Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park
Lake Ihema in Akagera National Park is the most visited lake in Akagera national park. The Lake Ihema is the second largest lake in Rwanda and that is after the Lake Kivu that is Rwanda’s biggest water body. Akagera national park is Rwanda’s only savannah park where you can visit to view the wildlife. Rwanda has quite a rich nature composition of flora and fauna that can be visited in the various parts of the country that is the trees, rivers, lakes, wetlands with the game animals and the primates.
The country is popular majorly because of the mountain gorilla species living in the Volcanoes national park along with other primate life of the golden monkeys and chimpanzees that can both be visited in the Volcanoes national park and the Nyungwe forest national park.
The Lake Ihema is found in the Kayonza district located in the southern part of the Akagera national park and the lake on which the boat trips of the park are carried out. The lake Ihema is sitted on an area of about 100 square kilometers which is abit smaller than the country’s largest lake, Lake Kivu that is shared by both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and 16 feet deep on an average but can go to a maximum depth of 23 feet down. The Lake Ihema is at an altitude of 1,292 meters. If you are to consider the lakes entirely in the country, then Lake Ihema is the largest lake entirely in the country.
Lake Ihema is not the only lake in the area but the other lakes of Akagera national park are much smaller as compared to this one. All these lakes get their waters from the Akagera River of which this Akagera River is a branch from the River Nile, the world’s longest river. This branch of the River nile starts all the way south from Burundi to the lake Ihema and connects further Tanzania that is bordering the Akagera national park. This national park derived its name from this famous Kagera River and this River Kagera and Lake Ihema are marked as the border line between Rwanda and Tanzania.
While on Lake Ihema, there is quite a number of water animals that you will get to see as well as the bird and these are majorly the hippos, crocodiles for the water animals while for the most commonly viewed birds while on Lake Ihema are the shoebill stork, herons, papyrus gonelek, plovers, hawks sandpipers, malachite kingfishers, jacanas to mention but a few. The Lake Ihema was recognized by the Ramsar wetland protection association as a place of Bird Importance because of the big numbers of birds that can be spotted on a boat trip on the lake Ihema.
The major vegetation found on this lake is papyrus and a papyrus swamp surrounds the lake and is seasonal and this makes the ideal home for the wildlife of the lake as they are favored by the presence of a wetland. This lake is however threatened by the growing water hyacinth which keeps spreading out on the lake on almost a daily basis and this has led to the death of a number of the water animals as it is not favorable for the animals. The water hyacinth covers the whole water surface area limiting the flow of oxygen in the water also reduces the amount of phosphate in the waters eventually suffocating the water life resulting into death or less reproduction of new life in the lake.
Lake Ihema is considered a protected area as it is located within the Akagera national park of Rwanda. This means any form of human intervention on the resources is prohibited and this includes fishing as well. The lake Ihema has fish but according to the law that was passed in 1934, no fishing is allowed on the Lake Ihema whether by visitors to the park or the local communities around the park.
How to get to Lake Ihema?
Lake Ihema is found within the Akagera national park so you will have to connect from Kigali on a 2 hour road transfer to the gates of the park or book a minibus to the park but ensure to keep in mind if you opt for a bus as these are not scheduled and set off at any time and chances of missing your scheduled boat trip.
The different scheduled times for a boat trip on Lake Ihema are 7:30 am to 8:30 am and 9:00 to 10:00am for the morning trips and for the afternoon trips, there is a 3:00 pm to 4:00pm boat cruise and a 4:30pm to 6:00 pm for the sunset trip. You can however opt to arrange a private boat trip and this is usually done in the time lag of 10:30 am to 1:30pm where there is no scheduled boat and you book the entire boat not per person if you opt for these hours.
Be sure to take on a brief game drive before you exit the park to see the land animals of the park and top up on the water life seen on the boat cruise. Spend a night in the park and transfer back to Kigali the next day after the game drive. You can check out the Akagera game lodge for budget and midrange accommodation, Karenge bush camp as well for the midrange or if you are looking for a luxurious night stay then you may check yourself into the Rusizi tented camp or furthermore the Magashi tented camp.
Besides the boat cruise and game drive, there is much more to do in the area like a behind the scenes tour, walk the line experience or visit the local community for a cultural experience. The Lake Ihema boat cruise can be a relaxing activity to sit back and enjoy the nature in their habitats especially after a long day game drive or from primate trekking in other national parks of the country. Get in touch with us to book you’re your ideal visit to Akagera national park.