Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, rich in biodiversity and spectacularly beautiful. The Park is the largest remaining tract of montane rainforest in East Africa extending up to 1015 square kilometres over the southwest of Rwanda. Nyungwe Forest forms a contiguous forest block with Kibira National Park of Burundi which is about 370 square kilometres. Nyungwe Forest is an important catchment area in Rwanda, supplying water to up to 70% of the country. Located in the south western part of Rwanda, the park borders Burundi to the south and Lake Kivu in the west.
Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a national park in 2004. The nearest town to the park is Cyangugu only 54km to the west. The Park is predominantly made of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs.
Nyungwe Forest is a marvel of its own stature; it is remarkably rich in biodiversity. Nyungwe Forest is indeed a botanist’s marvel with about 1068 plant species, 250 Albertine endemics and 140 orchids. The park has about 322 species of birds like the red-collared babbler and 29 Albertine Rift endemics, 120 species of butterflies, about 75 known mammals, for example, the Congo clawless otter, 32 amphibians and 38 reptiles.
The National Park is widely known for its primates that flaunt the park. There are about 13 primate species in the park like the grey-cheeked mangabeys, L’Hoests monkey, Ruwenzori colobus, among so many others with the chimpanzees being the most sought after. There are an estimated 500-1000 chimpanzees in the park with 2 groups habituated allowing chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
The National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Rwanda. Travellers have a lot of attractions that they can see while in the park say the birds, chimpanzees, various monkey species, plant life, and so much more.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest
Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe is the most done activity by a number of tourists who visit Rwanda on a Rwanda safari. It is only in Nyungwe Forest that chimpanzee tracking can be done. There are only 2 habituated chimpanzee groups in Nyungwe Forest National Park that travellers can track. Travellers are allowed only one hour with the chimpanzees once encountered in their natural habitat.
Canopy walk in Nyungwe
A canopy walk in Nyungwe is one activity that has travellers getting a bird’s eye view of the tropical forest. Travellers get to walk on a 200m long metallic walkway suspended between higher slopes and giant trees about 1km from Uwinka. The metallic walkway has a maximum height of 40 metres, giving travellers a splendid sight of the park below them. While on the canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park, travellers get to sight a number of animals like chimpanzees, various monkey species, birds among so much more the park has to offer.
There is a variety of monkeys in Nyungwe Forest that travellers on a Rwanda safari tour visiting the park can see. A monkey tracking adventure has travellers seeing a number of these monkey species like the Mona monkeys, Dent’s monkey, silver monkeys, Ruwenzori colobus, grey cheeked mangabeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, and Owl faced monkey, among so many others.
Hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Hiking in Nyungwe Forest is an activity that has travellers exploring the park in great detail and learn of almost all t has to offer. With the numerous walking trails in Nyungwe Forest, travellers can have guided hiking trails to explore the park extensively. Some of these trails are rather strenuous and very challenging that they require some level of fitness to conquer them. Among the famous hiking trails in Nyungwe Forest National Park are the Bigugu trail, Ngabwe trail, Kamiranzovu trail, Karamba trail, and so many more. All of them have different sights that make them unique and worth taking.
Birding in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest is a true birders’ haven not with well over 322 species of birds that roam the park, with about 27 of them being Albertine endemics. Of the Albertine Rift endemics, three of them namely the red collared, Rockefeller’s sunbird and the Albert owlet are unregistered elsewhere on the eastern side of the Albertine Rift Valley. Birding in Nyungwe Forest National Park is very rewarding to birders and if keen enough, they could spot about 100 birds in a day, in the guidance of a bird guide through well-developed trails.
Nyungwe Forest can be accessed by both road and by air. Cyamudongo is a recent annex to the park and is only 1 hour from Gisakura reception centre just outside the main boundaries of Nyungwe Forest National Park. The park is approximately 230km from Kigali, taking about 5 hours of the drive. The drive is rather scenic and has a number of en-route activities that travellers can make stops for like visiting Nyanza King’s Palace, national museum, Gikongoro genocide memorial centre, among others. RwandAir organises charter flights to Nyungwe Forest National Park for those travellers that would rather do without the long road drive.
The park can be visited all year long, but most advised to be visited during the dry season that runs through the months of June to August and December to February. The other months are considered wet but travellers still can visit the park. For the fact that the park is a rainforest, it can rain any time of the day, irrespective of the season.
Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest caters for any type of traveller. There are lodges in and around the park that can fit any traveller’s budget. There are luxury, mid-range and basic accommodation facilities that travellers can book and stay in, some of them including Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Family Hotel, among others. Safety, service and comfort are guaranteed but vary as per one’s budget, that is; travellers shouldn’t expect luxury comfort from a very basic type of accommodation.
The Park is a great park that any traveller on a Rwanda safari tour should consider visiting, and be able to take part in activities like chimpanzee tracking and bird watching as well as canopy walking. Combining gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park with chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is done by many travellers on a Rwanda safari. Get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you plan for a wonderful and memorable Rwanda safari.