Birding safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park : Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in south western Rwanda near her border with Burundi. The park is also south of lake Kivu one of the famous lakes in Rwanda and connects with Kibira National Park, Burundi to the south. Nyungwe is mainly famous for chimpanzee trekking alongside being one of the largest and well conserved natural rainforests in East Africa. It is home to about 60 habituated chimpanzees. The forest also harbours 12 other primate species including the golden monkeys, silver monkeys, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys among others, over 300 species of birds with 27 specific to the Albertine rift, about 1070 plant species and mammals like leopards for thrilling on Rwanda Safaris.
With this richness and greatness to it, Nyungwe is able to offer tourists a number of activities besides the famous chimpanzee trekking. They include monkey tracking, nature walks or hikes along the different trails and bird watching.
Bird watching has given Nyungwe National park the status of ‘’Important Birding Area,’’ by Birdlife International. This makes it one of the best bird safari centres in the world. The activity is best done on the metallic canopy walkway of the park which also gives you exceptional views of hills and surrounding tea plantations. The walkway is about 200 meters long and about 40 metres high above ground and is the first of its kind in East Africa, third in Africa.
Bird species in Nyungwe.
Some famous bird species in Nyungwe National Park include the Rwenzori turacos, dusky crimson wing, Rwenzori nightjar, Caprimulgus Rwenzori, the yellow-eyed black flycatcher, neumann’s warbler, Rwenzori apalis, handsome francolin, regal sunbird, red-collared mountain babbler, apalis argentea, cinnyris regius, shelley’s crimsonwing, kivu ground thrush, yellow ramped tinkerbird and many more.
Best bird watching trails
Birds in Nyungwe national Park can be seen anywhere. However, the birding trails help visitors to have a better view of the famous birds in the forest. The most commonly used trails are:
Isumo waterfall trail
This is one of the most difficult yet most rewarding trails in the park. The 4-hour trail leads to the biggest waterfall in the park meaning that it is steep from the waterfall to the trail entry point but don’t you worry. On your way to the entry, you will pass Gisakura where you will have a view of the tea plantation plus a glimpse of birds like the tropical boubou, the blue-headed coucal and more. You will also see the beautiful Lake Kivu. Once you get to the entry point, the realest birding adventure begins. Make sure to look out for the famous Rwenzori Turaco in addition to all the other birds.
The Karamba trail
Located in the west of Nyungwe, Karamba is one of the easiest trails of the park. The trail is flat and open compared to all the other trails. However, since the area was a market and mining place in the past, degradation was inevitable. The turaco and the yellow ramped tinkerbird are the most common on this trail.
The swampy 6km trail gives you both a bird and plant experience at a high altitude. It is known for the highest number of orchids in the forest as well as birds like the Grauer’s swamp warbler and the grey-crested kakamega.
This trail is beauty. You will have views of lake Kivu and some hills of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bigugu is 7km long, takes about 6 hours to complete and is 2950m above sea level making I the highest peak of Nyungwe thus Birding safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park. The trail is undoubtedly steep and difficult especially during the rainy season so how about hiking boots and stick? The red collared mountain babbler among others is a favourite for this trail.
When to go for a birding safari
The best time of the year to go birding in Nyungwe Forest National Park is between July and late March. During this time, there are many birds everywhere in Rwanda because of search for food and or migration. The best time of the day to do birding on your safari however is in the morning with the sunrise for amazing views and amazing bird voices.
Birding requirements at Nyungwe Forest National Park
Like chimpanzee and gorilla trekking in Rwanda, bird watching requires a permit which goes for only $50. The permit must be and paid for before the birding D-day. You can apply online, through your tour operator or directly at the Rwanda Development Board offices. You might also need a professional birding guide to make your birding experience easier.
Talking of making things easier, you should carry essentials like a notebook and pencil or pen to note down the new bird species you have encountered. A camera, raincoat for the unprecedented rain, hiking shoes and stick, binoculars, snacks and water will come in handy as well.
Why a birding safari in Nyungwe?
The forest is the most accessible tropical rainforest in the Albertine rift. Also, there are 27 bird species like the chapin’s flycatcher endemic to the Albertine rift found in Nyungwe Forest National Park. In addition to the birds, Nyungwe is blessed with other wildlife and plant species that are visible while birding.