Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda : Rwanda has steadily positioned herself as one of the fasted growing economies in Africa. This is admirable given that it is a relatively small and landlocked country. The new government prioritized infrastructure development and modernization of all sectors of the economy leading to sustained economic growth. Apart from good governance, other reasons for this growth was curbing corruption and forging unity among the different cultural groups in the country. The government of Rwanda has gone to great lengths to modernize and market her tourism destinations.
Modern roads and high quality hotels have been built both in the city and in the rural areas. The government has also gone ahead to market Rwanda internationally and diversify her tourism offerings. The country recently teamed up with Arsenal to market herself in the football club’s official kit hence gaining a lot of publicity. New wildlife conservation sites like the Gishwati-Mukura National Park have been formed and activities like hiking the Congo Nile Trail introduced, Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda
Most tourists who visit Rwanda do so to see the mountain gorillas. In order to increase diversity and cater for the needs of visitors who are interested in longer safaris, the country introduced chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park. This enables visitors to have a Primates safari in which they have an opportunity to spot 13 species of primates.
Chimpanzees and Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe forest national park is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Rwanda made up of Cyamudongo forest and Nyungwe forest (Largest portion of the park). Nyungwe National Park is home to 13 species of primates, 85 mammals, over 1000 species of plant, 275 recorded bird species, butterflies, moths and reptiles. Nyungwe forest is one of Africa’s oldest Afro-montane forest spread all the way to the border with Congo and Burundi. Nyungwe forest is a water catchment area that supplies several rivers including the mighty Congo and those around the Nile basin. Despite the rich biodiversity in the park, the key attraction are the chimpanzees – followed by forest canopy walks. Every year thousands of travelers visit the park to spot these amazing primates in their natural setting, Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda
Just like Gorillas, Chimpanzees are also the closest human relatives with a similar DNA. A chimpanzee’s brain is more developed than all creatures on earth except for humans. Chimpanzees have the ability to use tools to aid them in their daily activities and can show compassion to one another.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest national park
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe national park starts with a briefing at the park headquarters. All tourists must gather at the park offices early in the morning to attend the briefing. The Park officials will share information about Chimpanzees and how to behave while in their presence. Once the briefing is complete, travelers will be assigned chimpanzee communities to follow in either Nyungwe forest main or Cyamudongo forest. The Rangers will then lead travelers into the forest in search of the primates. There is a lot to see in the forest while tracking the chimps. As we already mentioned earlier, Nyungwe forest has 12 other species of primates. They include silver monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboons, dent’s monkey, L’hoest monkeys, Angolan colobus, mona monkeys, Ruwenzori monkey, vervet monkey, golden monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and halmyn’s monkeys. Apart from the smaller primates, there is the unique vegetation, butterflies, forest mammals and waterfalls to see.
Chimpanzees are very mobile primates. They never stay in one place for too long. They spend more time on top of trees hence presenting more challenges to trackers. One must be ready to follow them for a longer time before they settle down. One also needs to have a good camera, binoculars and patience. Very close interaction with chimps is not possible like it is with gorillas. They tend to keep a distance even when habituated. Chimps are also more vocal and it is easy to identify their location from kilometers away even before meeting them physically. Chimpanzee groups are very dramatic unlike gorilla families, which are generally peaceful and gentle, Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda
How to accees chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest
The distance between the Kigali city and Nyungwe forest is about is about 218km. This implies that you would be traveling for about 6 hours.
The best time for Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is during the rainy season. The wet season comes with its own challenges for trackers is the time when the primates settle in one place since there is plenty to eat. During the dry season, the chimps wander deep into the forest in search of food/fruits because there is less to eat. This will require following them deep into the forest and it can take up to 4 hours to find them. It is also during the dry season that a few unlucky travelers fail to see them altogether.
The chances of seeing chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest is not 100% as you have leant by now. This is because they tend to migrate deep into the vast forest during certain months of the year in search of food. There is no guarantee that you will always see the primates. However, with technology and a team of advance trackers sent to find their location before dawn, the chances of seeing them is about 90%. The chances of seeing them in Cyamudongo forest is very good indeed and over 90%. This is because Cyamudongo forest is separated from the main Nyungwe forest and surrounded by farmland/villages. The chimps there tend to remain within this island of forest.
Chimpanzee permits in Rwanda cost $90. This amount includes park Ranger and entrance fees. The permit is acquired directly from the Rwanda Development Board (Tourism Department) or through your tour operator.
The minimum age for tacking chimpanzees in Rwanda is 13 years. Trackers need to go prepared to deal with the dense montane forest. A good packing list for chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest would include sturdy hiking boots, long-sleeved clothes, a hat/cap, insect repellents, a professional camera, drinks, dry food, a raincoat and a binocular. If you are planning to move with a heavy bag or camera, ensure that you hire a porter to carry them.
Other things to do in Nyungwe National Park
Encounter with other primates
Nyungwe forest has the highest concentration of small primates in Rwanda. Apart from chimpanzees, the forest is home to 12 other species of primates. They include mona monkeys, silver monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys and Angola Colobus monkeys. While tracking the chimps or going for a nature walk, expect to encounter a few of the smaller primates.
Nyungwe National park is the only national parks in East Africa offering the canopy walk experience. Participants walk on top of the dense forest on a trail made of ropes. They are rewarded with an aerial view of the forest and can see the different species of birds, primates and plants. The canopy trail is 50 meter above the ground and you need to be mentally prepared if you have phobia for heights. The canopy forest experience starts at Uwinka and takes 2 hours.
Nyungwe forest contains montane forests, streams and rivers hence making it an ideal habitat for birds. The forest has more bird species than any other place in Rwanda. Over 275 species have been recorded. The most popular bird species are the Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori batis, Congo bay owlet, regal sunbird, Rwenzori nightjar, Olive and Elliot woodpecker. The birds can have sighted while on a nature walk, canopy walk or during chimpanzee tracking. Do not forget your binocular while visiting Nyungwe national park.
Nature walks in Nyungwe forest offer tourists a rare opportunity to observe all the different species of animals and plants. The walks can be taken from any of the major trails in the park. The major trails are the canopy trail, Congo Nile trail, Isumo waterfall trail, Bigugu trail, karamba birding trail, Ngabwe trail, rukuzi trail and kamiranzovu marsh trail. These nature walks take between 2 to 4 hours under the guidance of park Rangers. The park Rangers will ensure that the whole activity is informative by helping identify the different species of plants, birds and animals.
Visiting one of the waterfalls
As a water catchment area for the river Congo and Nile basin, Nyungwe National Park has got several streams and waterfalls that may interest you. The most renowned one is the Isumo waterfall near a luxury lodge called Nyungwe house. To get to this waterfall, visitors must hike through a steep trail. The waterfall is beautiful and suitable for taking a bath , Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda
Tea plantation tours
This tea plantation was established not only to supply tea in the country but also to keep wild animals away from human communities. In time, they have become a tourist attraction in their own right. The tea was plantation in a hilly landscape with very scenic views. While on a tour of the tea estate, visitors get to learn a lot about tea planting and processing. Visitors care taken through the whole process from making the nursery beds, planting, weeding, harvesting and finally to the later stages where the leaves are turned into consumable tea.
Cultural and village encounters
While on a visit to Nyungwe National Park, you can request to be taken for a tour of one of the village communities outside the park. You can visit the Banda community village or the Kitabi Cultural Village. A visit to any of the two villages will expose you to the kind of life lived by the ordinary peasant in Rwanda. Apart from learning about their social life, you could be proactive and join them in brick laying, beer making, cooking local foods or taking care of domestic animals. There are also several schools and community/women projects that you could visit. At the end of these guided community walks, arrangements are made for cultural entertainments through music, dance and drama.