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Nyungwe Forest National Park

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Nyungwe National Park
Chimpanzee Trekking Places in Uganda

Nyungwe National Park is in the southwest part of Rwanda, near Burundi, Lake Kivu, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was created in 2004 to attract more tourists to Rwanda. Covering about 1000 square kilometers, it’s one of East Africa’s biggest natural rainforests, ranging from 160 to 2950 meters above sea level. The park includes montane rainforests, swamps, grasslands, and bamboo, getting more than 2000mm of rain annually.

This park is a haven for wildlife, housing 75 mammal species, 13 primate species like chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys. There are also over 300 bird species, 120 butterflies, 15 reptile species, 12 amphibian species, 1068 plant species, and 140 orchids. Nyungwe, being a rainforest, contributes to rainfall that feeds the River Nile, originating in Uganda. It serves as a crucial water catchment area in Rwanda.

Tourists can enjoy breathtaking views of the Virunga ranges, Rwanda’s largest lake, Lake Kivu, hills, the Isumo waterfall, and tea plantations along the park’s edges. These attractions make Nyungwe National Park an excellent destination for nature enthusiasts.

The park’s establishment in 2004 aimed to boost tourism in Rwanda, and it continues to be a vital natural reserve, preserving diverse ecosystems and providing a habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species.

Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee Trekking

Chimpanzee trekking is the most popular activity in Nyungwe Forest National Park, where visitors explore the forest in search of chimpanzees. The trek starts from three reception centers: Uwinka, Gisakura, and Kitabi, with a briefing at 5:00 am. Park rangers guide the trek, which can take 2 to 6 hours, depending on the chimpanzees’ location. Visitors spend one hour observing the chimpanzees in their natural habitat, learning about their behaviors, habits, and capturing memorable moments.

Monkey Trekking

Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to over 300 monkey species, making monkey trekking a captivating activity. The playful and lively monkeys entertain visitors as they jump from tree to tree. Monkey species in the park include blue monkeys, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, and more.

Bird Watching

Known as a birders paradise, Nyungwe Forest National Park hosts over 300 bird species, with 29 endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. Bird watching is best in the morning with trained guides spotting species like dusky crimson, handsome francolin, Ruwenzori apalis, black and white casqued hornbill, and others.

Nature Walks/Hiking Trails

Nyungwe Forest National Park offers various hiking trails:

  1. Bigugu Trail: A challenging 7-kilometer trail leading to Bigugu peak, the highest point in the park. It takes 6 hours and offers views of different bird species and wildflowers.
  2. Isumo Waterfall Trail: A 10.6-kilometer trail passing through tea plantations, Nyungwe forest, and taking about 4 hours to complete. Hikers can spot monkeys, tree species, and various birds.
  3. Ngabwe Trail: A 4.7-kilometer short trail through different vegetation zones, providing views of colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and l’hoest monkeys.
  4. Karamba Trail: A 4-kilometer easy trail passing through flat and open areas, ideal for birding with sightings of different bird species, tree ferns, orchids, and monkeys.

Canopy Walk

The canopy walkway, the largest in East Africa, is a thrilling adventure at Nyungwe Forest. It is a 50-meter high steel bridge on treetops, divided into three sections, offering scenic views of the forest, primates, and birds. The walkway takes about 2 hours, starting from the Visitors Centre in Uwinka. Nyungwe’s canopy walkway has become a highlight, making Rwanda a top tourism destination in Africa.

Best Time to Visit Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park, situated in southern Rwanda, is accessible year-round, but the optimal time to visit is during the dry season. The peak season falls in June, July, August, September, December, January, and February. With less rainfall during these months, activities such as monkey trekking and chimpanzee trekking become more successful. However, being a rainforest, rain can still occur. The rainy season, spanning from March to May and October to November, is also viable for park activities, particularly bird watching, due to abundant food for birds.

Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Various accommodation options cater to different preferences and budgets, including luxury, mid-range, budget, and camps. Options like Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Gisakura Guest House, and Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel provide comfortable amenities and a conducive environment for relaxation after forest adventures.

How to Get to Nyungwe Forest National Park

Traveling to Nyungwe Forest National Park can be done through either air or road transport.

Air Transport: Visitors can book domestic flights from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe Airport, then connect to Nyungwe Forest National Park. Alternatively, one can fly to Kigali International Airport and then travel by road to the park, which takes approximately 3 to 4 hours.

Road Transport: Travelers can opt for company cars or hire private vehicles to transfer from Kigali International Airport to Nyungwe Forest National Park. Public transportation is also available, with buses departing from Nyabugogo Bus Station in Kigali. After reaching Uwinka Center, visitors can hire private cars to reach the park headquarters.