• Nyungwe National Park
  • Nyungwe National Park
  • Nyungwe National Park
  • Nyungwe 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 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.

Where is Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe National Park is located in the south western part of Rwanda bordering Burundi, Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was established in 2004 so as to increase tourism in Rwanda.

Nyungwe national park is one of the largest natural rain forests in East Africa covering a total land area of about 1000 square kilometers with an elevation of 160metres to 2950 meters above the sea level. The forest is comprised of the montane rainforest, swamps, grassland, and bamboo and therefore receives over 2000mm of rain each year.

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.

There are 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.

How to Get to Nyungwe Forest National Park

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.

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 transport by air. There are aircrafts like RwandAir which organise chatter flights. From all these options getting to Nyungwe is made very easy.

Brief History of Nyungwe National Park

The fact 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.

Biodiversity in Nyungwe Forest National Park

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.

Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee trekking is the most popular activity in Nyungwe forest national park where visitors move into the forest in search of the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest national park starts from three reception centers namely Uwinka, Gisakura and Kitabi with a briefing at 5:00 am and you will later meet the park rangers and start trekking in the forest.

Nyungwe forest national park is a home of about 60 habituated chimpanzees and trekking take about 2 to 6 hours or longer depending on the location of the chimpanzees.

This is because they love to move from one place to another in search of food and once found visitors are allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat.

Chimpanzee trekking allows a maximum of 8 people to trek each habituated gorilla family and during the one hour, the visitors will be learning about their behaviors, habits, watch them playing up in the trees, breastfeeding, feeding, mating as you take plenty of photos among others which gives you the best experience on your safari.

During chimpanzee trekking you will also be able to view other primates like l’hoest monkeys, Rwenzori colobus, black and white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, baboons among others.

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 Rwanda wildlife 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.

Monkey trekking

Nyungwe forest national park is a home of over 300 monkey species which makes monkey trekking the best attraction in the park after chimpanzee trekking.

Monkey trekking is an exceptional activity in that the monkeys are playful and lively primates that will entertain you during your monkey trekking activity as you watch them jumping from one tree to another.

Monkey species in Nyungwe forest national park include blue monkeys, black and white colobus, red tailed monkey, l’hoest monkey, vervet monkey among others.

Bird watching

Nyungwe forest national park is also known as a birders paradise for the bird lovers because it’s a habitat of over 300 bird species with about 29 endemic to the Albertine rift valley.

Bird watching in Nyungwe forest national park is best done in the morning with trained guides who will help you explain and to spot different bird species in the forest.

Look forwad to see dusky crimson, handsome francolin, Grauer’s warbler, Ruwenzori apalis, Ruwenzori batis, black and white casqued hornbill, Shelley;s crimson wing, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, red-throated alethe Chapin’s flycatcher, great blue turaco, Rwenzori nightjar, mountain sooty boubou among others.

Nature walks/hiking

Nyungwe forest national park offers different trails for hiking including

Bigugu trail

This is a 7kilometer trail that goes up to the highest point in Nyungwe forest national park which is Bigugu peak that is 2950meters high. Bigugu trail is one of the difficult trails that needs the hiker to be physically fit and takes 6 hours to be completed. During Bigugu trail hiking you will be able to view different bird species and wildflowers in the forest.

Isumo waterfall trail

This is a 10.6-kilometer long trail that passes through the tea plantations, Nyungwe forest, tree ferns among others. Isumo waterfall trail takes about 4 hours to be completed and during hiking, you will be able to view monkeys, tree species and different bird species.

Ngabwe trail

Ngabwe is a short trail that is 4.7 kilometers long. This trail takes you through the vegetation zones in the forest and you will be able to view primate-like colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, l’hoest monkeys among others.

Karamba trail

his is a 4kilometres long trail and is one of the easiest trails in Nyungwe forest national park. While hiking Karamba trail you will pass through flat and open areas in the forest.

 Karamba trail was once an area where gold mining was done and later the place was made a quarry for road building materials and it’s now an army camp.

This trail is good for birding in that you will be able to view different bird species, tree ferns, orchids, monkeys among others hence giving you the best experience on your safari in Nyungwe forest national park.

Canopy walk

The canopy walkway offers you an opportunity to explore Nyungwe forest. Canopy walkway in Nyungwe is a 50 meters high steel bridge that is built on the treetops and it’s the largest of its kind in East Africa.

Nyungwe canopy walk has trails where each trail is named according to the type of tree species found there, for example, Igishigishigi trail which means fern trees, also known as one of the main hiking trails in Nyungwe forest national park, Umuyove trail which means mahogany trees, Umugote trail, Karamba trail, Isumo trail among others.

 The canopy walkway is divided into three walking sections where the longest stretch is 90 meters, another one 45 meters stretch and the shortest at 25 meters.

Nyungwe forest canopy walkway starts from the Visitors Centre in Uwinka, takes about 2 hours and offers viewing points along the walkways where you will have great scenic views of the forest, primates, and birds among others.

The canopy walkway is a thrilling adventure for adventurous visitors and it also made Rwanda be one of the top tourism destinations in Africa.

Gisakura tea plantation tour

This is an exciting activity where you will visit the Gisakura tea estate which is located at the edge of Nyungwe forest national park.

 A tour at Gisakura tea estate can be combined with other activities, therefore, it can be done like in the evening and you will be able to walk in the tea plantations, visit the processing plants where you will learn how tea is grown, harvested, processed up to the final stage when its ready for drinking.

During your tea plantation tour at Gisakura, you will engage in the activity of picking tea into the baskets which gives you extraordinary experiences on your safari in Rwanda.

Best time for chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

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.

Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest National Park

When on safari to Nyungwe Forest National Park, be sure to sleep at lodges that match 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.