The Nyungwe Forest National Park is situated in Rwanda’s southwestern, close to the borders with Burundi to the south, Lake Kivu to the west, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north. It is predominately covered in a dense canopy made of high-growing tropical forest tree species. With a total area of over 1020 square kilometers, Nyungwe is the biggest natural mountainous rainforest in Africa. It is also the most preserved and protected natural forest in the continent. The Nyungwe Forest has established itself to be the foremost significant bio-diverse region in Africa.
The Nyungwe afro-montane rainforest is the finest and biggest in central Africa. It is situated at an elevation of 1600 to 2950 meters above sea level, which is a high altitude. The woodland receives more than 2000 mm of rainfall yearly; it’s possible that the area’s dense forest and high altitude are the real causes of this amount of precipitation. Rwanda’s primary supply of water is the Nyungwe forest. Almost two-thirds of Rwanda’s water is collected there. Furthermore, Nyungwe Forest’s water is shared with both the Congo River and some of that water enters the Nile through the River Akagera.
A forestry reserve was established in the Nyungwe forest by the German colonial government in 1933. Unfortunately, between 1960 and 1970, forest cover was removed by fires, human activities including the poaching of wildlife like buffaloes who were once forest dwellers, and deforestation, as a result, Nyungwe shrank by roughly 15%. Biologists and other researchers undertook some exploration in Nyungwe between 1970 and the 1980s. Eucalyptus border posts were constructed as borders with communities in the beginning of the 1980s. To entirely reduce the necessity for fuelwood inside this Park border posts were implemented.
Along with the Rwandan government, the Wildlife Conservation Society launched a protection initiative for the Nyungwe forest in 1985. Projet de Conservation de la Forêt de Nyungwe was the name of the initiative to protect Nyungwe (PCFN). The organization devised a long-term training system and habituated primates to be used for tourism. Together with the US Peace Corps, they also began an initiative to construct paths in the park. Then, the community-established commercial centers in the park were put to an end. For the benefit of the park, quarrying in the area was instantly stopped.
The Wildlife Preservation Society verified the presence of the first and largest troop of Colobus monkeys in Nyungwe at this time, with approximately 400 members in the troop. It became more pertinent to conduct ongoing surveys of plants, animals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Moreover, tourist amenities and facilities were constructed in Nyungwe, particularly in the area of the Uwinka reception center. However, all these arrangements and initiatives barely lasted long, because of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide which destroyed all the infrastructures and measures which were put in place.
The infrastructure of Nyungwe Forest National Park was rebuilt again starting in 1995. It wasn’t until 2004 that the park was officially constituted as a national park, and it was formally recognized as such in 2005. After Akagera and Volcanoes National Parks, it was then the third national park in Rwanda.
Attractions in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is among the top birding locations in Africa due to its estimated 300 varieties of birds, 26 of which can only be found within the Albertine Rift, among many other species, these birds include Melaenornis ardesiacus, the Regal Sunbird, the Ruwenzori Batis, the Black and White Casqued Hornbill, Batis diops, and the Yellow-Eyed Black Flycatcher.
The wildlife and animals
The abundance of animal and plant species in Nyungwe Forest earns it conservation and protection classification in Africa. The magnificent park in the land of a thousand hills is habitat to thirteen (13), unique primate species, which accounts for 25% of all primate species in Africa, eighty-five (85) mammal species, thirty-two (32) amphibian species, and thirty-eight (38), distinct reptile species. The Albertine Right Valley region is home to the majority of these animal species.
The 500 Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) that dwell in the park’s designated sections are the principal animal species in Nyungwe that attracts tourists’ interest. The only three monkey species known to have existed in the Nyungwe Forest first before Ice Age are Lhotse’s Monkey, Sun-tailed Gabon, and Preuss’ Cameroon. The Nyungwe forest has been divided into sections through time, and each monkey has become acclimated to its particular area of the forest and the presence of different species there. For instance, it is simple to locate the Blue Monkey, commonly known as the tree-dwelling guenons, in and near Uwinka. Whereas Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Dent’s Mona, Silver Monkey, Golden Monkey, Hamlyn’s Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey, and Vervet Mona
The leopard, serval cat, golden cat, side-stripped jackal, African civet, genet, marsh mongoose, and slender are just a few of the other animal species in the park that accurately reflect carnivorous mammal species. Moreover, there are three (3) species of duikers, two (2) species of flying, and one (1) species of tree hyrax.
The only park in East or Central Africa with such a sizable montane forest is Nyungwe National Park, which is also regarded as having one of the oldest forests dating back to the last Ice Age. The Nyungwe forest, which is known as a center of floral diversity, is home to far more than 200 different kinds of trees as well as innumerable other flowering plants, such as the enormously large lobelia and a variety of colorful orchids. The park’s plant life varies according to height or elevation; for instance, at an altitude of 2950 meters, subalpine flora, including bamboo and bushes, can be found. Podocarpus, Phillipia, bamboo, and Erica johnstonii are among the species that can be found; at a height of 2500 meters above sea level, Podocarpus, Syzygium, Macaranga, Balthacaria, and Hagenia plant species predominate.
The Nyungwe Forest features a variety of rivers and springs that produce waterfalls that are around 17 meters high and are distinguished by overlaying cliffs, caves, and the Kamiranzovu Swamp. Tourists can see primates, birds, stunning wildflowers, a few reptiles, and other wildlife while hiking to these waterfalls.
The canopy of the Nyungwe Forest National Park is 50 meters and 200 meters above ground surface, influencing the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda’s tourism organization, to construct a metallic walkway, a first of its kind in East Africa as well as the third in Africa.
Activities to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to approximately 25% of Africa’s primate species, the majority of which are chimps. Chimpanzee trekking is the main attraction of the Nyungwe forest, which has over 500 chimps. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park begins in the early morning at three reception centers that is Uwinka, Gisakura, and Kitabi, with a briefing, after that you will meet park rangers and begin trekking in the forest. The Nyungwe Forest National Park is host to around 60 habituated chimps, and trekking takes about two to six hours or depending on the location of the chimps since they love to relocate from one to another in search of food, and visitors are permitted to spend one hour with them within their natural habitat once found.
In order to give you the best safari experience possible, chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest allows a maximum of 8 persons to trek each habituated chimp family for one hour. During this time, visitors will learn about their behaviors and habits and watch them playing in the trees, nursing, feeding, and mating while taking lots of photos, among other things. In addition to l’hoest monkeys, Rwenzori colobus, black and white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, and baboons can also be spotted when chimp trekking.
Nyungwe forest is home to 13 different kinds of primates, including the golden monkeys which have been recorded to appear sporadically. Together with other species including the grey cheeked mangabeys and Ruwenzori colobus monkeys, the Nyungwe forest is well known for its vast populations of colobus monkeys. With over 300 different species of monkeys living there, park Forest National Park is the ideal place to go monkey trekking. Expect to see a variety of monkey species in park Forest National Park, including L’Hoest’s monkeys, black and white colubus, blue monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys, among others. The only thing that sets these monkeys apart from one another is their color. Given that monkeys are vivacious and energetic animals that keep you aware all the time with their constant movements, cries, and jumping over you on tree branches, monkey trekking is a really enjoyable experience.
One of the thrilling activities that is extremely popular in Nyungwe is canopy walking. In the entire East African region, it is the sole attraction or activity of its kind. The Canopy Walk is the first-ever hanging platform that allows guests to take in vistas and sights of many animal and bird species in Nyungwe Forest. The towering perch is located above a narrow valley that cuts deep into the vast forest.
The 200-meter-long, fifty (50)-meter-high canopy walk offers a breathtaking, eye-to-tree perspective of Nyungwe Forest. It’s an extremely satisfying hobby for both kids and adults who are traveling. The Uwinka tourist reception facility, the main office of Nyungwe National Park, is where the short-guided trip to the canopy walk begins. Youngsters must be accompanied by an adult and must be at least 6 years old. The annual canopy walk is conducted at all seasons. However, it is advised that travelers bring a raincoat because it rains frequently in Nyungwe Forest. Instead, rain boots and coats can be rented at the park’s administrative building.
The best birding location in Rwanda is Nyugwe Forest National Park, which is home to over 300 different bird species. There are 121 woodland birds and 27 birds that are unique to the Albertine Rift Valley among the total number of birds in Nyungwe Forest. The most frequently observed birds in Nyungwe Forest National Park include; Rockefeller’s sunbird, Chapin’s flycatcher, Great Blue Turaco, red-collared mountain babbler, Rera grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, white-tailed flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, barred long-tailed cuckoo, Rwenzori nigh jar, Rwenzori hill babler. while carrying out this activity the distinctive characteristics of each species seen in the forest are described by knowledgeable guides, who also assist in spotting these birds.
Hiking and nature walks
In the enormous Nyungwe forest national park, hiking is a popular activity that is both interesting and exciting. It is one of the greatest ways to travel the area and come across all of the attractions that are included within it. Visitors can understand more regarding the forest’s nuances while taking a nature walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park. One can discover more about trees, plants, rocks, insects, birds, animals, and other natural phenomena by taking a nature walk. Amongst Rwanda’s national parks, Nyungwe Forest National Park is renowned as a biosphere reserve. Its more than 140 kilometers of walking trails have helped the country’s tourism industry grow. There are a number of recognized trails that can be hiked in Nyungwe Forest National Park as explained below;
Igishigishigi trail; It is one of the most well-liked and magnificent hiking trails. The Igishigishigi trail is approximately 2.4 km long and takes approximately one and half hours to complete. It gives visitors a marvelous possibility to complete the fascinating Canopy walk and also gives you a great experience as you stroll on top of tree canopies where you will spot various birds, primates, butterflies, and other creatures.
Kamiranzovu trail; As you go along this trail, you will pass through to the park’s largest wetland, which is located in a caldera-like depression, and descend from the major road through the forest to Kamiranzovu, which really is relatively low situated.
Isumo Trail; Hiking on this track takes you from the Gisakura tea plantation to the stunning largest river in Nyungwe Forest National Park, making it one of the most wonderful trails in the park.
Ngabwe Trail; The Ngabwe path is a brand-new circular trail that crosses the Ngabwe slopes close to the park’s eastern border. Given that it is located 200m down the left side of the main road, 3 km away past the Kitabi entry gate, it is more convenient for visitors staying at KCCEM Guest House.
Karamba Trail; This trail is the easiest to hike, and it’s great for bird watching because you can see a variety of birds along the way, including Archer’s Robin Chat, White-bellied Robin Chat, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Handsome Francolin Mountain Masked, Black-faced, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Purple-breasted and Regal Sun-birds, Chestnut-throated, Collared Apalis, Rwen
Gisakura tea plantation visit
Discover the Gisakura tea estate, that is situated on the outskirts of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, as part of this thrilling experience. You can combine a tour of the Gisakura Tea Estate with other activities, so it can be done, for example, in the evening. You will be able to stroll through the tea plantations and visit the processing facilities, in which you will gain knowledge how tea is grown, harvested, and processed all the way to the point where it is ready for consumption. You will collect tea into baskets as part of your Gisakura tea plantation tour, that will provide you with unique safari adventures in Rwanda.
One of the wonderful things to do in Nyungwe National Park is to visit the tropical waterfall. There are many waterfalls in the Nyungwe National Park, but Kamiranzovu Falls is the largest and most well-known one because it is the largest tropical waterfall there. The wetland known as Kamiranzovu Swamp, which is whence this waterfall gets its name (literally, “swallowing elephant”), is located in the park. This is another well-known activity in the area, particularly for hikers who may enjoy the gorgeous tropical waterfall as their reward after three to four hours of hiking.
In the Rwandese communities that surround Nyungwe Forest National Park, you may experience real Rwandese culture. When you tour these areas with an expert guide, you can also take in the local African atmosphere and engage with the residents. You can participate in tourist-friendly events including a dance ceremony, producing banana beer, and creating traditional medicines. local target shooting, bow shooting, and corn grinding. Via various community-based organizations, the community has planned these activities with the goal of protecting and conserving the Rwandan eco-system while also raising some funds for local initiatives.
Location and how to get there
Southwest of Kigali, in Rwanda, is where you’ll find Nyungwe National Park. It takes 6-7 hours to get there from the city. The Park is 90 kilometers from Butare and 225 kilometers from Kigali. One can access the park by both air and road transport means.
By air means, one can arrange domestic flights from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe Airport with Akagera aviation and then connect to Nyungwe Forest National Park.
By road transport, you will start your journey from Kigali to Ruzizi and then to Uwinka Center and connect to the Park’s headquarters.
Best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park
The southern region of Rwanda encompasses the Nyungwe Forest National Park, which really is open for visits throughout the year. Nevertheless, the best time to go is during the dry season, also known as the peak season, which runs from June through February. All safari activities, including monkey trekking, chimpanzee trekking, nature walks, and others, will be successful during the dry month because the Nyungwe forest receives less rainfall; but, as it is a rainforest, it may rain at any moment. The months of March through May and October through November are the only times when it is possible to enter Nyungwe Forest National Park during the rainy season. All Park activities will still take place even though there will be considerable rain in the forest during the rainy season, which is great for bird viewing because there will be an abundance of fruits and other food for the birds.
Accommodation at Nyungwe Forest National Park
Near the Nyungwe Forest, there are numerous hotels and resorts. They provide lodging in three categories: Luxury, Mid-range, and Budget. There are a few permanent campsites close to the park reception area for visitors interested in staying there. Booking lodging in advance of your arrival is crucial because some of these lodges get a lot of visitors during the busiest times of the year. The following are some of the accommodation facilities at Nyungwe National Park;
Nyungwe Forest Lodge
The Nyungwe Forest Lodge was thoughtfully constructed so that it would blend in seamlessly with the beautiful surroundings of the Nyungwe Forests. The resort provides exceptional five-star hotel services and facilities with aspects of the local culture, seamlessly fusing with quality service and African courtesy, offering luxury to visitors. The inn is situated in the active tea plantation of Gisakura, which is ideally close to Nyungwe National Park.
Twenty-two (22) luxurious rooms total at Nyungwe Forest Lodge are housed in six (6) four-room wooden villas. The two presidential suites, one of which has a Jacuzzi, are built in distinct villas in addition to the ones mentioned above. The lodge’s rooms are modernly furnished and tastefully designed with traditional accents because it is a luxury lodge located in the center of Nyungwe. Private decks are provided in each room, providing views of the huge woodland landscape. Each of the rooms come with the following amenities, that are interesting: an air conditioner, a private deck, a hairdryer, an electronic safe (laptop size), an en-suite bathroom with an indoor shower, Wi-Fi access, a fireplace, a flat LCD screen with digital satellite channels, and international electric adaptors.
Nyungwe Nziza Ecolodge
The lodge is mid-range and low-cost, situated in the Kitabi sector, east of Nyungwe National Park, in the Nyamagabe district of Rwanda’s southern region. The hotel is the final structure you would encounter before entering Nyungwe National Park. It is connected to the area that serves as a buffer between Nyungwe and the neighborhood. In a nutshell, one may say that Nyungwe Nziza Eco-Lodge is located exactly in the middle of Nyungwe National Park. The accommodations have a lounge, BBQ, and free Wi-Fi. Early continental breakfast is offered, and it can be consumed in rooms or at the main restaurant. The restaurant delivers delicious Pizza as well as regional and foreign cuisine. Good biking tracks can be found close to the lodge, and bikes may be rented in advance.
Gisakura Guest House
The Gisakura Guest House is located on the route out from Park to Rusizi, formerly known as Cyangugu, only two kilometers outside of the Nyungwe National Park near to the Gisakura Tea Farm. The guest home is a low-cost establishment that offers travelers incredibly affordable and luxurious lodging options. The lodge’s rooms come in three (3) different varieties and are equipped with hot water and showers. Due to its convenient location close to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) office, formerly ORTPN, and RDB Reception for chimpanzee tracking or for any other visit in Nyungwe National Park, the lodge is the best choice for tourists wanting to explore the park. Its staff is friendly and helpful.
Nyungwe Top View Hotel
In the Rusizi region of Rwanda’s Western Region, in the Nyamasheke district, Gisakura center is just a few kilometers from Kamembe Airport. Nyungwe Top View Hotel is a mid-range, three-star hotel. The hotel is located at the top of a hill, about 500 meters from either the Gisakura to Rusizi or the Gisakura to Kigali main roads. Its location is ideal for taking in the beautiful surroundings, including the unmatched views of Lake Kivu and its islands, the Nyungwe forest and its mountain range, and the tea estates that are the region’s main source of income. The hotel provides lodging options ranging from single rooms to family rooms.
The Uwinka campsite is located in the park’s entrance section, is an excellent option for guests who prefer camping. Nyungwe Forest National Park lodging It is the only campground in Uwinka that has a variety of excellent locations with fantastic forest views. The tents at one of the sites are protected from strong rains during the rainy season by a wooden platform. For showers, water can be obtained in buckets.