Nyungwe as the number one birding destination in the Rift Valley, Nyungwe Nziza seeks to decrease threats to biodiversity, such as fire, poaching, and mining; increase NNP visits and revenue; develop NNP as a brand that goes beyond tourism products; increase local household incomes; and develop a core group of trained health professionals.
Our team is designing and implementing market-driven product development and marketing strategies to result in more private sector investment in infrastructure and services. The project will develop partnerships and joint ventures between local communities and the private sector to increase the availability of accommodation around the park, as well as develop new attractions. At the same time, local communities will be trained to integrate into existing and new value chains around niche products such as bird-watching, chimpanzee tracking, and cultural activities.
These investments to increase the attractiveness of Nyungwe National Park as a unique tourist destination will:
- Diversify the local economy, create jobs, and increase family income, resulting in reduced poverty and reduced threats.
- Forge scalable and creative public-private partnerships to increase investment in and around the Park, resulting in a sustainable, market-driven ecotourism business plan for NNP.
- Improve the ecotourism enabling environment, resulting in sustainable ecotourism development at Nyungwe and beyond.
- Improve the health and lives of people living in and around NNP.
Eco-tourism supporter and East Africa columnist for eTurboNews, Wolfgang Thome recently visited Nyungwe National Park and wrote an excellent detailed description of his visit. Anybody planning to visit the Park should read his account.
Dale Morris travelled to the deepest depths of the Rwandan jungle for our 'Animal Kingdoms' article in this issue of Wanderlust (120). Here, he shares more images that couldn't fit in the feature. Dale is a well known international travel photographer who has shot photos for a long list of publications and media.
Cocktails amid the cloud forests, Financial Times, April 29th, 2011. (Also appeared in Slate online)
"...Finally it’s time to hit the road and my driver turns up in a classic Toyota Land Cruiser to take me to Nyungwe Forest – an area of nearly 1,000 sq km teeming with wildlife, including colobus monkeys and chimpanzees. There may be potholes and endless twisting bends along the dirt road, but it is a stunning drive with the road snaking around the cliffs and the lake providing a dramatic backdrop..."
“…After the urban excitement of Kigali, I took a Rwandair internal flight to Kamembe in the far south-east of the country. A one-hour drive brought me to another of Rwanda’s park highlights – Nyungwe Forest. Nyungwe is a big part of RDB’s tourism plans. Covering an area almost the size of Hampshire, it’s the largest slice of protected medium-altitude rainforest in Africa, stuffed with species – orchids, birds, reptiles and, in particular, chimpanzees. It’s the kind of place visitors ought to hang around longer to see…” [Jeremy is an internationally renowned travel writer. Check his blog, TravelBlather.com, and his Twitter feed.]
Rwanda turns forests into tourism assets, eTurboNews, February 2011
"...Special attention was paid to promoting the new national park abroad at tourism fairs and exhibitions, and although Rwanda remains globally best known for its mountain gorilla tracking at the Parc de Volcanoes in the west of the country, more and more visitors now use the opportunity of being in Rwanda to also visit the Nyungwe National Park..."
Harvard Business School Students Help Banda Village in Nyungwe, The Harbus, January 2011
Twenty-six HBS students set out this fall of 2010 as part of the Rwanda IXP to learn about Rwanda’s striking journey of recovery since the Genocide, to work on consulting projects with local entrepreneurs, non-profit and public sector organizations and to enjoy an exotic African adventure...I was a member of the Nyungwe Nziza Project team and we worked with DAI and USAID to help a remote village called Banda Village located in the middle of the rainforest located in Nyungwer National Park to attract tourists and develop its tourism product offering....
Nyungwe offers 13 hiking trails, some with tongue-twisting names. Try pronouncing “Igishigishigi” quickly, which is the name of an easy 1.7 km trail that begins near the Uwinka Reception Centre. By the way, Igishigishigi means tree fern. The trails range from easy to difficult and from 1.7 kms to 10.6 kms in length.
Trails from Uwinka Reception Centre
|Trail names||Distance||Difficult level|
|Red (Imbaraga)||9 km||Difficult|
|Green (igishigishigi)||1,7 km||Easy|
|Blue (Umugote)||3,5 km||Moderate|
|Grey (Bugufi)||2 km||Easy|
|Mount Bigugu||7 km||Difficult|
|Kamiranzovu swamp||3,9 km||Moderate|
|Yellow (Irebero)||3,2 km||Moderate|
|Pink (Umuyove)||3,8 km||Moderate|
Trails from Gisakura Reception Centre
|Trail names||Distance||Difficult level|
|Kamiranzovu water fall (Isumo)||10,6 km||Moderate|
The Nyungwe Nziza project helped develop trails from the Kitabi Reception Center. These trails lead you to a great viewpoint in Kitabi village and tea plantation for observing many types of vegetation, primates and birds.
|Trail names||Distance||Difficult level|