Nyungwe forest national park is found in western Rwanda and is one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rain forests. It is dominated by a series of mountains, originating in northern Uganda and Congo, running south through the Rwenzori mountains, western Rwanda and Burundi, to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Nyungwe forest national park offers scenic views over the Lake Kivu and sometimes the Virunga ranges on a clear day.
The forest has an extensive network of well-maintained walking and hiking trails to various waterfalls and viewing points. The prime activities in Nyungwe forest are chimp trekking, bird watching, colobus monkey trekking and the canopy walk.
How to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest national park is located in South western Rwanda, close to the Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo, with the Burundi border in the south.
It is located near Cyangugu town, about 225km and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali. You can either drive to the park from Kigali, or fly there. You can’t walk there though, that would take an extraordinary amount of drive and time.
Travelling by road
With 225km to cover from Kigali to the Nyungwe forest, you will need a good functional car to make good time. You can either go by bus or hire a car.
By bus; you can take a bus headed to Ruzizi from Nyabugogo bus park in Kigali, get off at Uwinka Center. Travelling by bus takes a little bit longer, and the bus ride might even be 8 hours long. There are buses that drive through the park, and you could hope on those, but they are usually quite full.
By car; hiring a car is much more comfortable, convenient and will take a much shorter time. You will avoid the hustle of travelling the difficult stretches such as stretch between Uwinka Center and Gisakura.
Traveling by air
If you are looking for a much faster means of transport, then you can book a flight with RwandAir. The airline offer domestic flights and one of its domestic routes is Kigali-Kamembe. RwandAir offers a minimum of 9 flights a week from Kigali to Kamembe International airport.
Kamembe airport happens to be a short 32km from Nyungwe forest lodge, which offers helicopter pickups. It is quite a convenient arrangement if you can afford it.
Traveling to Nyungwe Forest national park shouldn’t be difficult if it well planned. An easy way to do that is hire a safari company to make the arrangements on your behalf.
Wildlife in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Animals in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest is home to 75 different species of mammals with most of these being small and or nocturnal making it difficult for sighting except the primates.
Chimpanzees are the main attraction in nyungwe forest with chimp trekking happening daily early morning. The forest is home to troops of 300 colobus monkeys or more roaming in the trees, giving visitors to the forest another engaging activity.
Nyungwe forest’s 13 recorded primate species
- Silver monkey,
- Golden monkey,
- Owl-faced monkey,
- Grey-cheeked mangabey,
- Red-tailed monkey,
- L’Hoest’s monkey,
- Vervet monkey,
- Olive baboon,
- Rwenzori colobus
- Three species of Bush babies
Birds in Nyungwe forest National Park
Nyungwe forest is home to about 300 species of birds with 16 endemics, 27 Albertine rift endemics, and 121 forest species. The bird species found in Nyungwe forest include, Chestnut Owlet, Olive and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, Great Blue and Ruwenzori Turacos, White-headed Wood-hoopoe and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo.
Others include Stripe-breasted Tit, the remarkable Red-collared Babbler, Archer’s Robin Chat, White-bellied Robin Chat, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Handsome Francolin Mountain Masked, Black-faced and Chapin’s Flycatcher.
We also have Purple-breasted and Regal Sun-birds, Chestnut-throated, Collared Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Neumann’s Short-tailed Warbler, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, etc.
Activities in Nyungwe forest national park
Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe forest is home to two wild chimp communities that are habituated for chimpanzee tourism. One of the groups is in Cyamudongo section of Nyungwe forest and the other around the Uwinka area of the forest.
The forest has in total roughly 400 chimpanzees. While viewing chimpanzees is not guaranteed, you will enjoy learning about these creatures and their natural habitats from your guides. You are expected to be at the briefing area as early as 5.00 am in the morning.
This is because chimps are mostly likely to be seen early in the morning and they tend to move about which requires one to be active as you follow after them about.
However whether you view the chimps or not, the experience in the forest is rich as you watch other primates, butterflies, several trees and above all the freshness of the air.
Bird watching in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe forest national park is a high altitude mountain forest, ranging between 1600 – 2950 meters. The birds in Nyungwe forest are mostly found in the trees, shrubs or the ground especially the edges of the forest next to the tea plantations.
Some birds are shy and therefore more easily heard than seen like many forest birds. Among the frequently sighted species are the Rwenzori Nightjar, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Kivu Ground Thrush, the Handsome Francolin, Dwarf Honeyguide, Greatblue and Rwenzori Turaco, montane Double Collared Sun and the Red- Throated Alethe.
There are well maintained trails which you will take while birding as well as trained bird guides that are based at the nyungwe forest.
Nature and hiking walks in Nyungwe forest
Nyungwe forest has steep landscape and extensive network of hiking trails making it a perfect destination for hikers. The trails are different in length, ease of hiking and features, you are therefore advised to ask the ranger guides for advice on which trail to take according to the attractions you are seeking.
The trails are through a diverse landscape and represent the most scenic way of exploring the forest. Below are some of the trails you can choose to take on while hiking in the forest
Congo – Nile divide trail
Congo – Nile divide trail is a 227 km trek for experienced hikers which lasts several days to hike through. However one can choose an option for one-day hike of part of the section.
The main attractions on this trail is the varied landscapes and communities along the route. There are campsites where you will overnight but you do have to bring your own camping equipment. As for basic supplies, there are shops along the trail where you can purchase these.
Canopy Walk in Nyungwe forest
The canopy walk in nyungwe forest is along the Igishigishigi trail. The walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the trail. The canopy walk hangs 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, which provides a stunning view of the park.
- The Igishigishigi trail covers a distance of 2km with remarkable views of the Nyungwe forest canopy, beautiful wild flowers, occasional monkeys and several birds. The total time on this trail is between one and two hours depending on one’s interests. All participants must be at least six years of age and adults must accompany children.
- Karamba trail is a good birding spot in Nyungwe, which is flanked by numerous fern trees located on the former gold mine site, market and army camp.
- Umugote trail is great for primate viewing and bird watching in Nyungwe forest with views of ridges, flowers, and butterflies. On a clear day you can see Kibira national park in Burundi.
- Umoyove trail also known as Mahogany trail takes you to the waterfall for a relaxed time as you stroll by the parks tallest trees.
- Uwinka trail is a difficult hike but a beautiful place for bird watching.
- Irebero trail provides views Lake Kivu and two of the highest peaks in Nyungwe national park
- Imbaraga trail is 10km geared towards experienced hikers. Hikers will have views of waterfalls, a refreshing sight after a long hike.
- Bigugu Trail provides views of the DR Congo and Lake Kivu as well as the Islands. It takes you to the highest peak in nyungwe forest park.
- Isumo Trail will get you to experience the beautiful tea fields – you can even plan to get involved in picking tea and follow through the entire process until it gets to your cup. You will also enjoy the view of the biggest waterfall in Nyungwe national park.
- Kamiranzovu Trail brings you close to most of the waterfalls, wetland and swamps.
- Muzimu Trail takes you through eucalyptus and pine forests.
- Ngabwe Trail leads to a lovely picnic and camping site
- Rukuzi Trail takes you through chimpanzee spotting locations and village views
Cultural tours in Nyungwe Forest National Park
To complete your experience of Nyungwe forest, add on your itinerary a visit to the community to engage in the rich Rwandan culture. The communities along the boundaries of this forest have co-existed with it and helped to some extent in its preservation after understanding its importance to the Rwanda’s eco system.
There has been efforts to launch community-based experiences to preserve the culture of Rwanda and offer the visitors a rich experience. Once at the village you can be part of activities such as a dance ceremony, banana beer production, and bow-and-target shooting, traditional medicine making and maize-grinding etc.
|Languages spoken||French, English, Kinyarwanda|
|Currency used||Rwandese Franc (RWF)|
|Area (km2)||970 SQ. KM|