Gishwati Mukura National Park

Gishwati Mukura National Park ranks as the fourth national park in Rwanda. Mukura National Park was combined with Gishwati forest to perform a national park currently known as Gishwati Mukura National Park.

Gishwati-Mukura is Rwanda’s newest national park, after Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe Forest. The park is composed of the Gishwati Forest located near Lake Kivu, in the north-western part of Rwanda and the Mukura Forest to the south, the former of which suffered huge deforestation following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when refugees began to clear the forest to make way for farms. The much smaller Mukura Forest was officially protected as a wildlife reserve for over half a century prior to its elevation to national park status, but its area was still reduced by almost 50% during this time as a result of illegal mining and the aforementioned refugee crisis.

Covering around 16000 hectares, the Mukura National Park was transformed into a national park in February 2016, after the Rwandan government passed a law to create a new national park combining the Mukura and Gishwati forests.

Gishwati-Mukura National Park spreads from up in the north of the country near the Volcanoes National Park, all the way down, incorporating the Gishwati and Mukura forests, to Nyungwe Forest. The main reason to establish the Gishwati Mukura National Park was to restore natural forests, plant natural forest by introducing the tree species and protect buffer zone plantations.

Gishwati Mukura National Park will offer incredible biodiversity, providing a corridor for free movement of primates. The park includes a lot of animal species, around 293 reptile species, and around 1000 bird species. It is also home to 5,793 plant species, 60 tree species, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.

Wildlife sightseeing is possible as they support various wildlife animals, some of them that you can see are southern tree hyrax, black-fronted duikers, Red River hogs, besides chimpanzee and other animals such as the mountain monkey, golden monkey, black and white colobus monkeys, and the blue monkeys.

Bird watching is one of the great activities that can be done in Gishwati Mukura National Park. The forests are a home to many species of beautiful birds, 232 species have been seen at Gishwati and 163 at Mukura, seven of Albertine rift endemic species and 2 have been listed on IUCN.

What to do in Gishwati Mukura National Park

There are many reasons why you should visit Gishwati Mukura National Park, the park offers visitors a number of tourist activities including bird-watching, primates viewing, guided nature walks, camping and picnics. Let’s look at these activities in more details:

 

Primates Watching 

Primates provide a joyful experience. As a visitor, you will learn about their whole life in the wilderness, either on ground walking or in branches of trees resting, jumping and even feeding. While visiting the park, you should expect to see golden monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, baboons and off course chimpanzees. In the last two years, Wilderness safaris has embarked on the habituation process for many of the primate families including the chimps. The habituation process ensures that they are no longer afraid of humans to the point of allowing them in their midst. Gishwati-Mukura is soon becoming a leading destination for those who are interested in chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda. Chimpanzee trekking like all park activities starts with a briefing from the park offices about the activity, expectations and what to carry along. While trekking the primates, visitors are almost certain to encounter other forest creatures like wild cats, duikers and forest birds.

 

Bird Watching

Gishwati-Mukura National Park is one of the best places for bird watching in Rwanda.  Over 83 species have been recorded in the park among which include 15 species that can only be found in the Albertine Rift like the Grey Crowned Crane, Martial Eagle, Mountain Yellow Warblers, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Weaver birds, Wood hoopoes, Strange weavers and the Stripe-breasted Tit. Birding can be done on foot because the park is not very large. It is important to hire the services of an experienced Guide from the park office to help with identifying the various species and getting to the best birding spots.

 

Cultural Encounters 

Cultural encounters in Gishwati involves visits to the local communities or individual homesteads. While with the local community or individual homestead, visitors can learn how to make local crafts and prepare traditional foods. You can choose to visit the local farmers in their gardens or stay for a night in one of the homes to experience the kind of life lived by the locals. Alternatively, you can choose to go and attend local cultural performances including dance, drama, songs and storytelling. If you are more adventurous, you could visit one of the traditional healers and learn how herbs are collected from the forests to cure common human ailments. The Great Ape Trust has partners with the Rwanda Development Board to support cultural dances, drama promote local art.

 

Hiking and Guided Nature walks

This is an insightful walk inside the park along the trails that enter less disturbed forest, darker, and more humid areas. The park has several trails that allow tourist to explore the inner parts of the forest. While on a nature walk at the Gishwati Mukura National Park, you will have an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of the forest and its creatures like butterflies, chameleons, insects, birds and primates. You will be captivated by the quiet environment in the forest which is characterized by beautiful sounds from the birds and primate calls. Over 60 species of trees can be sighted here including bamboos, ferns, Macaranga kilimand, mahogany and orchids. One of the best hiking trails is the one that leads to the kazeneza waterfall in the middle of the park. This beautiful waterfall and the scenery around it will impress anyone who sees it.

 

Biking or Cycling through the Congo Nile Trail 

This trail provides one of the best biking experiences in East Africa. The trail was designed to pass along the shorelines of Lake Kivu and then through Nyungwe forest. The Congo Nile Trail is close to Gishwati-Mukura National Park offering visitors a change to explore rural Rwanda and study how life in rural Africa looks like.

WhEN TO VISIT Gishwati Mukura National Park

Gishwati-Mukura National Park has a lovely temperate climate making it perfect for touring at any time of the year. The park experiences two wet seasons and two dry seasons, and we recommend that you plan your trip during the June-to-September dry season as the best season to visit the Gishwati-Mukura Park. Trekking the forests in search of chimpanzees and other primates is a more pleasurable experience in the dry season, since there is a lower probability of an impromptu shower and lesser likelihood of having to deal with muddy tracks, mosquitoes, and other bugs. The dry season is also perfect for exploring the forests, since it coincides with the summer months in the northern hemisphere. You may also choose to visit during the short dry season, which lasts from mid-December to mid-February.

One can also visit the park during the long rains, which fall from the middle of February to the end of May, or the short rains, which last for three months from October to the middle of December. Gishwati-Mukura National Park takes on an unmatched beauty during this time, with the rain bringing fresh green vegetation and lushness to the forests. You may even find that locating the primates takes less time during the wet season, since food is more readily available for them at lower elevations.

HOW TO GET To Gishwati Mukura National Park

There are many ways one can access Gishwati-Mukura National Park for different tourism activities

By Road, Rubavu-Kivu-Goma-Karongi-Rusizi-Gishwati Mukura national park, this takes about 2 hours

Kampala- Mbarara- Kabale Gishwati Mukura National park. This takes you about 11 hours. Using this route, you expect to see animals in Lake Mburo National Park, River Katonga in Masaka and the beautiful landscape of Kisoro and Kabale

From Kigali town, it’s about 84 Kilometers taking you about 3 hours to reach the park. It can also be accessed from Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Bwindi impenetrable national park from Uganda

By water. Visitors are expected to use a boat at Kivu Lake then meet booked cars to reach the park where they can have the opportunity to see different water animals like crocodiles’ hippos and fish among others.

By Air, there are chartered flights available at Kigali international airport and from Gisenyi Airport to Gishwati Mukura National park for adventure.