Located in the Albertine rift valley southwest of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is the largest tropical forest and most important water catchment area in the country. The park covers about 980 km2 and protects one of the most biologically diverse ever green tropical forest reaching at 3000 meters above sea level and provides habitat to a variety of flora and fauna including 12 species of primates and chimpanzees. Therefore, Nyungwe forest is a hotspot for Rwanda primate trekking safaris including chimpanzee trekking and colobus monkey trekking.
Besides the primates, the park’s ecosystem that includes swamps, swamps and mountain is also home to 275 species of birds with those that are endemic to the Albertine rift valley, 85 different species of mammals, 1068 plant species and so many little creatures such as insects, amphibians and reptiles.
In addition to rivers and waterfalls accessible by nature walks to interior of the forest, Ngungwe a great place for nature photographers. The canopy walks in particular, are the best activity to get the most stunning view of the forest from the suspension bridges at a height of 60 meters above the ground. Even the surrounding landscape, as beautiful as the park itself with several tea plantations and ecotourism projects run by local communities, are places to explore the rural life in remotest part of Rwanda.
The ideal time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park particularly for chimpanzee trekking is dry season from December to February and June to September. Though, it can be visited anytime of the year for activities like nature and canopy walks, hiking and bird watching.
Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris
Chimpanzee trekking takes tourists on a wild adventure hiking on foot through the forest in search of the chimpanzees, the ones been habituated for tourism. Chimp treks are done at Cyamudongo forest starting at and Uwinka visitor center where two chimpanzee communities are habituated for visitors.
From these visitor centers, hiking to find the chimps can vary between 1 to 3 hours and visitors can only spend 1 hour with chimpanzees once they have been located. Tracking the chimpanzees of Nyungwe forest national park is a real challenge due to thickness and terrain of the forest. During the chimp walks, visitors also have the chance to spot other primates such as baboons, blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.
Hiking and nature walks
Hiking is a great option for birders and nature lovers looking to explore Nyungwe forest with more than 13 hiking trails that give access to the deeper parts of the forest where you find the park’s spectacular Kamiranzovu waterfalls, rivers, floral species and much more.
With 257 species of birds, bird watching in Nyungwe forest mostly focuses on looking for some of the 16 bird species endemic to Albertine rift valley such as red throated alethe, strange weaver, and blue headed sunbird among others.
Different from nature walks, the canopy walk which can be done by children 6 years old, offers the chance to walk at 60 meters above the ground on hanging bridges suspended between tree canopies where the view of Nyungwe forest is most stunning. That’s a good activity for nature photographers but even if you are not one, the canopy walk gives you the higher feelings plus lots of flora and fauna to see.
The tea plantations visible on the boundary of Nyungwe forest offer a wide range of cultural activities that you will find interesting. Just 15 km outside the park is Banda, an African cultural village where visitors can find local food and souvenirs.
Getting to Nyungwe forest national park from Kigali city. The distance is roughly 400 km and the drive time by road is about 6-7 hours with stopover in Butare at the ethnographic museum and King’s Palace in Nyanza. Rubavu town on the shores of Lake Kivu is 140 km away to Nyungwe which makes it easier to combine both the jungle and the beach stay.
For those that need to fly in, Nyungwe can also be reached by helicopter flight from Kigali city or Akagera National Park.
There are few accommodation options in Nyungwe ranging from luxury, mid-range and budget lodges and so, visitors need to book their stay in advance. Luxury lodges include One and only and Nyungwe Forest Lodge while the mid-range options are Gisakura Guest House and Nyungwe top view hill lodge.Book This Safari