Conserving Wildlife in Rwanda

Join our Conserving Wildlife in Rwanda programe, an Ecotourism Programme at Akagera National Park aimed at making a positive difference to the local communities and environment, while being immersed in the local culture for an experience that will be truly life-changing.

Have you ever wanted behind the scenes exposure and involvement in conservation work on a conservancy that has achieved phenomenal success?

Akagera National Park is the largest protected wetland in Central Africa and the only wilderness refuge left in Rwanda for savannah-adapted species. The Park is a conservation success story, with black rhinos and lions having been recently reintroduced from South Africa to make Akagera the only Big Five park in Rwanda. Akagera also boasts a canine anti-poaching unit to protect the wildlife. Join our expert conservation team in their unique approach of working hand in hand with local communities to uplift conservation in the park and in Rwanda.

Project Details

This is a unique opportunity to help conserve some of Africa’s most critically endangered animals through close collaboration with local communities. Community engagement is one of the most important pillars of conservation and volunteers will work in the local communities along the outskirts of the Park on the following projects:
Beekeeping and honey production project
Tree nursery
Vegetable garden
Aquaculture
Tending the layer hens
Basketry
Arts and crafts
Natural building (learning how to make mud bricks)
English teaching
Reading club
Nature club
Environmental education

When not immersed in community projects, volunteers will spend time in Akagera National Park assisting with vital conservation work:
Game census
Camera trapping for wildlife research
Soil erosion control
Alien vegetation removal
Raptor identification and recording of sightings
Data entry

Africa Parks manage Akagera and have achieved remarkable work against a challenging backdrop:

“The park was not always a wildlife haven. The Rwandan Civil War in the 1990’s took its toll on the park when much of the land was reallocated as farmland for returning refugees, reducing the size of the park from 2,500 km² to just 1,122 km². The high population density and human encroachment into the park was a pressing issue in the past, but the ongoing efforts to restore animal populations, increased law enforcement and the construction of the fence resulted in a positive impact. With the implementation of rigorous law enforcement since 2010, poaching has been reduced, wildlife has prospered and the tourism industry has been transformed.

As Rwanda’s only Big Five park, Akagera provides important opportunities for local employment. This life-giving revenue stream not only strengthens ties with surrounding communities, but ensures the very survival of the park and its wildlife.”

In addition to community upliftment through employment opportunities, we aim to strengthen community ties through our Rwanda Ecotourism Programme primarily through the transferal of vital skills, meaningful cultural exchange and appreciation, and identifying the best ventures for communities that help preserve their beautiful way of life while simultaneously helping to lift communities out of poverty.

Conserving Wildlife in Rwanda is hosted at Akagera Game Lodge, set within the 90,000ha Akagera National Park in the Eastern Province of Rwanda, on the border of Tanzania. Akagera Game Lodge is a 2-hour drive from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

Akagera Game lodge is currently one of the only accommodation facilities inside the Akagera National Park boundaries, and is located along the shores of Lake Ihema. It has a large swimming pool at the edge of the wide savanna with expansive views over the lake. Volunteers stay in en-suite twin rooms, with three meals daily being served in the lodge, and on some days, packed lunches are taken into the field.

Akagera National Park is rick in biodiversity with vast plains and lakes bordered by wetlands providing a home to a many of rare species, one of the most notable being the shoebill stork. The Park boasts over 12,000 large mammals including zebras, giraffes, lions, black rhinos, and elephants, and 482 bird species. Crucial to the park’s ecosystem is the vast Lake Ihema which is home to hippos and crocodiles. Akagera National Park is considered a strategic tourist attraction in Rwanda and offers unrivaled scenic beauty. Vigourous law enforcement has seen a drastic reduction in poaching, and prospering of wildlife since 2010.

Akagera National Park, which was proclaimed in 1934 to protect the wildlife and vegetation, lies on the Rwanda-Tanzania border and is named after the Akagera River which flows along its eastern boundary. Following the 1994 genocide, much disturbance was experienced in western Tanzania and the park (which originally covered 2,500 sq. km) and the park was reduced by almost half as refugees poured into the country to re-settle. This area was the largest portion of the savannah in the west where farmland was needed.

In 2009 the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks entered into a 20-year renewable agreement for the joint management of Akagera. The Akagera Management Company was formed in 2010 as the joint management body for the park. With the improved security and community involvement in the park, restocking efforts have been possible and successful. Lions from South Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park have been reintroduced to normalise the predator diversity and have settled in well. In 2017, approximately 20 eastern black rhinos from South Africa were returned to the park after a decade-long absence due to poaching. Akagera National Park now enjoys the status of being the only “Big Five” conservancy in Rwanda, successful progress which has paralleled that of the country since the end of the genocide.

Volunteers are accommodated at the Akagera Game Lodge. You will be sharing bedrooms (bedding provided for you) and each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom. There is a television in each room, communal lounge area and dining room. Please bear in mind that the lodge is in the middle of a “Big 5” game reserve, so therefore one cannot walk outside the boundaries of the garden fence. A swimming pool is situated in the garden for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work.

Three basic meals a day are provided. The meals are basic, for example cereals, porridge and toast for breakfast; sandwiches for lunch and spaghetti bolognaise/ chicken stew/ cottage pie/ pork sausages, veggies and salad for supper. If volunteers wish to add ingredients to meals that are not available to them at the lodge, they can buy it on town trip days at their own expense. Please note, we only cater for people with no dietary requirements as well as for vegetarians. If you have a gluten or dairy allergy for example, you will need to buy your own gluten-free bread or soy milk. Meals that volunteers choose to eat at restaurants on town-trip days, are also at own expense.

You will be booked in to the programme from a Monday to your last Saturday. All volunteer flight arrivals are to be scheduled for Sunday before your start day, you will need to overnight in Kigali if you arrive on a Saturday. (We provide a list of recommended hotels)

On arrival at Kigali International Airport you will have to clear Immigration and collect your baggage. Having collected your baggage, please proceed to arrivals and a Representative will be awaiting your arrival with your name on a signboard, they will then transfer you to Akagera Game Lodge – your new home over the coming weeks.

Most volunteers bring their own mobiles with them. We have Wi-Fi at the lodge so volunteers bringing their own phones, laptops or I-pads/tablets along will be able to gain internet access. Please insure that your mobile phone is unlocked as you can buy a local sim card in Rwanda.

Temperatures range between 24°C and 28°C and average rainfall levels fall to between 750mm. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. Then from June to mid-September is the long dry season; this is generally the best time to visit if you have the choice.
October to November is a shorter rainy season and it’s followed by a short dry season from December to February.
During both of Rwanda’s dry seasons, there is often light cloud cover. This helps to moderate the temperatures, but also occasionally brings light rain showers.

Working hours on the reserve are generally speaking Monday to Friday 08:00am to 5.00pm with an hour or two for lunch (please note working hours are dependent on weather and nature of activity). The evenings and weekends are at leisure.

Most weekend activities can be arranged once you get here and it is up to you how you spend your weekends. Your coordinator can help you arrange your weekend trips and activities.

Weekend taxi fares and additional activities are at your own cost – most of our volunteers make the most of this and choose a different activity every weekend. Please note some activities are on condition that a few others in the group also want to partake in the activity. Below is a list of activities and approximate costs, which have proved popular with past volunteers. This will help you with your budgeting.

Weekend trips and activities include:
Go Gorilla Tracking in Volcanoes National Park which contains 1/3 of all Mountain Gorillas
Visit Kigali’s museums, memorials and churches.
Go primate tracking at Ngungwe National Park which contains 3 more species of primates (Chimpanzee’s, Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys and the endangered Golden monkey)
Go Birding in different areas – Rwanda contains 700 species in just 10,000 square miles.
Tea and Coffee plantation tours – Tea may be Rwanda’s number one export, but the lush, rolling hills of the Rwandan countryside are equally suited to coffee production
Kayaking on Lake Kivu with Kingfisher Journeys
Hike or bike the Congo Nile Trail with Lava Bike Tours

Accommodation
Meals
Airport Transfers
All fieldwork, lectures and community visits

Your Programme

The following is a typical week whilst on your placement at this project:

MONDAY – WEDNESDAY
Community projects:
Beekeeping & honey production project
Tree nursery
Vegetable garden
Aquaculture
Tending the layer hens
Basketry
Arts and crafts
Natural building (learning how to make mud bricks)
English teaching
Reading club
Nature club

THURSDAY – FRIDAY
Overnight camping in Akagera National Park for conservation management and research activities:
Game census
Camera trapping for wildlife research
Soil erosion control
Alien vegetation removal
Raptor identification and recording of sightings
Data entry

SATURDAY – SUNDAY
Leisure time when volunteers can relax at the lodge or arrange excursions to experience more of Rwanda or neighbouring countries.

*Please note that the schedule is subject to change

Comprehensive Information Pack

 

Quick Overview

Country & Area  : Rwanda, Akagera National Park

Nearest Airport  : Kigali International Airport

Transfer Time     : ± 3 hours

Duration              : 2 – 12 weeks

Minimum Age     : 18