The land of a thousand hills has 3 national parks. Every national park in Rwanda has a specialty and an endemic species. Even though Rwanda was deeply affected by the 1994 genocide that sent its wildlife to extinction, the country’s tourism sector is speedily recovering.
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Covering approximately 90,000 hectares, Akagera is Rwanda’s second largest national park. Akagera is the only Rwandan park that inhabits big game. Resident wildlife in the park include: antelope species like: Sitatunga, Impala, oribi, bush buck, cape eland and tsessebe. Other wildlife includes hippos on Lake Ihema, buffaloes, zebra, giraffe, hyena, elephants, leopard and li on. Resident primates are: the olive baboon, vervet monkey, and bush baby. Rare but resident sightings include mongooses, genet, black-masked civet, several cats, side-striped jackal, warthog and the bush pig. Reptiles include: crocodile, water monitor and the rock agama. Akagera’s savannah and aquatic habitats support over 525 avian species. Forest birds include: the crested barbet, Ross’s Turaco, Arnot’s chat and Souza’s shrike. Savannah birds that can be identified here include: the little bee-eater, Heuglin’s robin-chat, black-headed Gonolek, brown parrot, lilac-breasted roller, grey hornbill, bare-faced go-away bird. Resident raptors include: bateleur eagle, brown snake eagles, White-backed and Ruppell’s griffon vultures, and hooded vultures. Aquatic species include: goliath heron, black-capped night heron and reed-dwelling purple heron, pelicans, crowned crane, open-bill stork, marabou stork, kingfishers, shorebirds and fish eagles. Restricted papyrus swamp species include: papyrus Gonolek, white-winged warbler, Caruther’s cistocal, and the shoebill.
Volcanoes national park in the far northwest of Rwanda covers 12,000 hectares making it Rwanda’s smallest game reserve. The park lays on the slopes the Virunga ranges. Despite its size PNV is Rwanda’s most visited park because of its possession of the mountain gorilla. Tracking the mountain gorilla is a highlight for most African safaris.
Gorilla tracking is the park’s most popular activity. Nevertheless quite a number of interesting alternatives have also been put in place. Hiking the Karisimbi volcano, is an available option in this park and normally takes 2 days. However this activity must only be attempted by expert hikers. Other optional activities include visiting Dianne Fossey’s grave or the Karisoke research centre. Golden monkeys have been fully habituated and are now accessible to tourists. Track the golden monkeys on the Virunga ranges.
NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK
Nyungwe national park covers one of the most ancient equatorial rain forests in Africa. Nyungwe is Rwanda’s largest national park covering 924,000 hectares; This Park currently inhabits 13 primate species most of which are chimpanzees and the rare Angolan colobus monkeys, 75 mammal species, 275 bird species most of which are forest birds, 120 butterfly species and over 1000 butterfly species.
Nyungwe forest is primarily a habitat to endangered IUCN list primates like the chimpanzee, Angolan colobus, Rwenzori colobus, Silver monkey, Dent’s Mona monkey, golden monkey, Owl faced monkey, red tailed monkey, crowned monkey, Vervet monkey, Olive baboon, Grey-cheeked mangabey. Resident nocturnal primates include bush babies and pottos.
Nyungwe also harbors quite a good number of avian species and is an important ornithological site with currently over 280 recorded bird species. The habitat specializes in forest specialists and regional endemics. Resident species include: paradise flycatcher, drab Chubb’s Cisticola, the red throated Alethe and green pigeon, forest hornbills, the great blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, red breasted sparrow hawk and white headed wood hoopoe.