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The North Gate of the Akagera Park now re-opens under conditions




Ms Sarah Hall


In May this year, heavy rains caused flooding and significant road damage on the access route to the north gate which required the park management to close this entrance to Akagera National Park.


Although the closure was unforeseen, it forced Akagera Management Company (AMC) to consider the future of the north of the park and how best to approach the plans for this area consistent with the long-term vision and conservation objectives for the park. Following extensive discussions, AMC has taken the decision to re-open the north gate as an exit only gate from November 1st 2013, this decision received board approval in September.
Visitor numbers for the park has increased rapidly over the past three years, with a 51% increase overall in visitor numbers from 2010 – 2012. Increasing visitation has meant a higher number of vehicles concentrating in the northern part of the park which is widely considered the most special. However, for it to remain this way, stronger regulations on activities, and enforcement of these regulations, are required to limit the impact on this ecologically sensitive area.
The decision to keep the north gate as an exit gate only is being taken for the following reasons:
•    To reduce the visitor numbers concentrating in the north of the park for the conservation integrity of the area;
•    to better control the negative impact of activities in this area, such as off-roading;
•    better monitoring of tourist entry, exits and administration;
The long-term vision is for the north of Akagera to become a limited-use area for high-value, low-impact tourism which will mean limiting numbers but attracting higher revenue from activities conducted in this area. This concept was approved by the AMC Board of Directors as part of the tourism development plan presented in 2011 and is consistent with Rwanda’s tourism policy. As of January 1st 2014, we will be implementing a restriction on the number of vehicle allowed to be in the north and exit from this gate. A bookings system will be in place, which will include a booking fee per vehicle, further details of which will be shared. Any remaining places will be given on a first come, first serve basis. The restriction will be enforced through increased signage and a system of fining for unauthorised entry, as well as for any disregard of the general park rules, with on-the-spot fines.



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