Guide to Nyungwe National Park
Discover Nyungwe Forest National Park – Africa’s Oldest Montane Rainforest
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Nyungwe National Park, the largest block of Montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age.
As the most trusted guide to Nyungwe Forest National Park, we’re here to provide you with all the information you need to plan your trip. We’ll cover everything from what to see, what to do, the best time to visit, and what to pack for your trip, as well as travel tips and advice to help you get started with planning your safari to Nyungwe national park and Rwanda at large.
Nyungwe National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a safari to Rwanda, and we’re here to provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your visit.
Spanning over 970 square kilometers, Nyungwe National Park boasts of an impressive 200 different types of trees, as well as a myriad of flowering plants, including the otherworldly giant lobelia and a host of colorful orchids. Its extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads visitors through the Nyungwe forest to various waterfalls and viewing points.
Nyungwe Forest is most alluring for its primates, with 13 species in all, including the chimpanzee, mankind’s closest living relative, as well as the handsome LHoests monkey and hundred-strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola Colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe forest harbors almost 300 bird species, of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift.
If you’re looking for an avian highlight, Nyungwe National Park is home to the great blue Turaco – an outlandish blue, red, and green bird that streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
Nyungwe National Park is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, a mountainous section of East Africa that harbors more endemic birds, mammals, and amphibians than any other region in Africa. For example, over 1000 species of birds, about 52% of all of Africa’s birds, have been recorded in the Albertine Rift. Nyungwe is the largest protected area within the Albertine Rift and contains 25 of these endemics, more than any other site in East Africa.
Nyungwe National Park, An Eco Tourism Paradise
Nyungwe Forest National Park, located in Southwestern Rwanda, is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and eco-tourists. Covering over 1,000 square kilometers, it is the largest Afro-montane forest in East and Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. The forest is a botanist’s paradise, with over 140 species of wild orchids, 250 types of trees, and many species of ferns.
Nyungwe National Park is also home to an incredible array of wildlife, including 13 species of primates, such as chimpanzees and the handsome Black and White Angolan colobus monkeys. The forest is also inhabited by habituated primate species like Mangabeys and Blue Monkeys. With its maze of different shades of green, moss-covered barks, and numerous streams and waterfalls, Nyungwe National Park is a natural paradise that boasts a rustic road that runs through the forest and follows the mountain summits.
Visitors can explore the forest’s wonders by walking along an extensive network of well-maintained trails that lead to ideal viewing points. Additionally, the only Canopy Walkway in East Africa is located in Nyungwe National Park, offering visitors a unique “eye-to-eye” experience with the many primate and bird species that live and breed in the upper reaches of the forest canopy.
Nyungwe’s climate ranges from 0°C to 30°C, and its altitude ranges from 1600m to 2950m above sea level, making it an ideal destination for visitors seeking diverse natural experiences. Whether you’re a dedicated bird-watcher, botanist, or just a nature lover, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a must-visit destination that promises to leave you in awe of its ecological marvels.
Things to See in Nyungwe Forest
There are lots of things to see in Nyungwe National Park. Today Nyungwe is one of the important tourist destinations and it is still undiscovered. From the endangered chimpanzees to endemic bird species, there are lots of attractions to see in Nyungwe Forest.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a prime destination for chimpanzee tracking in Africa and chimpanzees are the prime attraction of the park. The forest is home to one of the highest concentrations of chimpanzees, our closest relatives. Notably, the Nyungwe forest hosts some of the last remaining intact populations of chimpanzees in Africa.
The park is home to several chimpanzee communities, two of which have been habituated for tourist visits: Uwinka (Mayebe) and Cyamudongo. Additionally, a third group in the northern part of the park (Gisovu) is currently undergoing habituation. This makes Nyungwe Forest National Park an ideal destination for travelers seeking an immersive primate experience.
The sociable black coated apes are a must see while in Nyungwe Forest and their thriving community is estimated to be around 500.
Visitors can trek through the forest to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat and you need to book your permit well in advance in order to meet these great apes in either Cyamudongo or Uwinka.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a sanctuary for many other primate species. Among the most sought-after primates found in the park are the Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys. In fact, Nyungwe is home to a total of 13 different primate species, making it one of the most diverse primate habitats in the region.
One of the most spectacular primate sightings in the park is the large troops of colobus monkeys that often travel in groups of over 300 individuals.
For those interested in observing primates at lower altitudes of the forest, the grey-cheeked mangabeys are a notable species. These monkeys typically stay at lower levels of the forest and in the canopy trees.
L’Hoest monkeys are also frequently seen along the road, and they usually live in troops of 8-20 individuals.
The elusive Owl-faced Monkey, an Albertine Rift endemic, can also be seen in the park, though it prefers to live in the bamboo forests in the south of the park.
Though the most prominent mammals are the primates. there are several other mammals that call Nyungwe National Park home. A total of over 86 mammal species has been recorded in Nyungwe Forest including rare forest inhabitants.
Several large mammals inhabit the forest including golden cats, bush pigs, and the black-fronted duiker, giant forest hog, squirrel etc. Big cats include the elusive leopard, golden cats, wild cats, side stripped jackal etc
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a haven for bird enthusiasts, being one of the top ornithological sites in Rwanda with nearly 300 bird species, including half a dozen that are exclusive to a few montane forests on the Albertine rift.
Out of the 280 bird species found in Nyungwe, 25 are endemic. The magnificent Blue Turaco is the avian highlight of Nyungwe, with its distinctive color, curved bill, and unforgettable call.
Things to Do in Nyungwe National Park?
Nyungwe Forest is a large park with several activities that you can engage in during your visit. There are several trails that you can follow to experience the forest. From the popular chimpanzee tracking to excusive Canopy Walk, here are the must do adventure activities;
Nyungwe Forest National Park presently boasts of four cultural villages, each offering tourists an opportunity to experience more than just wildlife viewing. These villages are dedicated to promoting a harmonious relationship between people, culture, and nature, with the ultimate goal of conserving the environment in and around Nyungwe forest. The cultural villages also contribute to the community’s ecotourism initiatives, with the aim of improving the lives of the local people.
Embarking on the challenge of tracking endangered chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park is an exhilarating adventure. Professional guides and trackers lead visitors on hikes through the forest, using chimpanzee calls, feeding signs, and nesting sites to locate the primates.
Chimpanzee tracking takes place in the morning when the animals are more active, increasing the chances of an encounter with these great apes. Following the paths of these elusive primates is a thrilling experience that also offers an opportunity to learn about chimpanzees and their habitat.
Nyungwe Forest is home to a diverse range of primates, with 13 different species known to inhabit the area, including chimpanzees, owl-faced guenons, and Angolan black and white colobus monkeys.
The Wildlife Conservation Society reported in 2002 that the Angolan black and white colobus monkeys were living in groups of more than 300 individuals, highlighting the impressive concentration of primates in the park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is renowned for its diverse birdlife, with a staggering 278 species of birds calling it home. Of these, 26 species are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley, making it a top destination for bird-watching enthusiasts. Visitors can expect to see a variety of birds, including the magnificent Great Blue Turaco, the striking Crowned Hornbill, and the colorful Blue-Headed Sunbird.
The Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail is an awe-inspiring hike that spans multiple days, following the ridge that separates two of the world’s largest river basins: the Congo River and the River Nile. Embark on an exploration reminiscent of those who sought the Source of the White Nile.
Nyungwe National Park is bisected by the continental divide, which runs from north to south and separates the Congo and Nile basins.
Nyungwe Forest National Park’s Canopy Walk is a major draw for visitors. It comprises a sequence of suspended bridges traversing the forest canopy, providing a firsthand experience of the forest canopy that is exclusive in East Africa. The Nyungwe Canopy Walk has been awarded the distinction of the world’s best canopy walk by Lonely Planet.
Nyungwe National Park provides visitors with 13 different hiking trails, each with unique names. One such trail is the “Igishigishigi” trail, which is an easy 1.7 km path that starts near the Uwinka Reception Centre. The word “Igishigishigi” means “tree fern”. The trails cater to different levels of difficulty, ranging from easy to difficult, and vary in length from 1.7 km to 10.6 km.
Places of Interest
There are several places of interest that are close to the Nyungwe Forest National Park;
Nyungwe Forest National Park is an extraordinary destination that extends over 1,000 square kilometers, reaching altitudes of almost 3,000 meters above sea level. The park is home to several unique bird species that cannot be found anywhere else, making it a must-visit for bird enthusiasts. The park boasts several hiking trails, leading to picturesque waterfalls and providing opportunities for eco-tourism attractions and primate-tracking adventures.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is also famous for its collection of orchids, butterflies, moths, and other insects, creating a colorful array of nature’s beauty. The park is home to Mount Bigugu, the highest point in the park, and a variety of hiking and walking trails crisscross the forest, including a canopy walk.
There are camping sites near the Uwinka Visitor Center and new trails, and camping sites are being constructed as part of the USAID-sponsored Nyungwe Nziza Project. The project also aims to create new ways of observing and enjoying the park while developing cultural tourism activities near the edge of the park.
This is an isolated area annexed from Nyungwe Park. The park is home to a thriving population of chimpanzees and it is one of the only two locations where chimpanzee tracking is conducted.
Coming from Huye, the entrance to the Nyungwe Forest is the Kitabi Entrance Gate. This is where the park headquarters are located. Kitabi is the base for the little-used Ngabwe Trail.
Plan Your Visit to Nyungwe National Park
Get started with planning your visit to Nyungwe National Park, one of the best destinations for primate safaris in Africa.
Where is Nyungwe National Park?
Nyungwe National Park is located in South Western Rwanda. It is located close to the Rwanda border with Burundi. The park extends over 1015sq km and spreads over south west of Rwanda to form a contigous forest block with Burundi’s 400 square kilometres Kibira National Park.
How to Get to Nyungwe Forest
You need a 4×4 to travel to Nyungwe National Park. The journey from Kigali to Nyungwe takes about 4-5 hours.
From Huye, the journey takes 2-3 hours and from Rusizi (Burundi Border) the journey takes about 1 hour.
It is important to know that though there is public transport to major towns, it is not easy to explore the park without private transportation.
What is the Weather Like in Nyungwe National Park?
Rwanda is situated only two degrees from the Equator. Therefore Nyungwe National Park enjoys good climatical conditions all year round. There are two distinct seasons; the dry and wet seasons.
Nyungwe Montane Forest sits at an elevation of between 2000 – 3000 meters and this keeps the temperature at a pleasant level all year.
When is the Best Time to Visit Nyungwe?
What are the Essentials to Pack for a Nyungwe Trip?
Guide to Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe
– How is Chimpanzee Tracking Done
– When is the Best Time to Track Chimpanzees
– What are the Rules and Guidelines
– What to Pack for Chimpanzee Tracking?
Where to Stay
There are several accommodations in and around Nyungwe National Park.
Currently, the options in or near Nyungwe National Park are limited to the following:
The One and Only Nyungwe House was opened in mid-2010 as the first five star establishment in the region. It was built to blend in with the surrounding environment and is situated in a tea plantation on the edge of the Nyungwe closed canopy rain forest.
The Gisakura Guesthouse is the budget option for travelers who would like to explore Nyungwe– a simple, clean establishment with shared bathrooms – that is attached to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) research station. The guesthouse includes a small restaurant — actually, it’s more like the dining room in a house.
The Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel opened in early 2011 and offers one of the most commanding views of Nyungwe and Lake Kivu in the distance. The midrange hotel offers most 12 self contained units with 4 twin and 8 queen size bed apartments, as well as a bar and restaurant with a spectacular panoramic terrace view.
Adjacent to the Uwinka Interpretation Center is a campsite with several individual sites and easy access to the trails.
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