Nyungwe forest national park is an ancient montane rainforest covering about 1000 sq km in the south west of Rwanda. The park is easily accessible from Kigali about 255 km; other safaris connect to the park from Cyangugu community forest and Butare town known for its genocide museums.
The park is famous for its biodiversity of wildlife especially largest population of primates in Africa including chimpanzees and the biggest troop of black and white Colobus monkey in Africa.
At least 13 species of primates have been recorded and about 75 mammals including several carnivores such as leopards, civets, genet, golden cats, jackals, tree hyrax as well as forest buffalos, forest hogs, bush pigs and duikers.
Being one of the largest and oldest montane rainforests, it’s a permanent water catchment area and stays ever green and wet throughout the year. The forest has over 100 species of orchids, tree ferns and 260 species of trees including rare lobelias. Rare species of reptiles like three horned chameleon and over 120 species of butterflies make it a nature researcher’s dream destination.
It’s amazing the park offers all year round adventure activities attracting many safaris including chimpanzee tracking safaris, bird watching trips, specialist wildlife research tours, hiking, nature walks, and nature photography among others.
Activities in the park
Chimpanzee tracking is the main tourist activity and requires active hiking through the forests. Nyungwe forest national park has over 400 chimpanzees including 2 habituated communities. Trekking starts early at 08:00AM, hence visitors need report at Uwinka visitor center and another at Cyangugu community forest center to meet guides for briefing.
Along chimpanzee tracking, other primates can be encountered until chimps are located for one hour close viewing and photography. After the trek, visitors can connect to local communities for a cultural experience at Banda and Kitabi cultural villages.
Visitors planning a chimps tracking safari in Nyungwe forest need to book chimpanzee permits with tour operators and Rwandan development board. The board has tourist campsites and a rest house at Uwinka, the main center where trekking co
Nyungwe forest national park’s diverse habitats including montane forests, swamps and rivers due to its location in the Albertine rift valley boats a checklist of about 310 species of birds. at least 27 birds are endemic to the Albertine rift valley and because the forest attracts migratory birds, it’s an important birding area (IBA).
Birding trips in the park cover a number of trails in and around the forest. Most of the birds are forest birds and spotting them takes time in the forest due to thick canopies. Birders can book their birding trips and also hire guides at Uwinka visitor center.
Canopy walks in Nyungwe forest national park started in 2010 to give visitors amazing elevated views of the forest as well as spotting birds, butterflies, primates living on top of trees. Hanging canopy walk ways range from 60 meters to 90 meters above the ground, including those for children above six years of age are conducted all year round.
Visitors need to have rain gears or hire them at the start because of the wet mist and coldness. The Rwandan development board guides, lead visitors to various trails including the most popular 14 k
Igishigishigi trail – Hiking and nature walking
Hiking on foot through different landscape sections of Nyungwe forest is the best way to appreciate nature and wildlife. Hiking trails range from one day to multi-day hiking and picnic, camping opportunities with facilities along such as shops, food and beverage as well as visiting coffee making villages and tea estates.
Some of the trails take visitors to the interior of the forest, with ancient swamps and trees, waterfalls and wildlife spotting such as reptiles, insects, chimpanzees and other primates, birds, butterflies and refreshing air.
The most famous hiking trail is the Congo-Nile dive trail which takes hikers to the separating ridges of Great River Nile and River Congo.
Local Community visits
There are Local villages which have benefited from tourism business supporting their economic wellbeing as well as conservation in and at the eastern edge of the park. For visitors looking for a Rwandan traditional cultural experience, look no further than Banda and Katabi cultural villages offering an overnight stay at a traditional hut accommodation, local cuisine including fire place dance and music.
Banda cultural village is located in the middle of the park; about 15 kilometers from the canopy walk point at Uwinka visitor center. Visitors to this village experience Rwandan culture by undertaking village walks and participating in activities such as food preparation, natural and traditional healing, pottery and fire making and folklore.
Kitabi cultural village is another interesting cultural village to experience Rwandan rural culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the park and offers day trips as well as overnight stays.
The village Bandas featuring a restaurant and campsite from where to stay and embark on village walks. With a local guide, visitors can learn different local skills such as banana beer brewing, local food preparation, basket weaving and craft making, medicinal plant administration, cultural dances and storytelling.
Visiting cultural villages is a way of supporting economic growth and conservation of Rwanda’s wildlife in Nyungwe forest national park while a diverse cultural experience is guaranteed for visitors.
Colobus monkey tracking visitors are escorted by armed rangers into the forest to search for the black and white Colobus monkeys. Nyungwe forest is a home to stronghold troops of 400 Colobus monkeys often times called Rwenzori Colobus. Rwandan development board has habituated some of the troops for tourists to track and see which consist of over 200 individuals.
Visitors have a range of option accommodation near and within the park for overnight stays for instance Gisakura and Nyungwe forest lodge. Visitors need to transfer very early to Uwinka the park headquarters because most activities start at 08:00 am in the morning.
To get to Nyungwe in the southwestern corner of Rwanda, you will need a 4WD vehicle to travel for 4-5 hours covering about 225 km of road from Kigali city. The journey passes through several towns with amazing stopovers such as the Nyanza king’s palace and the national museum which display Rwanda’s culture.
Nyungwe can also be accessed from Cyangugu town about 50 km and 90 km from the town of Butare.
Visitors can also get to Nyungwe by charter flights that fly from Kigali to kamembe air port which near Nyungwe forest lodges and from there you can arrange transport to the park’s headquarters uwinka within the shortest time.