Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe National Park is located in the south western part of Rwanda bordering Burundi, Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was established in 2004 so as to increase tourism in Rwanda. Nyungwe national park is one of the largest natural rain forests in East Africa covering a total land area of about 1000 square kilometers with an elevation of 160metres to 2950 meters above the sea level. The forest is comprised of the montane rainforest, swamps, grassland, and bamboo and therefore receives over 2000mm of rain each year.
This national park is a home of 75 mammal species, 13 primate species including the chimpanzees, golden monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys among others, over 300 bird species, 120 butterflies, 15 reptile species, 12 amphibian species, 1068 plant species, 140 orchids. Nyungwe is a rain forest that leads to the formation of rainfall which feeds River Nile with its source in Uganda hence acting as a water catchment area in Rwanda. The park is a great destination that offers beautiful views of the Virunga ranges, Lake Kivu which is Rwanda’s largest lake, hills, Isumo waterfall, tea plantations which are found on the park edges among others.
Attractions in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe national park is a great tourism destination in Rwanda that is blessed with a wide range of attractions including
- Primates, the park is a home of 13 primate species which include chimpanzees, golden monkeys, silver monkeys, grey checked mangabey, red tailed monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, Rwenzori black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, olive baboons and bush babies. Primates are the most visited attractions in Nyungwe forest national park.
- Birds, Nyungwe forest national park is a habitat of about 300 bird species with over 120 forest species, 29 species endemic to the Albertine rift and 16 endemics to Nyungwe forest national park. Bird species in the park are white tailed blue fly-catcher, red collared mountain babblers, Ruwenzori turaco, purple breasted sunbirds, dusky crimson wing, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, red-throated alethe, black and white casqued among others.
- Canopy, Nyungwe forest national park is comprised of 50 meters and 200meters above the ground level canopy that inspired the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) a tourism body in Rwanda to build a metallic walkway which is the first of its nature in East Africa and the third of its king in Africa.
- Plants, Nyungwe forest national park is a habitat of over 1068 plant species which act as food for the animals with 68 endemic to the park namely orchids, Talenna Rwandesis, Mahogany, Miliantus holistic. Nyungwe national park harbors about 200 tree species with flowering plants, orchids, giant lobelia, vegetation zones including sub-alpine vegetation which is dominated by shrubs and bamboo.
- Mammals, nyungwe forest national park is a home of mammal species including leopards, giant forest hogs, golden cats , duikers, serval cats, side stripped jackal, civet among others.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Chimpanzee trekking, chimpanzee trekking is the most popular activity in Nyungwe forest national park where visitors move into the forest in search of the chimpanzees. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest national park starts from three reception centers namely Uwinka, Gisakura and Kitabi with a briefing at 5:00 am and you will later meet the park rangers and start trekking in the forest. Nyungwe forest national park is a home of about 60 habituated chimpanzees and trekking take about 2 to 6 hours or longer depending on the location of the chimpanzees because they love to move from one place to another in search of food and once found visitors are allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat.
Chimpanzee trekking allows a maximum of 8 people to trek each habituated gorilla family and during the one hour, the visitors will be learning about their behaviors, habits, watch them playing up in the trees, breastfeeding, feeding, mating as you take plenty of photos among others which gives you the best experience on your safari. During chimpanzee trekking you will also be able to view other primates like l’hoest monkeys, Rwenzori colobus, black and white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, baboons among others.
Monkey trekking, Nyungwe forest national park is a home of over 300 monkey species which makes monkey trekking the best attraction in the park after chimpanzee trekking. monkey trekking is an exceptional activity in that the monkeys are playful and lively primates that will entertain you during your monkey trekking activity as you watch them jumping from one tree to another. Monkey species in Nyungwe forest national park include blue monkeys, black and white colobus, red tailed monkey, l’hoest monkey, vervet monkey among others.
Bird watching, Nyungwe forest national park is also known as a birders paradise for the bird lovers because it’s a habitat of over 300 bird species with about 29 endemic to the Albertine rift valley. Bird watching in Nyungwe forest national park is best done in the morning with trained guides who will help you explain and to spot different bird species in the forest including dusky crimson, handsome francolin, Grauer’s warbler, Ruwenzori apalis, Ruwenzori batis, black and white casqued hornbill, Shelley;s crimson wing, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, red-throated alethe Chapin’s flycatcher, great blue turaco, Rwenzori nightjar, mountain sooty boubou among others.
Nature walks/hiking, Nyungwe forest national park offers different trails for hiking including
Bigugu trail, this is a 7kilometer trail that goes up to the highest point in Nyungwe forest national park which is Bigugu peak that is 2950meters high. Bigugu trail is one of the difficult trails that needs the hiker to be physically fit and takes 6 hours to be completed. During Bigugu trail hiking you will be able to view different bird species and wildflowers in the forest.
Isumo waterfall trail, this is a 10.6-kilometer long trail that passes through the tea plantations, Nyungwe forest, tree ferns among others. Isumo waterfall trail takes about 4 hours to be completed and during hiking, you will be able to view monkeys, tree species and different bird species.
Ngabwe trail, Ngabwe is a short trail that is 4.7 kilometers long. This trail takes you through the vegetation zones in the forest and you will be able to view primate-like colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, l’hoest monkeys among others.
Karamba trail, this is a 4kilometres long trail and is one of the easiest trails in Nyungwe forest national park. While hiking Karamba trail you will pass through flat and open areas in the forest. Karamba trail was once an area where gold mining was done and later the place was made a quarry for road building materials and it’s now an army camp. This trail is good for birding in that you will be able to view different bird species, tree ferns, orchids, monkeys among others hence giving you the best experience on your safari in Nyungwe forest national park.
Canopy walk: The canopy walkway offers you an opportunity to explore Nyungwe forest. Canopy walkway in Nyungwe is a 50 meters high steel bridge that is built on the treetops and it’s the largest of its kind in East Africa. Nyungwe canopy walk has trails where each trail is named according to the type of tree species found there, for example, Igishigishigi trail which means fern trees, also known as one of the main hiking trails in Nyungwe forest national park, Umuyove trail which means mahogany trees, Umugote trail, Karamba trail, Isumo trail among others. The canopy walkway is divided into three walking sections where the longest stretch is 90 meters, another one 45 meters stretch and the shortest at 25 meters. Nyungwe forest canopy walkway starts from the Visitors Centre in Uwinka, takes about 2 hours and offers viewing points along the walkways where you will have great scenic views of the forest, primates, birds among others. The canopy walkway is a thrilling adventure for adventurous visitors and it also made Rwanda be one of the top tourism destinations in Africa.
Gisakura tea plantation tour: is an exciting activity where you will visit the Gisakura tea estate which is located at the edge of Nyungwe forest national park. A tour at Gisakura tea estate can be combined with other activities, therefore, it can be done like in the evening and you will be able to walk in the tea plantations, visit the processing plants where you will learn how tea is grown, harvested, processed up to the final stage when its ready for drinking. During your tea plantation tour at Gisakura, you will engage in the activity of picking tea into the baskets which gives you extraordinary experiences on your safari in Rwanda.
Best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest national park is located in the southern part of Rwanda and can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best time to visit is during the dry season which is also known as the peak season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January, and February. During the dry month, the Nyungwe forest receives less rainfall, therefore, all the safari activities will be successful such as money trekking, chimpanzee trekking, nature walk among others because the trails will be passable though due to the fact that it’s a rainforest it might rain anytime. Nyungwe forest national park can, however, be visited during the rainy season in the months of March to May and October to November. Though it will be a rainy season with heavy rainfall in the forest all the park activities will still continue and the rainy season is ideal for bird watching in that there will be plenty of fruits and food for the birds.
Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest national park has luxury, mid-range, budget, and camps where visitors on a safari can stay including Nyungwe forest lodge, Gisakura guest house, Nyungwe top view hill hotel and camping sites. Accommodations in Nyungwe forest national park offer comfortable beds with spacious rooms, charging socks, showers among others, free Wi-Fi, prepare local and international dishes, swimming pool, comfortable seats and favorable environment for relaxation after chimpanzee trekking or nature walk in the forest.
How to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park
When traveling to Nyungwe forest national park you can either use road transport or air transport means
Air transport, Nyungwe forest national park can be reached by air means where you can book domestic flights from Kigali international airport to Kamembe airport and then connect to Nyungwe forest national park. You can also fly to Kigali international airport and then connect by road to Nyungwe forest national park which takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
Road transport, when using road transport means you will either use a company car or hire a private car which will pick you from Kigali international airport and transfer you to Nyungwe forest national park. There are also public means of transport where you will board a bus from Nyabugogo bus station Kigali and get out of the Uwinka center and hire a private car to the park headquarters.
Nyungwe forest national park is a must-visit destination in Rwanda that offers interesting activities like chimpanzee trekking, canopy walk, nature walk among others hence giving you exciting and breathtaking experiences on your Rwanda Safari Tour.