Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National park is located in the western Great Rift Valley southwest of Rwanda towards the border with Burundi, south of Lake Kivu and west of Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is also found in Rusizi district located in the southwestern part of Uganda. 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 borders. In October 2020, the Rwanda Development Board signed an agreement with African Park to assume management of Nyungwe National Park for an initial 20 years.

Nyungwe is well known for chimpanzee trekking, the park has only 2 chimpanzee groups habituated in it, the small group has 30 chimpanzees and these are trekked in Cyamudongo forest area of the park. The larger group has about 60 chimpanzees habituated in it. Nyungwe forest is Africa’s largest and 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 is gifted by nature with a wide diversity of animal species in Africa. There are about 1,068 plant species, among them over 200 species are trees and 248 species of Orchids, and other new species are being found each year. The park is a home of 13 primate species, which include chimpanzees, golden monkeys, silver monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, Rwenzori black and white colobus monkeys among others. Mammal species include leopards, serval cats, giant forest hogs, duikers, stripped jackal among others.

The park is also a habitat of about 300 bird species with over 120 forest species, 29 species endemic to the Albertine rift and 16 endemics to Nyungwe forest national park. Bird species to look out for include red collared mountain babblers, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, red-throated Alethe, dusky crimson wing, white blue fly-catcher, black and white casqued among others.

What to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Visitors to Nyungwe National Park can expect a memorable experience given the amazing set of activities open to visitors in the park. The park is blessed with amazing views of mountains, water bodies and green vegetation that allow for great forest walks and wildlife activities. While visiting Nyungwe Forest, visitors can do any of the following activities:

 

Chimpanzee Trekking

Nyungwe Forest National park has two groups of habituated chimpanzees; chimpanzee trekking is the most popular activity the park offers. The activity starts from the reception centers with a briefing and later meet the park rangers. The trek takes about 2 to 6 hours or longer depending on the location of the chimpanzees. Chimpanzee trekking allows a maximum of 8 people and visitors are given 1 hour to spend with the chimps, learn about their behaviors, habits, watch them playing up in the trees, breastfeeding and mating as you take plenty of photos which gives the best experience.

Watch out for other primates like vervet monkeys, olive baboons, Rwenzori black and white colobus monkeys among others.

 

Golden Monkey Trekking

Nyungwe Forest National Park is a home to over 300 monkey species, which makes golden monkey trekking the best attraction in the park. This is an exceptional activity as monkeys are playful and lively primates. Watch them as they swing from one branch to another. Look out for cheeked managabeys, blue monkeys, Mona monkeys, Ruwenzori colobus monkeys among others.

 

Canopy Walk

Nyungwe forest national park is the best place where one can enjoy a canopy walk. It is a 50-meter hike above the ground, an amazing hike to encounter as you see monkeys jumping from tree to tree, birds, feel the sound of the jungle. The canopy walkway is divided into 3 walking sections; the longest stretch is 90-meters followed by 45-metere and the shortest one at 25-meters. The walk starts from the visitor center in Uwinka and lasts for about 2 hours offering viewing points along the walkways.

 

Bird Watching

The park is also known as a birders paradise, it’s a habitat for over 300 bird species with about 29 endemic to the Albertine rift valley. The activity is best done in the morning with trained guides who explain and spot different bird species found in Nyungwe Forest National Park. look out for species like red collared mountain babblers, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, red-throated Alethe, dusky crimson wing, white blue fly-catcher, black and white casqued among others.

 

Hiking and Guided Nature Walks

Nyungwe Forest National Park offers its visitors hiking and guided forest/ nature walks. The national park has a total of 13 hiking trails, such as Buhoro trails, Igishigishi trail, Imbaraga trail, Umuyove trail, Ngabwe trail, Bigugu trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Muzimu trail, Irebero trail, Umugote trail, Rukuzi trail, Uwinka trail and Congo Nile divide trail, each gracing hikers with spectacular views.

Visitors can also hike to Isumo waterfalls which is a favorite among hikers in Nyungwe national park. The falls are 17 meters high and give tourists great views of some caves and even Kamiranzovu swamp. Some hiking trails will offer a tourist chance to see snakes, birds, butterflies’ wildflowers, unique tree and plant species among others.

WhEN TO VISIT Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is open throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Nyungwe National Park like in most countries of East Africa is during the drier months, which is also the park’s peak season in the months of June through August and December to January. During these months, the rains are less intense, vegetation being less thick, trails are less wet and slippery hence making hiking excellent and tourists experience well-undertaking activities without no interruptions from rainfall. Since there is no or little rainfall in the forest, this has favored activities taking place in the park such as guided nature walks, trekking chimpanzees and many more.

One can also visit the park in the wet season in the months of March to May and October to November when the vegetation is thicker though hiking trails tend to be wet and slippery making hiking challenging and difficult. Though some activities like birding are best during the wet season due to the plenty of food and migratory bird species are common in the park at such a time, also during the wet season makes chimpanzee trekking and colobus monkey trekking easier since food can be easily accessible and the primates no longer move long distances, but the best recommended time for visitors who are planning to visit Nyungwe forest national park is much ideal in the dry season.

HOW TO GET To Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the southern part of Rwanda and can be accessed by either Road or Air transportation.

 

By Road, the distance from Kigali to Nyungwe forest park is about 230km and this is about a 5 hours’ drive. There are many routes connecting from Kigali city to Nyungwe Forest National Park using either private or public means of transport. You will have a chance to see the Nyanza King’s palace at Nyabisindu; this will give you an insight about the Kingdom of Rwanda, crafts shops, National museum, Arboretum, Gikongoro genocide memorial center among other attractions you will find on your way

 

By Air: domestic flights are offered by Rwanda Air from Kigali international airport to Kamembe international airport which is in a distance of 49 kilometers about 1 hours drive to Nyungwe forest national park.