GISHWATI MUKURA NATIONAL PARK
The districts of Ngororero, Rutsiro, Rubavu, and Nyabihu in Rwanda’s Western Province contain 3,558 hectares of the country’s fourth national park, Gishwati Mukura National Park. The Park was just preserved from devastation after years of continuous deforestation, farming, and illicit mining by a lot of individuals who lived in the Gishwati and Mukura districts during the horrific events of the 1994 genocide.
History of Gishwati National Park
Between 1978 and 1986, forests covered an enormous portion of the Gishwati forest reserve (about 80% of the reserve), till the 1994, when the Rwandan Genocide prompted many Rwandans to leave their homes and settle inside the forest reserve. As a result, the vast majority of refugees began clearing the forests to make way for the construction of their homes and farmlands. A large portion of the forest reserve was destroyed, along with the wildlife animals that lived there. By 2001, just a small portion of the Gishwati forest reserve remained, encompassing about 1,500 acres instead of the original 250,000 acres. Furthermore, the place started experiencing significant soil erosion, degeneration, and landslides. Large tea estates currently occupy the forest reserve’s central and northern sections.
The Giswati area conservation effort was initiated in 2007 as a result of an agreement with the Rwandan government and the Great Ape Trust. The main driving force behind the creation of this program was the need to create a national conservation park to save the abundant bio variety of the Giswati forest region. The Forest of Hope Association, a Rwandan nonprofit group that presently oversees the area conservation effort and has been successful in restoring 67% of Giswati woodland, took control of the forest area in 2011.
The Rwandan legislature enacted legislation in 2015 to establish a brand-new national park that would include the Mukura and Gishwati forests. For environmentalists who have long worked to preserve the Congo-Nile divide, this constitutes a significant victory. The Gishwati Mukura National Park, which combines the Gishwati and Mukura woods, will then be a forested area that runs from northern Rwanda, close to the Volcanoes National Park, all the way down to the Nyungwe forest. This was done to help Rwanda’s tourism industry and to keep animals from becoming extinct or wandering away.
The Wildlife in Gishwati National Park
Many endangered species and indigenous species of the Albertine Rift can be found in the Gishwati Mukura National Park. In the Gishwati forest, there is a tiny population of eastern chimpanzees of about 20. Due to extensive encroachment and forest degradation, the chimpanzee population was on the verge of extinction about ten years ago. However, after government and non-governmental organizations worked to protect the forests, the chimpanzee population and other threatened species have begun to thrive once more in the two forests. The number of chimpanzees in the Gishwati forest has increased from 13 to roughly 20 in recent years, and since the forest has been given park status, the chimpanzee population can only grow. Other primates in the park include white and black colobus monkeys, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, L Hoest monkeys, and various mammal species.
Within this section of the wildlife route, there are roughly 232 bird species in the Gishwati forest and 163 bird species in Mukura woodland, including endemics of the Albertine Rift such the Rwenzori Turaco and the Red-throated Alethe. For safaris to observe forest birds, Gishwati Mukura Park is a fantastic location in Rwanda. Birders profit from the tiny area because birds may be seen in a limited region, making short safaris in Rwanda advantageous. Among these bird species are the Regal Sunbird, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Ruwenzori Batis, Woodhoopoe, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Martial Eagle, Odd weave, Grey Crowned Crane, Dusky Crimsonwing, Ruwenzori Turaco, Mountain Yellow Warblers, and Red-throated Alethe and others.
Activities are done at Gishwati Mukura, National Park
In the Gishwati Mukura National Park, there are about 35 chimpanzees. Because Gishwati Forest has been off-limits to visitors for many years and has only just been established as a national park, this group of chimpanzees has not been acclimated. As a result, they are unaccustomed to human contact and will be afraid if approached. Although it is not as easy as it is in Nyungwe National Park with one of the habituated groups, chimpanzee trekking is nevertheless doable in Gishwati Mukura National Park. On a chimp hike in Gishwati, there is no assurance that one would spot chimps, and getting near to them is very challenging.
Golden monkey tracking
Another well-liked feature in Gishwati National Park that will please any wildlife lover is the opportunity to go trekking with Golden Monkeys. One of the most stunning primates in Africa is the endangered Golden Monkey, which is only found in Central Africa. Your tour guide will provide in-depth information about the monkeys, their habitats, and the measures being made to protect them while you are with them. Perhaps the best excursions in Kigali, and one that you shouldn’t skip!
Gishwati Mukura waterfall hiking
A well-liked tourist hotspot in Gishwati National Park, the Gishwati Mukura waterfall draws thousands of people each year and is renowned across the world for its extraordinary beauty. Although the climb up to the falls is challenging, the view is well truly beneficial! The waterfall can be reached by cable car for those who lack the courage, or you can simply gaze at it from below, which is equally lovely!
The Gishwati-Mukura National Park is among the best spots in Rwanda to see birds. 15 species are only encountered in the Albertine Rift, such as the Grey Crowned Crane, Martial Eagle, Mountain Yellow Warblers, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Weaver birds, Wood hoopoes, strange weavers, and Stripe-breasted Tit, have been identified in the park. There are over 200 different species Because the park is not particularly big, birding can be done on foot. To assist with identifying the various species and locating the best birding locations, it is crucial to engage a knowledgeable guide from the park office.
Hiking and nature walks
In the Gishwati Mukura Forest National Park, another amazing activity. It enables visitors to discover the park’s natural wonders, such as the southern three hyrax, red river hogs, golden monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, and L’Hoests monkeys, among others. There are also over 60 different tree species, including mahogany, orchids, Macaranga kilim and, tree ferns, bamboo, blue lichens, and colourful butterflies. On nature hikes, it’s also possible to witness a wide variety of reptiles and amphibian species, including chameleons and brown forest frogs. Not only do these magnificent wildlife species capture your thoughts.
Gishwati cultural experiences often include trips to nearby towns or private residences. While staying with a local group or individual homestead, visitors can pick up local skills like crafting and cooking. To gain an understanding of the way of life of the locals, you can spend the night in one of their homes or visit the farmers in their gardens. A different option is to watch local cultural performances like dance, theatre, music, and storytelling. To learn how to pick herbs from the woodlands to treat common human maladies, pay a visit to one of the traditional healers if you are feeling particularly bold. Cultural dances are supported by a partnership between the Great Ape Trust and the Rwanda Development Board.
Location and how to get there
The distance between Kigali City and Rwanda’s Gishwati-Mukura National Park is roughly 157 kilometres or about 3 to 4 hours of driving. The Park is located in the northwest of the country, between the Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks. The distance between the Volcanoes National Park and the park is approximately 27 kilometres. The Park is also easily accessible by air from Kigali. The Park can be reached in 45 minutes by chartered aircraft.
Best time to visit Gishwati Mukura Park
The Gishwati Mukura National Park can be toured throughout the year. Those interested in nature walks and hikes should consider visiting during the long dry seasons, which last from June to September. Not only do I recommend this time, but it is also ideal for amazing moments and conforms to the summer season in some regions. However, the wet months of October to May, on the other hand, are ideal for chimp trekking and thrilling forest bird-watching encounters, especially with the primates that are always nearby looking for food and shelter. The grasslands are lush and gorgeous during this time of year.
Accommodation in Gishwati Mukura National Park
There are various accommodation facilities near and around this park where one can stay, they range from budget, mid-range to luxury accommodation facilities and these include the following;
The most stunning lodge in Gishwati Mukura National Park is Gishwati Lodge Six luxurious villas at Gishwati Lodge can house up to fifteen guests. The lodge offers stunning views of the park, and guests are looked after by knowledgeable, trained employees in hospitality. Visitors who want to tour the park and local villages should stay at Gishwati Lodge. Guests of this opulent retreat can also search for golden monkeys and chimpanzees. When staying at this resort, you may still go on nature hikes, do bird watching, and take pictures and videos.
Nyungwe top view hotel
In the western section of Nyungwe National Park, in the Nyamasheke district, the three-star Nyungwe top-view hotel was constructed on a high mountain close to the Gisakura settlement. This hotel offers incredibly pleasant accommodations and is situated in close proximity to Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Forest National Park, and tea farms. Due to its proximity, you can also visit Gishwati Mukura, National Park.
KCCEM guest house
This is a low-cost lodging option that offers scenic views to budget travellers. It is situated just on the park’s eastern side, next to the Kitabi booking office, and has 20 self-contained rooms made of bricks. KCCEM guest house has a 24-hour service canteen that serves both local and international cuisine. It is appealing due to its tidiness and cleanliness, and it provides views of the entire forest and mountain ranges.