Ruzizi Tented Lodge: Our full report
Since it was opened in 2012, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, has proved a welcome addition to Akagera National Park.It’s a simple, eco-friendly lodge located within the park itself, in a good position to explore the varying landscapes of Akagera.
Ruzizi is located on the shores of Lake Ihema, which is Rwanda's second- largest lake. The lodge has been built in harmony with its environment, so trees grow through gaps in the roof, and the walkways are molded around the vegetation. In keeping with its aim of minimum impact on the environment, it is entirely powered by solar, and also has a minimal-plastic policy, with drinking water in the camp served in recycled glass bottles.
In the main area, the reception leads to a small bar area, with comfortable seating in close proximity to the lake; if you can’t see the hippos, you’ll no doubt hear them from here! An indoor dining area for those rainy days is decorated in earthy tones, with splashes of colour from traditional woven baskets fixed to the walls, and bright paintings by local artists.
Moving outside, an outdoor pizza oven is located next to the path, which leads to a large deck with lovely views of the lake. In good weather, meals are served here and on our last visit in 2019, we found it a perfect spot to listen to the hippos, or watch the stars. There is a central firepit to keep you warm on cool evenings.
Raised walkways lead to Ruzizi’s tents, which are spread throughout the grounds, all separate from one another. Low wire fences stop hippos or other animals from getting to the tents, and there is a fence around the perimeter of the lodge to discourage larger animals from wandering through.
Each of the nine tents has an en-suite bathroom (with hot running water), a dressing area and a queen-size bed, or two small doubles. Each also has a private patio at the front, with a carved wooden table and canvas directors’ chairs. A large wooden chest houses thick blankets for any colder nights. The tents are comfortable, but functional as opposed to stylish.
The focus of activities at Ruzizi is the relatively unvisited Akagera National Park, with guided game drives and boat safaris, though fishing is possible. Although it would be mis-leading to compare Akagera to the likes of the Serengeti, wildlife numbers have been rapidly improving over recent years. Plains game such as impala, zebra and topi are commonly seen, as are crocodile and hippo. Hyena, jackal and leopard are present, too – although more elusive! The re-introduction of 18 black rhino and an additional two male lions in 2017 means that Akagera is now home to the ‘big five’ (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). On our last visit we had wonderful buffalo and elephant sightings very close to Ruzizi Camp, and spotted lion further into the park. With African Parks continued management we are extremely confident that game sightings will only continue to improve.
The birdlife in Akagera is particularly fantastic, we saw brown-throated wattle eye in camp, and on our guided boat safari, and we were able to spot different species of egret and stork along the lake shores, crowned cranes with a family of tiny chicks, and the beautiful malachite kingfisher.
African Parks have trained up a team of freelance guides from local communities, and they offer a range of alternative activities for guests in Akagera, including cultural visits to local communities and villages and a behind-the-scenes tour of the park headquarters. They also offer an opportunity called ‘Walk the Line’ when, along with a trained guide and armed scout, you’ll walk 7km along the national park fence line, and learn how the fence works and its importance for the park and the local community.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge is a simple but comfortable safari lodge, with a commendable eco policy. The food is excellent, considering the location and the power sources, and the location beautiful and serene. Staff are friendly and offer efficient service. This is our top pick of the accommodation in the Akagera area for those on a tighter budget and makes a nice stop as part of a longer trip around Rwanda.
- Akagera National Park, Rwanda
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay here for two nights to explore Akagera National Park. Ruzizi also combines nicely, in season, with its sister camp, Karenge Mobile Bush Camp. A night at each allows you to make the most of the park; call us for more details regarding the bush camping.
- Akagera is about 2–3 hours drive from Kigali, with the last 10–15km on gravel roads.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- During our last visit to Ruzizi in 2019, the food was excellent, especially considering the remote location and limited power resources. Both meat and vegetarian options are available.
Breakfast is served from 5.30am, either out on the deck or in the dining room; we enjoyed our breakfast watching the sun rise over the lake. The menu includes fresh fruit, pancakes, french toast, and eggs to order, accompanied by juice, tea and coffee.
Generally you will be provided with a packed lunch – which for our full day in the park included sandwiches, crisps, fruit and home-made chocolate muffins. For those staying in camp, there’s a limited à la carte lunch menu, with a variety of freshly prepared wraps and burgers.
Dinner is a set menu, preceded at around 7.00pm by drinks and snacks around the fire. We had arancini with mozzarella and chorizo to start, followed by a choice of chili con carne or chicken curried in a peanut sauce, each served with plenty of rice and vegetables. A light and creamy passion fruit cheesecake was perfect to finish the meal.
- Akagera is a bird rich area with over 450 savannah and water birds recorded here. It is one of the best places in East Africa to observe papyrus endemics. Head out on a boat safari to try and spot the papyrus gonolek or the highly elusive shoebill.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions.
- Special activities & services
- Camp beds are provided but not cots.
- Generally recommended for children
- We would recommend Ruzizi for children over 10 years. Although there are wire fences around the camp, there are still hippos and crocodiles here, and large gaps at the edge of the walkways make them unsuitable for smaller children.
- Children should be supervised at all times as there are hippos and crocodiles around camp.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ruzizi Tented Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ruzizi Tented Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Batteries can be charged in the tents, or in reception.
- The cellphone signal is limited, but there is a phone at reception for guest use.
- TV & radio
- None. there is no WiFi.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The bathrooms have fully plumbed hot and cold showers, and flush toilets.
Minimising water waste
Ruzizi Tented Lodge is an intimate and luxurious lodge, nestled under large palms and fruiting fig trees, in the beautiful Akagera National Park - home to rare and unique species. It is also the largest wetland in central Africa, providing guests with plenty of opportunities to sit back and enjoy the vast networks of lakes, species of birds, mammals and plants.
Water conservation is a priority at Ruzizi considering the water scarcity in Central Africa. Guests are informed about the importance of water conservation and asked kindly to consider the topic when making use of their ensuite showers. Each guest is allocated 40 litres of hot water per day which is heated by a solar-powered water system, thus ensuring a comfortable experience at minimum environmental costs. Water at Ruzizi is also pumped out of a borehole using the lodge’s solar energy which is safe for consumption.
Additional efforts to minimise water waste include introducing a policy within the laundry department that stipulates how guest bed-linen is changed every two days during and fresh towels are replaced only if placed on the floor.
See more great sustainability projects in Rwanda
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- A first-aid kit is located in the reception, and staff are first-aid trained. The nearest hospital, in Kayonza, is a 30-minute drive away.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guards patrol the site throughout the day, and are on hand to accompany guests to and from their tents at night.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are located in each tent, and in the main area, and staff are trained in their use.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A 24-hour laundry service is available, at extra cost.
- Each tent has an individual safe.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Cash payments may be made in US dollars or Rwandan francs, or bills can be settled via bank transfer before departure.
Other lodges in Akagera National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.