Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is one of the oldest ancient rainforests in Africa rich in biodiversity and was established in 2004 to improve on Rwanda’s tourism. It is located in the south western part of Rwanda bordered by Rwanda- Burundi border in the south. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park. Nyungwe National Park covers an area of over 1020 square kilometers and has an elevation of 1600m to 2950m above the sea level with the composition of bamboo, montane rainforest, swamps, and grasslands. It has a 50m high and 200m long canopy which inspired the Rwanda Development Board to build a metallic walkway that is the first of its stature in east Africa and the third of its kind in Africa.
Nyungwe national park is the largest tropical montane rainforest in the east and well-conserved forest in central Africa. Nyungwe national park receives over 2000mm of rain each year and has a central ridge which divides Africa’s two largest drainage systems of river Congo on the west ridge and on the east ridge river Nile also known as the world’s longest river. Nyungwe is a water catchment area in Rwanda that supplies 70% water to the country. The park is close to Cyangungu town which is 54km from the park and the resort town on Lake Kivu Rwanda’s largest lake. Nyungwe national park offers great views of the Isumo waterfall, tea plantations that border the edges of the park, habituated troop of colobus monkeys at Gisakora among others.
Nyungwe national park is a home of various wildlife species including 13 primate species some endemic to the Albertine rift, 310 bird species, 27 endemic to Albertine rift, 75 mammal species for example cerval cats, mongoose, congo clawless otter, leopards among others, 1068 plant species, 140 orchids, 120 butterfly species, 38 reptiles, 32 amphibians, hills among others. Nyungwe national park has tall old mahoganies, ebonies, giant tree ferns and is occupied by beautiful green forest that usually has cooling mists in the morning and late evenings has amazing scenery and panoramic views of the Virungas which gives a thrilling experience to visitors on Rwanda safaris.
Getting to Nyungwe
Nyungwe forest can be accessed by both road and air, by air you book a flight with Rwanda air which is active the whole week and offers domestic flights and one of the favorite routes is Kigali to Kamembe which takes 49km and an a hour drive to Nyungwe forest lodge, by road it is 217km and takes 4 to 5 hours from Kigali to Nyungwe national park where you will have a stopover at the national museum and see art and craft, cultural entertainments and Nyamagabe the satellite town of Murambi site of the 1994 genocide. You will also see attractions like Nyanza king’s palace.
Activities in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe national park offers various activities to visitors on the safari in Rwanda which include;
- Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park: This is the major activity in Nyungwe national park and the only destination in Rwanda that offers chimpanzee tracking with around 400 individuals. Chimpanzees have been habituated in Nyungwe national park which makes tracking more easy and enjoyable because the chimpanzees will just hide away from the humans. Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning at around 8:00 am at the park headquarters and there are three starting areas in Nyungwe park including Gisakura, Katabi, and Uwinka where visitors first have a briefing about the expectations, what to do while in the forest. They will be grouped into eight people per group which takes around two to six hours and then move in the jungle forest to search for the chimpanzees and when found will spend one hour in the presence of the chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Visitors are requested to wear long trousers and shirts, rain jacket, hiking boots, a hat, carry a day pack, with packed lunch and drinking water, keep seven meters distance from the chimpanzees among others. During chimpanzee tracking visitors will be able to see chimpanzees feeding, hunting, how they socialize with one another, how females nurse their babies among others and will also see bird species, landscapes, flora while in the forest which gives them a wonderful experience. Chimpanzee tracking permit in Nyungwe national park costs $90 per person for the nonresidents.
- Bird watching in Nyungwe National Park: Nyungwe national park is a home of over 310 bird species, 121 forest birds and 27 species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Birds in Nyungwe are found within the mountain swamps like the Kamiranzovu, the flowering trees, the canopy among others. The guided walk for bird watchers starts in the morning or in the evening and sometimes takes a full day which offers a great experience and you will be able to see bird species including Rwenzori Turaco, blue Turaco, purple breasted sunbird, blue-headed sunbird, giant hornbills, red-breasted sparrow hawks, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, francolins, Rwenzori nightjar, batis diops, rare species like red collared, Rockefeller’s sunbird among others and will also view some primates and orchids along the way and the bird watching permit costs $70 per person for non residents.
- Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walk: This is the first treetop forest canopy walk in East Africa and is the third in Africa. It is a metallic walkway that is 90m long, 200 m long above the forest with a maximum height of around 50m. The canopy walk in Nyungwe national park was established in 2010 for the visitors to explore the higher forest landscapes with beautiful primates, birds, butterflies in the highest branches of the trees. The canopy walk allows visitors of six years and above and it starts and ends at Uwinka information center the park headquarters where you will view monkeys, birds, trees, Nyungwe forest, communities, Virunga volcanoes among others. Canopy walk crosses a deep valley which is frightening but adventurous hence the Nyungwe canopy activity should not be missed on your safari in Rwanda. The cost is $60 per person for nonresidents.
- Monkey tracking in Nyungwe National Park: Nyungwe national park is a habitat of 13 primate species including golden monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, Rwenzori colobus monkeys which are largely seen in large numbers in the forest to over 300 individuals. Nyungwe provides shelter to the largest groups of black and white monkeys in Africa. The monkey track starts at 8:00 am in the morning at the park headquarters than to the jungle which takes about two to five hours. Unlike other primates’ colobus monkeys give a joyful experience in that they are lively, playful, move from different tree branches up in the trees, and make shouts while jumping which keeps you alive during the tracking. Colobus monkey young ones are born white and get body coloring after three months hence look beautiful and attractive. various monkeys will be viewed while tracking and they include red tailed, l-hoest, owl faced, mona, blue monkeys, chimpanzees, grey cheeked among others and is an activity that you shouldn’t be missed while on a safari in Rwanda Nyungwe national park. Monkey tracking permit in Nyungwe national park costs $70 per person for the non residents.
- Hiking in Nyungwe National Park: Nyungwe national park has 13 hiking trails with over 130km of the trails through the forest hence allowing visitors to explore the ancient rainforest, enjoy peaceful, calm environment, listen to sweet sounds of the birds in the tress, discover wildlife, primates, plants, flowers, butterflies, trees among others while hiking the different trails where the shortest take around three hours and the longest takes three days they include Igishishigi trail one of the shortest hikes with the highest canopy walk, Bigungu trail which leads to the highest mountain in the park mount Bigungu which is 2950m high and the trail takes you through lake Kivu and the hills of Democratic Republic of Congo with wonderful wild flowers, orchids, plants, birds among others, Congo Nile divide trail which divide the water catchment areas of river Congo and river Nile which is the longest river, during the hike you pass through open fields, bamboo forest, rainforest and there are shops with snacks and food and camping provisions along the way where you carry the camping equipment for camping, Isumo trail which starts at the Gisakura tea plantation where you will view the largest waterfall in Nyungwe national park, Irebero trail, Ngabwe trail, Kamiranzovu trail, Umuyove trail, Imbaraga trail, Uwinka trail, Rukuzi trail, Karamba trail which is the easiest trail in Nyungwe close to a former goldmine, army camp, a market view impressive fern trees and best trail for birding, Umugote trail which offers great views of the rainforests, birds, primates, ridges, Kibira national park in Burundi among others.
- Cultural encounters in Nyungwe: This is an activity where the visitors move around the local communities in Rwanda to see peoples ways of living, their lifestyles, cultures to learn more from them, visitors in Nyungwe will move to Banda community village, Kitabi cultural village, visit entertainment groups like Friends of Nyungwe, Cyamundongo cultural troupe which offer performances through songs, music, dance, history, prepare traditional meals, make art and crafts like mats, baskets among others hence entertaining the visitors culturally and teaching them about their cultural ways of life which gives a great experience about the different cultures in Rwanda.
Accommodation in Nyungwe
Nyungwe forest national park has limited luxury, moderate and midrange accommodation facilities including Nyungwe house, Nyungwe top hill hotel, Nyungwe forest lodge, located in the middle of the tea plantations, Gisakura guest house among others and they offer high-quality services to the visitors, give great views of the canopy, tea plantations, lake Kivu, Isumo trail, see primate species like chimpanzees and monkeys see bird species among others hence beautiful places for relaxation and comfort after chimpanzee tracking or birding in Nyungwe forest national park.
Nyungwe national park is one of Rwanda’s natural wonders to be enjoyed by the visitors on Rwanda safaris that give a thrilling, exciting, extraordinary experience for lifetime memories to visitors. The park can be visited anytime throughout the year and the best time being the drier months between June to August and December to January when the trails are passable.