Nyungwe Forest National Park Rwanda – Chimpanzee Trekking Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park straddles in southwestern Rwanda about 4-5 hours’ drive away from Kigali city center. It remarkably Rwanda’s premier chimpanzee tracking destination and birder’s paradise. This 1020 square kilometer protected area largely consists of a vast rainforest and sits between altitude 1600 and 2950 meters. Nyungwe Forest is believed to be the largest and also the best conserved montane rainforest in East-Central Africa.
This park serves as a major source of great rivers and on the eastern part, it feeds the Nile and on the western side to the DR Congo. The Congo Nile divide ranges runs from the north to the south via Rwanda. Over 2000mm of rain is received each year in Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park was founded in 2004 and consists of montane rain forest, swamps, bogs, bamboo and some patches of grassland. It is 54 kilometers away from Cyangungu Town and Lake Kivu. This park offers refuge to variety of forest dwellers including over 13 distinct primate species (red tailed monkeys, Angolan colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, owl faced monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and others), 1068 plant species, 310 bird species, 38 reptile species, 32 amphibian species, 85 species of mammals.
Attractions in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe National Park boasts of its intense biodiversity including about 13 species of primates like chimpanzees most of which have been habituated and set for tracking, silver monkeys, Dent’s Mona monkeys, Angola colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.
Floral species in Nyungwe National Park
This park features variety of floral species including over 200 tree species with 140 orchids, 8 of which are endemic. There are several medicinal plant species including California bayberry. At elevation 2950 meters, you will find the sub alpine vegetation comprising of bamboo, shrubs while at 2500 meters, there are hagenia, macaranga, podocarpus; at 1900 meters, you will find taller tree species such as carapa, Newtonia, cyathea manniana and engtandophragma.
Bird species in Nyungwe National Park
Over 310 bird species are confined in Nyungwe National Park making it a true birder’s paradise. They include 27 bird species that are restricted to Albertine rift. The birds to identify in this park include Grauer’s rush warbler, red throated alethe, Kungwe apalis black and white casqued hornbill, Ruwenzori apalis, purple breasted and blue headed, stripe breasted tit parus fasciiventer, Ruwenzori nightjar, shelley’s crimsonwing, handsome francolin, red collared babblers, yellow eyed black flycatcher, regal sunbird, Neumann’s warblers to mention but a few.
Tourist Activities to do in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is a home to about 500 chimpanzees and currently, two groups have been habituated that is Cyangungu and Uwinka. Trekking to see chimpanzees involves exploring their behaviors, photography and many others. You will also come across other primates including L’Hoest monkeys, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys as well as birds.
Nyungwe Forest features first of its kind canopy walk in East-Central Africa. It takes visitors about 2 hours and rewards travel endeavors with amazing sights at variety of bird species, primates and stunning forest cover.
With about 310 bird species, Nyungwe National Park is incredibly a birder’s haven. The birds to identify while on birding tour in this park include paradise flycatchers, great blue turacos, gigantic forest hornbills, purple breasted and blue headed, grauer’s rush warbler, red throated alethe, Rwenzori turacos, stripe breasted tit parus fasciiventer, Ruwenzori nightjar, archer’s robin chat, dusky crimson wing, francolinus Nobilis, shelley’s crimsonwing, hemitesia neumanni, red collared babblers, yellow eyed black flycatcher, regal sunbird, Neumann’s warbler and many others.
Nyungwe National Park is also ideal for hiking. Hikers take on different trails including Ngabwe trail, Kamuranzovu trail, Karamba trail, Bigugu trail and Isumo trail.
Best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park
Depending on what your travel interests are, Nyungwe National Park is open to tourists all year round. However, the dry season is considered as the best for chimpanzee tracking. It starts in June, July, August, September and December, January, February. You can also visit Nyungwe National Park during the wet season especially if you are interested in bird watching. The wet or rainy season in this park begins in March, April, May and October, November.
Lodges in Nyungwe National Park
Luxury: Nyungwe Forest Lodge
Midrange: Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel
Budget: Gisakura Guesthouse.
Getting to Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is reachable by road and by air. By road, it is 217 kilometers away from Kigali. From Cyangungu it is 55kms and 90kms from Butare. By air, you can fly from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe airport which is about 1-hour drive to Nyungwe Forest Lodge.