Nyungwe Forest National Park – Best for Chimpanzee Trekking
The Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi, to the south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The Nyungwe rainforest is probably the best-preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources.
Nyungwe Forest National Park was established in 2004 and covers an area of approximately 970 km2 of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park’s borders.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Chimpanzee trekking is the most tourist activity in the Nyungwe Forest National Park. The national park is a home to large population of chimpanzees, the closest relatives to human beings sharing approximately 98% of human DNA. The chimpanzees live in different families each family headed by one dominant who leads the group. They demonstrate different roles in a family with the females nursing and taking care of the young ones, the males protecting the family, and the young ones playing and feeding. All this is so interesting that no traveler to Rwanda should miss out.
All travelers must have a valid trekking permit as a pass to see and interact with these gentle giants for an hour. Also, travelers are reminded to keep a distance of seven meters away from the chimpanzees to avoid the spread of human-wildlife diseases such as cough ad flue since chimpanzees are closer relatives to human beings and hence susceptible to human diseases. Primate species include the Common chimpanzee, Ruwenzori colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, Silver monkey, Golden monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, Red-tailed monkey, Dent’s mona monkey, Vervet monkey, Olive baboon, Grey-cheeked mangabey
Monkey trekking is another interesting and highly participated activity and the national park is home to the two threatened species of monkeys which are the owl-faced monkey and the golden monkey. The most celebrated of Nyungwe’s primates is the Ruwenzori Colobus which is a highly arboreal and acrobatic leaf-eater, easily distinguished from any other primate found in Nyungwe by its contrasting black overall color and snow-white whiskers, shoulders, and tail tip. The colobus monkeys in Nyungwe forest national park typically move in troops of several hundred animals.
Nyugwe forest national park has over 270 bird species and is the best birding spot in Rwanda. Out of the total bird population in Nyungwe forest, 121 are forest birds while 27 are endemic to the Albertine rift valley. The most spotted birds in Nyungwe forest national park include Rockefellers sunbird, Chapin’s flycatcher, Great blue Turaco, red collared mountain babbler, Rera grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, white-tailed flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, barred long-tailed cuckoo, Rwenzori nigh jar, Rwenzori hill babler, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Congo bay owlet, mountain sooty boubu, and the Neumann’s warbler among others. Experienced guides help in spotting these birds as well as explaining the unique characters of each spotted bird in the forest.
Nature walks and Hiking
To explore and enjoy the beauty of Nyungwe forest is by taking a hike through the forest on an extensive network of well-maintained walking trails that lead you through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points and the park has over 13 hiking trails, which are approximately 130 kilometers, which lead travelers into the interior of the forest. The hiking trails include Igishigishigi trail, Bigugu trail, Ngabwe trail, Isumo waterfall trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Karamba birding trail, Source of the Nile trail, Irebero trail, Muzimu trail, Imbaraga trail, Congo Nile trail, Umoyove trail, and Rukuzi trail among others. Some trails are long while others are short hence providing a chance to all kinds of travelers to enjoy any f the hikes depending on one’s physical fitness and the ability to hike. Depending on which trail a traveler follows, a forest walk in Nyungwe forest national park can as be short as three hours to as long as 3 days. A hike through the forest helps travelers to enjoy a peaceful calm environment while listening to the sweet sounds of birds singing up in the trees which melodies keep running in the minds of travelers.
Nyungwe forest national park is believed to have the biggest canopy walk in East Africa which is 50 meters above the ground level and 200 meters long. The canopy is a steep and deep valley across a massive forest. The canopy walk has its towers and is a hanging platform that provides travelers with a clear view of different animal species in eye-to-eye contact. All animals and bird species that live in the upper scale of the tropical rainforest are accessed by travelers which is not the case in other national parks that have no canopy walks. Every traveler to Rwanda should not miss out on the canopy walk because it will reward you with a thrilling experience that lasts for a lifetime.
Accommodations in Nyungwe Forest National Park
There are different accommodation facilities and hotels available in Nyungwe national park ranging from luxury ones to midrange, and cheaper budget hotels. 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
Nyungwe forest lodge is situated in a tea plantation close to the Nyungwe forest with 5-star accommodations in the region and the best facilities in Rwanda. The lodge has luxury facilities such as a gym and a swimming pool, and rooms, one of them even has a Jacuzzi and overlooks the forest canopy so you are guaranteed some good views of the scenery in the area. There is access to WIFI, and telephone services, so you can communicate to people back home. There are also sate-lite TVs in the rooms to keep you in touch with the rest of the world. Guests at the lodge have the opportunity to go chimpanzee tracking, go on guided walking through Nyungwe forest and enjoy the canopy walk and bird watching in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Gisakura Guest House
This guest house is found about 2 km from the park and is located close to the Gisakura tea estate along the road to Rusizi with comfortable accommodation for people working within smaller budgets. The facility offers opportunities to visit chimpanzees, the canopy walkway, bird watching, and hikes along different trails. For meals the guest house offers breakfast, lunch dinner, and carry away snacks can be arranged if you are planning to spend the day out in the national park. Food and drinks are included in Full board and security is tight as there is very minimal risk of encounters with wild animals.
Nyungwe Top View Hotel
Nyungwe Top view hotel offers pretty good accommodation close to the park and is only a five minutes drive. Nyungwe forest national park and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali and has some very amazing views of Nyungwe forest. Accommodation here is in cottages furnished with only necessary furniture with a dining area, a lounge and Meals are covered in full board costs and you can either dine inside or outside.
The hotel is connected to the electric power grid and power is always, on so you do not have to worry about spending nights in the dark. Security is good as there is no danger of wild animals and the hotel provides a driver to take you around the park and the various places you might want to visit.
Chimpanzees are trekked in the rainforest and usually in the morning hours, therefore rain might fall at any time whether it’s a dry season or not, and therefore rain jacket should come handy. A poncho can also be worn; most trackers, rangers and porters wear it. If you are carrying one, carry a light one which you can easily fold and kip in your bag pack until you need it the next time.