A Traveler’s Guide to Gishwati Mukura National Park in Rwanda : Though few people are aware of it, Rwanda has four national parks in addition to Volcanoes national park, Akagera national park, and Nyungwe national park. Rwanda’s Gishwati-Mukura National Park, which is in the northwest of the country in the Kivu Belt, is made up of the larger Gishwati Forest and the smaller Mukura Forest, which are separated by a buffer zone that is about thirty miles in length.
In every traditional sense, this is not a national park. Gishwati-Mukura national park in Rwanda is an ongoing conservation effort intended to address one of the worst examples of environmental deterioration in Central Africa, not to preserve a region of outstanding natural beauty.
The Congo-Nile Divide, the mountain range dividing these two different watersheds, was formerly home to a vast expanse of Afro-montane rainforest. This massive forest has now been reduced to a few fragile remains due to decades of illicit mining, livestock farming, deforestation, and resettlement (the latter occurred in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide).
An initiative to preserve the Gishwati and Mukura rainforests was started in 2007. The result of this was the establishment of the national park in 2015; sections of the park were initially accessible to the public in December 2020, making it the youngest national park in Africa. Continue reading this article to gain an insight in our Traveler’s Guide to Gishwati Mukura National Park in Rwanda
What can I do during my visit to Gishwati Mukura National Park in Rwanda?
Currently, only Gishwati Forest is accessible. Mukura is currently mostly underdeveloped, while paths and activities are in the works for the future. Gishwati, on the other hand, is endowed with both. After years of replanting and recovery, the forest is once again noted for its great biodiversity, home to a diverse range of flora and wildlife, including around 60 distinct tree species. Many of the species found in the park are indigenous to the Albertine Rift, making it a unique destination for those who want to take the road less travelled.
Gishwati is primarily known for its chimp population in terms of fauna making it ideal for chimpanzee trekking. Other primate species seen include the endangered golden monkey, blue monkey, and L’Hoest’s monkey, a fragile forest species found only in the upper eastern Congo basin.
Aside from primates, probable animal sightings include serval cats and side-striped jackals, as well as red river pigs and black-fronted duiker. Sign up for a guided nature walk or a dedicated primate tracking excursion to increase your chances of success. Birding tours in Gishwati Mukura national park are also available, with 232 species documented in the national park’s Gishwati sector alone.
Over all, a trip to Rwanda’s Gishwati Mukura national park allows you to see an important conservation initiative in action, as well as admire the once-mighty Congo-Nile Divide forest as it has been for thousands of years. Forest of Hope, a main organization supporting the park’s restoration, has also established various community programs to guarantee that the people who live closest to the national park benefit from its existence.
Co-operatives for beekeepers, traditional healers, female craftspeople, local farmers, and a traditional dance ensemble are among them. All of them may be visited to have an accurate understanding of Rwandan culture.
Primate Tracking in Gishwati Mukura National Park.
Gishwati-Mukura national park’s primate tracking is not the same as it is in Rwanda’s better established national parks. Troops have not yet been conditioned, so they are tougher to discover and approach—but if you do, the experience is potentially more gratifying precisely because it is more difficult. The major draw of these guided trips is the park’s population of over 30 eastern chimpanzees which is ideal for chimpanzee trekking.
This subspecies is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List1, yet it is thriving in Gishwati, where it has been saved from extinction. Tours for tracking golden monkeys are also available, with varying degrees of success. Activities begin in the early morning from the park office and must be pre-booked.
Guided Hike and Nature Walks.
Too far, three defined routes for nature treks led by expert local guides have been established at Gishwati. The Umushwati Trail is a 5-mile walk through the forest that may be done as an out-and-back or utilized to connect to any of the other park paths.
The Waterfall Trail is a 4-mile hike that leads to Gishwati’s spectacular waterfalls, while the Matyazo Hill Trail is a nearly 2-mile trek to a hilltop with high forest views. Whichever trail you select, keep an eye out for animals in the park along the way.
Where can I stay during my visit to Gishwati Mukura National Park?
Gishwati-Mukura National Park tours are always combined with a stay at the mountaintop Forest of Hope Guest House. It is the only lodging option in the park, and park fees cannot be paid separately. They are instead included in the guest home fees, along with three meals a day, chosen soft drinks, and all guided excursions and community visits.
The guest house at Gishwati Research Station has only two freshly refurbished en-suite rooms. Both contain two double beds, mosquito nets, hot water, power, Wi-Fi, and a private balcony with stunning views of the forest.
Budget travelers can also stay in the connected campground to the guest house. This is a covered platform with restrooms and showers, a small fire pit and grill stand, and water for cooking and cleaning. This alternative is uncatered, and campers must supply all of their own supplies. Both the guesthouse and the campground require advance reservations.
How to get to Gishwati Mukura National Park?
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is located on the major route between Rubavu and Karongi, making it very convenient to access. Rubavu, the nearest town, is a 40-minute drive away. Kigali International Airport (KGL) is the principal point of entry for most travelers to Rwanda. The quickest way to get to the national park from the capital is to take the RN4 north towards Musanze.
You will then have to go southwest to the Pfunda Tea Factory crossroads, where a left turn leads to the Rubavu-Karongi route. Without pauses, the journey takes about four hours. All activities must be reserved at the park office, which is located adjacent to the main road at the forest’s border closest to Rubavu.