Nyungwe forest offers a rare and important habitat for many species,especially primates and birds. And at over 1000 km2, Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest.
With about 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic, Nyungwe is one of the most important — and still undiscovered — birdwatching destinations in Africa. Reaching to almost 3000 meters above sea level with Mount Bigugu the highest point in the Park, Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa.
Nyungwe is also home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of chimpanzees and a sometimes noisy, acrobatic combination of other primates such as Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys.
A variety of hiking and walking trails criss-cross the Park leading to a canopy walk, primate tracking adventures, the southernmost source of the Nile and ecotourism attractions. The park includes a colorful array of orchids, butterflies, moths and other insects.
The forest has a growing network of walking and hiking trails and a number of camping sites near the Uwinka Visitor Center. Cultural tourism activities are being developed near the edge of the Park. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the USAID-sponsored Nyungwe Nziza Project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park.
Facts About Nyungwe Forest
970 square kilometers (378 square miles), the largest single forest block in East Africa.
Between 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters (Between 5,600 feet and 9,700 feet).
0-30 degrees C (32-85 degrees F, average daytime temperature: 15.5 degrees C (60 degrees F).
1800-2500 mm per year (71-78 inches).
September to May.
June to August, with several dry weeks in December/January.
Nyungwe forest is made up of a complex matrix of Albertine Rift montane forest. Nyungwe National Park is known for its rugged terrain and complex mosaic of dense vegetation types from tall dense forests to open, flower filled marshes. The park has a varied topography with varied soil types providing micro habitats for both plants and animals. Moist, fertile soil supports tall forests, while dry ridges provide habitat for shorter trees and thickets. The southeastern portion of Nyungwe is blanketed with bamboo, an important commodity, while flooded forests, marshes, and open herbaceous ground cover are interspersed throughout.
Intact mid-elevation forests (1600-2000M) like Nyungwe are rare in Africa, but they are important habitat for many species. Nyungwe is one of the last places in Africa to maintain this type of crucial forest.
At over 1000 km2, Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest.
Nyungwe is the source of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo. The Congo-Nile Divide is a mountain range that runs north to south through Rwanda.
Nyungwe receives more than 2000mm a year of rain.
Recently, Nyungwe opened a canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. This is a wonderful vantage point to view the incredible biodiversity of this rare forest.
The canopy walk opens at a time when Rwanda is being recognized as a top 10 global travel destination (Lonely Planet, 2009.)
In 2005, the Government of Rwanda declared Nyungwe a national park, affording it the highest level of protection in Rwanda. This forest, the largest mountain rainforest in all of Africa, hosts 13 species of primates including the Angola colobus found in groups of 300-400 animals that is an attribute unique to Nyungwe. It also hosts a large population of chimpanzees and two other threatened species of monkeys; the owl faced monkey and reported but unverified sightings of the golden monkey.
Nyungwe is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Birdlife International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, butterflies, moths and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination in the making. (Source: Draft Investors Guide to Nyungwe National Park Area, South Western Rwanda, Preliminary version 1 – 2008)
Nyungwe is also Rwanda’s primary water catchment, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters.
The people of the area are as diverse, with many examples of song, dance, music, cuisine, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the nature side of trip to this part of Africa.
The combination of both potential and conservation has been noted by the Government of Rwanda and a major integrated development thrust is underway, supported not only by the Government itself, but also the USAID, UNDP, Wildlife Conservation Society and other donors and NGOs.
The forest has a network of walking and hiking trails. It has a number of camping sites and the development of cultural tourism near the edge of the Park is underway. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the development project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park.
What is a Rift?
A rift is where sections of the earth are slowly spreading apart over millions of years, creating mountains, lakes, valleys and volcanoes.
Lake Kivu Visible from points in Nyungwe, it is one of the Great Lakes of Africa and the fifteenth largest in the world. Dissolved gases in the lake have the potential to generate enough electricity to power Rwanda for 400 years!
Mount Bigugu The highest point in Nyungwe, it rises 2950m.
Nyungwe and Water
Nyungwe is Rwanda’s primary water catchment, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters.
Nyungwe receives more than 2000 mm a year of rain and thus is also the source of Africa’s great rivers.
Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo. The Congo-Nile Divide is a mountain range that runs north to south through Rwanda.