Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the biggest national parks that have boosted the tourism industry of Rwanda as a nation generating millions annually, Nyungwe  . Nyungwe is well known for chimpanzee tracking/ chimpanzee trekking ( Rwanda chimpanzee safari destination) this has been the main activity that is carried out in Nyungwe forest. The National Park has only 2 chimpanzee groups habituated in it and the small one of 30 chimpanzees is tracked in Cyamudongo Forest area of the Park. The larger group has about 60 chimpanzees habituated in it. Nyungwe forest (Rwanda chimpanzee trekking area) is Africa’s largest Afro-Montane Forest and another of the most famous activities is Nyungwe Forest National Park is the Canopy walk where travelers get to hike up to the top of the trees and take a walk on a hanging bridges as they admire the beauty if the forest.

The forest is located southwest of Rwanda towards the border with Burundi, south of Lake Kivu and west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nyungwe National park also is found in the District of Rusizi which is located in the South western part of Uganda. Rusizi district is a home to the park as well as Africa’s great river on the east side of the Nile and west part to Congo. Uwinka is the parks’ headquarter and takes a distance of about 219 km and 4 hours drive.  The forest has been a big contributor to the Rwanda climatic conditions. Nyungwe forest national park was established as a national park in 2004 and the forest is a home to over 1000 animal, bird and natural species. Nyungwe is an important conservation area in Africa because it harbours quite a number of animals making it one of Rwanda safari / Rwanda tours spots.

Nyungwe National Park is located in the western Great Rift Valley it stretches from Lake Albert to the Lake Tanganyika. The Rift has many mountains and Lakes that flow west into the Congo River system. The Albertine rift besides having an amazing landscape, it is also known for its endemic species of fauna and flora. In Nyungwe Forest 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. And also about 85 mammal species are found in Nyungwe, including 13 primates’ species. Also, Nyungwe accommodates over 300 bird species & 29 species of them are endemics to the Albertine rift. This makes Nyungwe the best Bird watching site, as many named it birds paradise.

The biodiversity of Nyungwe Forest National Park is even further enriched by other landscapes including swamps, marshes, bamboo thicket, heath, open woodland and many microhabitats. Nyungwe is known to its 13 primate species including the famous chimpanzees. This is the best site for chimpanzee trekking and there is also the largest troop of the black and white Colobus monkey. There are also fragmented forests including, Cyamudongo home of the well-habituated chimpanzees and Gisakura which has other fragmented forests where the second habituated small troop of the Colobus monkeys lives. Nyungwe has over 130 km of constructed trails, which allows all travelers of the different fitness levels to enjoy its beauty, by benefiting fresh air.

Nyungwe offers some unique activities such as canopy walk which can not be found anywhere else in East Africa and it is not even common in whole Africa. The suspended bridge offers best aerial view of the forests’ canopy. Nyungwe Forest National Park has three reception centers; one in Kitabi near the entrance, the second is Uwinka reception center in the middle of the Park and the third one is Gisakura reception center. Nyungwe Forest National Park has some cheap camping services and there is a tented camping ground at Uwinka. Till now there are no hotels infrastructures inside the Park but you can find them around the park.

Nyungwe Forest’s environmental services are playing a big role and the park offers 75% of the country’s water. It has many different rivers on each side of the Park. The rivers that flow towards the west pour into the Congo River and other rivers that flow towards the East pour into Nile River though they first make Akagera river. The furthest source of the Nile is in Nyungwe according to Richard Kandt and other researchers behind him.

For one to able to visit Nyungwe forest, you will have to buy a permit for any activity through the online platform then bring your proof of payment at the park’s reception center. The Park is always open from 7am to 5pm.

Explore Nyungwe Forest National Park

Virunga Gorilla Permits

Rwanda Chimpanzee Permits

Brief History Of Nyungwe National Park

Facts on the history of Nyungwe Forest National Park is that the park has existed for many years since 1903 when the German Colonial government declared the park as a reserve and a colonial crown land of Nyungwe. However in 1958 and 1973 the national park was reduced in size by the fires, poached of animals increased, deforestation and all this made the park reduce to 150 sq.km. A big number of elephants were killed and in the year of 1975, Buffaloes were as well killed. In 1984 there was a population growth of about 400 colobus monkeys that lived in the forest in groups.

There was a setup of research facilities in Uwinka and however during the genocide in 1994, there was destruction of all the facilities in Uwinka. After the destruction of the tourist facilities in the 1994, there was a restoration of the facilities which started in 1995, until 2004 when the park was declared as a national park. This time Rwanda was listed among the top tourist destinations and during this period there was an increase in the tourism sector.

Chimpanzee trekking

Two groups of Chimpanzees are being habituated in Nyungwe national park: one found at Uwinka and other big group found at Cyamudongo as fragmented forest. Chimpanzees trekking in Cyamudongo forest distance, altitude gain and estimated time will depend on where the chimpanzees are located and the terrain of the forest area being trekked. The round trip walk for the chimpanzee trekking of this hike takes about 4.2km with a total altitude gain of about 240m. This represented roughly an hour of walking and three hours of looking through treetops mainly to look out for chimps, monkeys and birds.

What to carry for chimpanzee trekking

As you prepare to go for the chimpanzee trekking, there are some essentials that one needs to carry in order to have a successfully safari. Some of these include Bring binoculars, rain gear, hiking boots or gum boot, water and snacks. Walking sticks will be provided to help you get a grip of the ground as you hike/trek. Cyamudongo forest is one of the Nyungwe top sections for chimpanzee trekking where tourists from all over the world travel to as a home of big group of chimpanzees.

How to get there

Cyamudongo is a recent annex to the park and is about an hour’s drive from the Gisakura reception center located outside the main boundaries of Nyungwe. This forest is a 19 sq.km fragment of the rainforest, that survived because it was too steep for cultivation and surrounded by tea plantations and eucalyptus groves with modest homesteads and shops perched on steep hillsides. From the main road out of Nyungwe, Cyamudongo is reached by a rough and dirt track and it requires 4-4 car. About 11 km long at the Shagasha tea estate and village, a sidetrack is taken to the park. While there you will meet with teams of trackers and rangers who follow the trekkers during daylight hours to help and protect them. They usually have a radio communication with the guides so that tourists can be led to chimps by the most efficient route.

Best time for chimpanzee trekking

The Chimpanzees are easily seen in the early morning and this usually means having to wake up around 4:00-4:30 AM in June, July and August. The fig trees in the park are the fruits which make this forest a good one for chimps trekking. The chimpanzees feed until much later in the morning so tourists sleeping until normal hours still have good chance to see them. Only two groups of visitors are permitted to trek a particular group of primates on a given day and then they are allowed to spend only hour.

Colobus monkeys in Gisakura Forest

If you have done a strenuous hike the previous day or have just arrived with a few hours before dinner, this is a relaxed outing which can be done in one to three hours. This is an easy hike and accessible from the nearby Gisakura guest house and Nyungwe forest lodge which is currently called one and only. The guide is required to accompany you and you ought to bring binoculars, rain gear, water and proper hiking shoes. Your guide will provide a walking stick. Gisakura forest is an isolated patch of rainforest in the middle of tea plantation just outside the park boundary.  It lies in a deep little valley with a stream flowing along the bottom. Gisakura Forest is less than 1 sq.km in size and it is the watershed for the spring serving the tea plantation.

This little forest remnant received park status in 2005 when it was discovered that a group of Angolan black and white colobus monkeys had established their home range there. Fortunately, these primates can supplement their natural diet with alien pine and eucalyptus, otherwise their small home territory could not sustain them. You may spot a Mona monkey mixed in with the colobus. There is a little agreement on why this one monkey is there and what role he plays. A solitary tracker follows them in and out of the forest and is responsible for protecting them.

If the colobus is at home, the tracker will direct the guide to a particular access trail to lead you there. If the colobus is not found you can enjoy a short stroll in the forest or even better a pleasant walk along the perimeter on plantation roads especially to the right of the forest and at the far end of that section. At that point, the plantation track veers right. On a clear day, there is a beautiful view of the dramatically hilly countryside all the way to Lake Kivu and the DRC. Because the perimeter road gets lots of sun. There are many species of wild flowers here not found in the rest of the forest. Among them are bright blue brillantaisia, impatiens, begonia, and variety shrubs.

Accessibility

The distance from Kigali to Nyungwe forest national park is about 230 km. This is about a 5 hours drive, on your way to Nyungwe National park and you will have a chance to see the Nyanza King’s Palace at Nyabisindu. The King’s palace will give you an insight about the Kingdom of Rwanda, Craft shops, National museum, Arboretum, Gikongoro genocide memorial center, Bisesero Memorial Center among other attractions you will find on your way. Nyungwe forest can be accessed by road using many transport means that include tour operator cars, special hire cars, buses and other public cars. Another option is for those who want to take a short time to reach the park is the transport by air. There are aircrafts like RwandAir which organise chatter flights. From all these options getting to Nyungwe is made very easy.

Accommodation in Nyungwe

When on safari to Nyungwe Forest National Park, be sure to sleep at a lodges that matches your budget structure. Nyungwe forest is surrounded by amazing accommodation facilities that range from luxury, midrange and budget facilities. Some of the facilities in Nyungwe include One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Family Hostel.