Nyungwe forest National Park is one of the eye catching biological montane forests in Africa. It is located in south western Rwanda with the Albertine rift valley at the boarder of Burundi with various ecosystems and a home of a number of primate species like the chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and others. It is second after the home of Gorillas Volcanoes national park. It was established in 2004 and officially protected in 2005 by the Rwanda Development Board, of which it is the biggest high-altitude rainforest in East Africa and it covers approximately 1019 square kilometers though it is said that it covers approximately 970 km2 by most authors.
The Park has a lot to offer and because of this, one cannot be surprised why it was in the National Geographical list in 2014. This is seen by what it harbors such as approximately 300 bird species, 13 primate species, 87 mammals, 1067 plant species, and many more. These include the Chimpanzees, monkeys like Velvet monkeys, red tailed monkeys, colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, bush babies, leopards, spotted hyenas, giant forest hogs, squirrels, wild cats; also baboons are not to miss out while in the park. This place gives you a memorable experience for a life with the sounds of birds, insects and animals in the trees.
Apart from the animal species, Nyungwe being a natural tropical rain forest also has various trees that give it a beautiful scenic view like mammoth tree plants, whilst orchids, the tall old mahoganies, etc. In order to see these trees one can opt for nature walks or canopy walks which are done via trails in the forest. There are various trails in Nyungwe forest which are usually followed while tracking the primates or during forest walks. Every trail offers a great opportunity to have great scenic views of the forest, there is also an option for a canopy walk which is best enjoyed by adventurous tourists, this gives you chance to see a number of animals, plants, and birds while on top of the canopy trees.
Since Nyungwe forest is a very thick forest, the evaporation rates are very high this makes rainfall unpredictable. This rain can fall at any time of the day; this is a bit disturbing and hectic especially when it rains while in the forest.
Tourists are advised to carry enough equipment while on a safari in this forest such as enough water, packed food, sturdy shoes, water proof cameras, trousers, hats and with this ensure your bag is lighter to be carried while in the forest.
When to visit Nyungwe
You can visit the park at any time in the year, but the tourists interested in tracking primates are advised to visit the park especially during the wet season because during this season there are lots of food for the primates everywhere so they are easy to track since they don’t migrate or move longer distances in search for food as it is the case in the dry season.
Tourists interested in Nature/forest walks and canopy walks in the park are advised to visit the park during the dry season because there is less rainfall which could disrupt the tourists during these activities.
How to get there
The Park is approximately a 4-5 hours drive away from Kigali Rwanda’s capital on great and well tarmacked roads. Along the way as you head to the park there are some attractions such as the National Museum and the Nyanza King’s palace; these can be visited if you choose to have them as extras on your way to the park.
As you enter the park there is the Uwinka Visitor centre, which has a lot of information about the historical background of Nyungwe such as its flora and fauna, the landscape and the local culture around the park. While here you will have an opportunity to meet the guides who are more informed about the activities to do in Nyungwe National park.
Things to do and see while at Nyungwe
Nyungwe is has various safari attractions and is the best place to visit for tourists interested in primates as earlier said around 13 species of primates and other animals, the birds around 300 species which include the Great blue Turaco, the beautiful tree species like the tall old mahoganies, the water falls in the forest, the Kitabi cultural village the lush green mountains covered with mist which gives the park a very beautiful terrain. The following are the things to do and see while at Nyungwe with these attractions you cannot leave the park the same way, after your safari, you carry a memorable experience!
Chimpanzee trekking: This is basically the major tourism activity done in the park, there is a very big population of Chimpanzees, and these animals are a DNA which is approximately 98% closer to that of humans. Just like the gorillas, chimpanzees also leave in families and are headed by one dominant who lead the group, these are amazing animals whereby during the trek you have the chance to see the females take care of and nurse the young ones, the young chimps playing and the males guarding them which makes it an amazing experience one wouldn’t want to miss while on an African safari. There is one session of Gorilla trekking in a day and it begins early in the morning, the people move the groups of 8.
Note: The Chimpanzee permit costs US$90 per person and it’s advisable for the tourist to book it in advance before you travel.
Nyungwe Safari Nyungwe
Monkey Trekking: Apart from chimpanzee trekking while in the park one can also go for monkey trekking which is an amazing activity. The major monkey trekked is the colobus monkey such as the Rwenzori colobus; this monkey can be easily differentiated from the other monkeys. Other monkeys include the Velvet monkeys, Golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Owl faced monkey, crowned monkey, Red tailed monkey, Olive baboon among others.
The colobus monkey permit costs US$ 70; it is also advisable to book it in advance.
The Canopy walk: This walk is around 50m above the ground level and 200m in length, which makes it the biggest canopy walk in East Africa as believed by many. During this walk you have an opportunity to see the birds, different animals, the beautiful tall trees like the old tall mahoganies, among others. The canopy walk permit can be bought at the national park headquarters at around US$60 per person. A walk on top of the massive and thick forest is something one wouldn’t want to miss out while in Nyungwe national park.
Guided hikes and forest/nature walks: Nyungwe has well established trails that make it possible to lead travelers to different places during the walk; with these trails it gives a great adventures hike and a chance to be closer to the wildlife, the water falls in the forests, birds among others. The trails include the water fall trail that leads to the eye catching waterfalls, and many others.
Bird watching: Birds in Nyungwe are not to miss; they are around 300 species and 27 endemics to the Albertine rift valley, during the birding safari you will be able to see the Great blue Turaco, the Rwenzori Turaco, Giant hornbills, the Red breasted sparrow hawks, the Grauer’s rush warbler and many more, there is also an added opportunity to see butterflies, the orchids. The birding permit can be bought at the park headquarters. Generally, for a birder Nyungwe forest is a place to go!
Cultural encounters: Since the park is located near different villages, there is a great opportunity to discover the different way of life in these local communities such as the Kitabi cultural village, the Banda community among others. You can see how Rwanda is rich culturally in different ways such as the dressing code, millet grinding, food and beverages, cultural performances that involve music, dance and drama. There are things you can buy like the handcrafts, mats, baskets, table mats, wood carvings among others by doing so you are in support for the eradication of poverty in Rwanda’s locals.
Mountain climbing: This activity is done on Mt. Bigugu and majorly adventurous tourists enjoy this experience giving you chance to view the beautiful places around on a higher altitude.
Visit to the tea plantations: These plantations grow on the fertile volcanic soils of Rwanda giving a beautiful scenic view on the hills and can be visited by all travelers around the park, visiting these plantations gives a tourist an opportunity to see how tea is harvested and processed and the can also taste it.
Where to stay while in Nyungwe
While on a safari in Nyungwe there are various accommodation options such as lodges, guest houses, hotels, and campsites. Some of them include;
Nyungwe forest lodge
This lodge is located in tea plantation near Nyungwe forest national park, it offers some of the best luxury facilities like swimming pools, a good gym, and rooms that over look the forest, they are comfortable, and you can access WIFI which helps you to communicate with the people at home. While at this lodge you can do all the activities such as the guided hikes and forest walks, tea plantation visits, chimpanzee tracking, bird watching among others
Payments are made in US dollars, Rwandese Francs, or Pound.
Meal plan is on Full Board basis
Gisakura guest house
This is a very comfortable budget guest house; it is located near the Gisakura tea estate about 2km away from the park on Rusizi road. This place is secure with a less encounter with wild animals, the rooms are comfortable and meals are just on point. While here you are in position see the Velvet monkeys and also able to do canopy walks, hiking, chimpanzee tracking, and bird watching among others. You are advised to make your bookings early enough to avoid disappointments.
Payments can be made directly to the guest house.
Meal plan is on Full Board basis.
Nyungwe Top View Hill hotel
This also a good hotel for budget travelers located near the Nyungwe forest, its situated in a great location with a great view, where you are able to see Nyungwe national park, lake Kivu, tea plantations and other things, there are 12 rooms in different sizes. The bathrooms have both warm and cold water; the bar is fully stocked, not leaving out the amazing local and international meals prepared at the lodge. Bookings can be made directly to the hotel, but earlier reservation is advised especially in the peak season.
Another tourist can opt for camping, camping in the wild, is something one should try out while on a safari at Nyungwe National park. This can be done at Uwinka campsite in the park which is incredibly located with a nice forest view. The staff is helpful and friendly. You can opt to carry your own tent. This gives you an unforgettable experience.
In a nut shell, Nyungwe forest national park is an incredible tourist destination located in the south western part of Rwanda, only amazing things are found there like the historical, artificial, natural, and cultural features accompanied with activities to be done while in the park. This park is recommended for every traveler to encounter and get an awesome and unforgettable experience.