Nyungwe Forest National Park, Tucked away in the middle of tea Plantations, Nyungwe National Park established as a forest reserve in 1903 by the German colonial government, destroyed in 1994 due to genocide and later revived and declared a national park in the year 2004 by the Rwandan government is Rwanda’s most important area of biodiversity in addition to being the biggest and the most preserved mountain rain forest on the African continent. Catching a glimpse of this forest from a distant position makes it a bit deceptive in its vastness. It is home to over 1000 plant species, 13 species of primates, 75 species of other mammals, at least 275 species of birds and an astounding 120 species of butterflies.
Covering an area of about 1020 sq.km with an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level, Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the Southwestern part of Rwanda bordered by Burundi border in the South, Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west direction of the park. This vast unspoilt rain forest receives an annual 2000mm of rain.
Nyungwe’sutmost drawcard is the opportunity to trek and spend some time with the habituated chimpanzees. While chimps tend to grab the spotlight here, sightings of troops of monkeys, including Angolan colobi, Dent’s monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys and diademed monkeys, are virtually guaranteed.
Just like Gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking, starts in the morning after briefing and allocation of groups. Carrying a back pack containing a couple of bottled water and accompanying snack, Insect repellants as well as rain gears, wearing long trousers,long sleeved shirt, and hiking boots is highly recommended.
Chimpanzees may pale in size when compared to the hulking masses of the mountain gorillas, but there is no denying the affinity that we humans have for chimpanzees. Sharing an estimated 94% of our genetic material, chimps display an incredible range of human-like behaviours ranging from tool use to waging war. Just like gorilla trekking, you need to be prepared for lengthy hikes that can take up to several hours.
Besides chimpanzee trekking, one can as well trek the grey cheeked Mangabeys and Rwenzori colobus Monkeys in Nyungwe Forest. These are spotted in large groups close to 300 members.
In the course of trekking either the chimpanzees or the colobus monkeys, one is most likely to bump into other monkey species along the trek including; L’ Hoest’s monkeys, the Owl faced monkeys, Mona monkeys and the blue monkeys. There have been sightings of the golden monkeys although these allegations have not been confirmed.
Relive your Indiana Jones fantasies on the first tree top forest canopy walk in East Africa and the third in all Africa. The 160m-long and 70m-high canopy is another big drawcard for visitors after something unusual. As you traverse on this metallic suspension bridge, you will certainly appreciate the jungle from this unique monkey’s-eye perspective as you spot the monkeys roam around in the tree tops and a glimpse at an array of birds that are flying above and below you to the hands reach.
Nyungwe forest national park bares the legendary status among birdwatchers in East Africa, and is by far Rwanda’s top spot for birdwatchingwith over 300 bird species of which 27 species are Albertine Rift Valley endemics including Grauer’s Warbler spotted around the mountain swamps ofKamiranzovou. You can also spot the rwenzori Turaco and the large blue Turaco. Other bird species include; sun birds of all kinds like the purple breasted and the blue headed sun bird to mention but a few.
Nyungwe national park is also a hiker’s paradisewith a number of superb walking trails that mostly begin at the Uwinka Reception Centre with others starting at Kitabi Booking Office also they are much less known than the ones around Uwinka. There are 13 hiking trails with over 130 kilometers of the trails through the forest. Some of these include; Isumo waterfall trail, Kamiranzovu trail, Buhoro trail, Imbaraga trail, Igishigishigi trail, Umuyove trail as well as Irebero trail.
These hikes take a duration of1-8 hours in length. Reasonable physical fitness is recommended before taking up thesehikes. Hiking in Nyungwe Forest is a discovery treasure in a primeval rain forest with astonishing fairy tale like appearance vegetation, alluring wildlife including mesmerizing birds, the incredible as well as beautiful butterflies.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is sliced in two by the Huye–Cyangugu road. Visitors can access the park through either the Kitabi Booking Office, on the eastern boundary of the park, or the Gisakura Booking Office, which lies at the western end of the park. Both offices lie along this road. Accessibility of the gracious park is either from Kigali or Rubavu. Taking a route from Kigali passing through Muahnga and Ngororero districts to Gisakura visitor reception center covers a distance of 218Km about 4:40 hours by road.
The Kigali-Nyanza-Nyungwe national park at Uwinka visitor reception center covers 225Km about 5 hours of driving. While the Rubavu route through Karongi town and then to Nyungwe arriving at Gisakura visitor reception center covers a distance of 191Km which is about 4hrs drive.
One can also access Nyungwe national park by air travel. Akagera aviation offers charter flights starting from Kigali international airport and landing at Kamembe airport or One and Only Nyungwe house helipad. This takes about 50 Minutes. Rwanda air also organizes scheduled flights to Kamembe airstrip twice a week
We have a number of accommodation facilities patched in Nyungwe National Park to offer amazing and unmatched hotel stays ranging from luxury ones, the midrange and the budget hotels for those on a tight budget. One thing worth mentioning is that is that, no matter where you spend the night, you will still have an amazing time especially when you meet the primates or go for any other activity offered there. Some of the hotels include; Nyungwe forest lodge, One and Only Nyungwe house (Luxury), Nyungwe top view hill hotel, Mantis marina bay hotel, Nyungwenziza eco-lodge (Midrange), Gisakura family hostel, Kitabi eco center, Gisakura guest house (Budget).