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Image by David Clode

Akagera NP, Rwanda

Amazing Akagera

£2,950 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: June 22nd - June 30th, 2024

Extension: We do not currently offer any small-group extensions to this itinerary. Private itineraries to Volcanoes NP or Nyungwe NP can be arranged on request.

Prices: £2,950 pp sharing (with a £400 single supplement)​, excluding international flights.

In a sentence: Akagera has fast become one of the continent's conservation success story, and is a 'Big Five' park to boot - come see the lesser-known wild side of this fascinating country.

Overview

Rwanda is often unfairly overlooked by prospective visitors to Africa. The legacy of the 1994 genocide still clouds the perception of many when it comes to this remarkable nation. In the three decades since those unspeakable atrocities, this small landlocked nation has undergone a remarkable transformation. Economically and politically, stability has come to Rwanda. In an unprecedented move, the education system has been reformed to coincide with the adoption of English (rather than French) as the lingua franca of the country. Kigali, the capital, is now stylish and meticulously well governed, attracting businesses and tourists alike.

 

Ecotourism has now, in turn, arrived in Rwanda. There are three main attractions in the country for wildlife enthusiasts, all of which we will visit on this tour. Akagera National Park, in the east, is the most recent addition to Rwanda's wealth of natural wonders. The park itself has been established for many decades, at one time gaining renown for its astonishing wildlife, including hundreds of African Wild Dogs - the park was even known as the 'Parc aux Lycaons' for this very reason. However, the park fell into ruin as unrest gripped Rwanda. In recent times, under the admirable stewardship of African Parks, the park has seen a number of re-introductions and wildlife populations have boomed. Lion, Leopard and Black Rhino are now all present in the park, and seen regularly. The reserve can now claim to be a 'Big Five' park, although it has much more to offer than that - the birdlife on Lake Ihema alone is worth a visit. The park itself is beautiful, with its open grasslands and rolling hills sometimes more reminiscent of an English meadow than a game reserve.

Rwanda has much to offer, and this itinerary is a great way to scratch the surface of this incomparable country - we can't wait for you to join us!

Itinerary

Day One

Kigali

On arrival into Kigali you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your local hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure, with a pre-tour briefing following dinner in your hotel this evening.

Day Two

Akagera - Karenge Bush Camp

This morning we leave Kigali behind for the three hour drive east to Rwanda's flagship national park - Akagera. Once one of the greatest wildlife hotspots in East Africa, much of Akagera's wildlife was sadly lost due to decades of unrest and economic stagnation. However, recent years have seen a remarkable reversal of fortunes for this wonderful, scenic park, owing largely to the careful management of the huge South African conservation organisation, African Parks. Having taken impressive steps to secure the park, a series of reintroductions followed, with lion, black rhino and more brought back to supplement surviving populations of other species. Very recently, African Parks made the unfortunate misstep of introducting white rhino here, outside of their natural range, but there is no arguing with the bulk of their successes in Akagera.

Arriving in the southern reaches of Akagera by lunchtime, we will be met by the representatives from the park and transferred through the park to the remote northern reaches of Akagera. This is a stunning park when it comes to scenery, and this drive alone is sure to provide memorable views, as well as our first glimpses of wildlife in the park. Particularly as we cross the plains around Lake Ihema, we are likely to spot Defassa waterbuck, impala, zebra, giraffe and, if lucky, elephant and buffalo. Depending on stops, this drive north will take around two hours.

By mid-afternoon we will arrive at our home for the next three nights, the remote, rustic and superbly-located Karenge Bush Camp. As the name suggests, this fly-camp has little in the way of luxury, but does boast comfortable, spacious safari tents with private outdoor en-suites, and a warm Rwandan welcome. 

After a chance to settle in, an evening game drive is a great way to familiarise ourselves with this quiet corner of Akagera. The rolling hills and floodplains here support a wide array of grazers, and we should expect to see topi, Bohor reedbuck, common duiker and oribi. With luck, the beautiful roan and eland may make an appearance. Vervet monkeys and olive baboon are common here too, and should we be very fortunate, we came across a crash of white rhinoceros out in the open. Closer to the lakes, elephant and buffalo are present in great numbers and, as the light fades, we may even stumble across lion or leopard. 

Returning to camp at nightfall, we will enjoy dinner under the stars before retiring for some well-deserved rest.

Days Three to Four

Akagera - Karenge Bush Camp

The next two days will be ours to explore the northern reaches of Akagera to our hearts' content. The vast majority of visitors here stick solely to the south of the park, which means our surrounds (especially in the morning) will be ours and ours alone. Our days will be divided into morning and evening game drives, taken at a relaxed pace to take advantage of the wonderful scenery and extremely rewarding birding. Particular targets for us in this area will include lion and leopard, as well as white rhino, but also big herds of elephant, buffalo and other grazers. The north has a less developed road network than in the south, so we may find ourselves repeating routes during our stay here, but these roads offer different game experiences each time we traverse them, and these few days are always hugely rewarding.

When not on game drive, there will be ample time to relax in the surrounds of Karenge, soaking in the spectacular isolation.

Day Five

Akagera - Ruzizi Tented Lodge

A final morning game drive in the north of the park will target any species that may have eluded us here, before we bid farewell to Karenge and head south to the beating heart of the park - Lake Ihema. At times, this lake can feel like the epicentre of the natural world, with vast herds of topi, buffalo, elephant and zebra in attendance, as well as noisy pods of hippos and scores of unusual bird species.

We will make a brief stop at Ruzizi Tented Lodge, our superb eco-lodge accommodation for the next three nights, for lunch and some rest before our next activity. Once the heat of the day has subsided, we will make the brief hop over the Lake Ihema itself for a private boat safari on the lake. This is a wonderful way to gain a fresh perspective on the park, with photographic opportunities focussed on birdlife, hippos, crocodiles and large herds of grazers. Birding aficionados should keep their eyes peeled, as past seasons have produced several sightings of the iconic shoebill on the lake! With luck, views of the surrounding plains will include sightings of giraffe, elephant and white rhino.

Following our time on the lake, we will return to the comfort of Ruzizi. This lodge is spectacularly located on the edge of Lake Ihema, consisting of vast safari tents equipped to a much higher standard than the more rustic Karenge. This is truly a sensational base from which to access the south of the park, and our game-viewing will commence in earnest after dinner.

Unlike in Karenge, night drives are permitted in the south of the park, and exploring the plains at night is a good way to record lion and serval, as well as spotted hyena. Of more interest, though, are the woodlands south of the lakes, as this is where we may spy leopard, genet, civet and galago - leopard will be a key target for us tonight.

Days Six to Seven

Akagera - Ruzizi Tented Lodge

The next two days will be divided into morning, afternoon and night drives, exploring the diverse range of habitats in the south of the park. Whilst our exact targets will be determined by the interests of the group, we generally focus on birding and black rhino in woodland thickets in the morning, spending time with elephant and white rhino near the lakes in the afternoon and leopard, serval and lion at night. When not on drive, there is nowhere better to relax with great views than at Ruzizi.

Day Eight

Kigali

After a final morning drive in the park, we will meet our transfer vehicle and return to Kigali, arriving by mid-afternoon. Your evening is at leisure, with a final meal served at your city hotel tonight.

Day Nine

Tour End

This morning, guests are transferred to the airport for their homeward flights.

Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.

Dates and Prices

This tour will run in June 2024, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when game-viewing is at its best. The tour will run from June 22nd to June 30th.

The cost of this trip is £2,950 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinking water is included, but soft and alcoholic drinks are not. We regret that there is a £400 single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,180 must be paid.

Flights and Visas

Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Kigali at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. 

British nationals do require a visa to enter Rwanda. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Visas are freely available at Kigali Airport for UK nationals.

Weather and What to Bring

The weather in Rwanda in June is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 16 degrees Celsius, but it will feel cooler than this on night drivs.

A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat. 

Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.

Safety and Security

This itinerary does not visit any areas where there are currently security concerns.

Image by Wade Lambert

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