Nyungwe Forest National Park is Rwanda’s leading chimpanzee tracking destination. This Park is a home to over 13 primate species which include a total of more than 500 chimpanzees which makes it a special primate safari destination of its own.
Located in the Southern Province of Rwanda near the border with Burundi, Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the recently founded Parks in Rwanda, established in 2004. Nyungwe is a stronghold to diverse wildlife species thanks to its extensive 1000sq.kms size. From Kigali to this beautiful forest park, visitors can take only 6 hours to drive.
The 1000sq.kms extensive Nyungwe lies at elevation range of 1600-2950m. It is largely comprised of complex matrix of Albertine Rift Montane Forest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, bogs, etc where its diverse animal species call a home.
Wildlife/primates of Nyungwe
A total of 75 species mammals make Nyungwe Forest National Park a great Rwanda safari Park to enjoy sight of unique wildlife. These include 13 primate species such as l’hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, Rwenzori black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, baboons, bush babies, vervet monkeys, owl faced monkeys, etc.
Additionally, there are 120 butterfly species, 12 amphibian species, 15 reptile species, 310 bird species, flora including 1068 species of plants, 140 orchids.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is an important home to most of the forest bird species, 27 species of Albertine rift endemics. The park’s key birds to look out for on Rwanda safari include the red collared mountain babblers, white tailed blue flycatchers, red throated alethe, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, purple breasted sunbird, lagden’s bush shrikes, Doherty’s bush shrike, Neumann’s short tailed warblers, grey chested Kakamega, pock feller’s sunbird, chestnut throated, mountain sooty boubou and more.
Safari Activities/Things to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best places to encounter common chimpanzees right in their natural habitat. This Park hosts over 500 chimpanzees and has 3 reception centers for tourists to start their search for these apes. They include Kitabi, Gisakura and Uwinka reception where briefing on chimpanzee tracking rules is often conducted.
Tracking to see chimpanzees in the wild begins early morning at 8:00am after briefing and lasts for 2-4 hours. In the afternoon, the second chimpanzee trekking session begins at 2:00pm and Nyungwe chimpanzee permits are issued out at USD100 per person. In the course of looking for chimpanzees, there is a chance of interacting with several other wildlife/primates including the grey cheeked mangabeys, Rwenzori colobus monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, baboons, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, bush babies, silver monkeys, etc.
Nyungwe is blessed with several primates- a total of 13 primate species include over 400 colobus monkeys making it an ideal colobus monkey trekking spot. Colobus tracking rewards visitors with more than incredible encounters of colobus monkeys but also other species of monkeys such as the red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Dent’s Mona monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, red tailed monkeys, Angolan colobus monkeys, silver monkeys, to mention but a few.
For nature enthusiasts, Nyungwe is definitely the right spot not to be missed exploring on Rwanda safaris. Boasting of its unique nature walking trails, Nyungwe National Park is naturally endowed with several habitats each having something distinct for visitors to explore. The ideal nature walking or hiking trails in and around Nyungwe Forest National Park include Bigugu trail 7kms long nature walking trails leading visitors through the 2950m elevation, about 6 hours’ on-foot-walk experience.
Isumo falls trail- 10.6kms introduces you into the lush tea plantations, tree ferns, Nyungwe Forest, etc. Spend 4 hours exploring the Isumo falls or go hike through Ngabwe trail 4.7kms long trail known to expose visitors to the park’s diverse primates such as l’hoest monkeys, colobus monkeys, chimps, etc.
For nature enthusiasts interested in the easiest trails, don’t miss to conquer the 4kms Karamba trail. Other trails of Nyungwe include Kamiranzovu, canopy trail, Congo Nile trail, Irebero trail and more.
Canopy walk is a distinct experience awaiting you on Rwanda safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park. The Nyungwe canopy walk is 50m high suspended walkway and it is the only one in East Africa. A walk through the 90m extensive canopy walk way starts in Igishigishigi trail.
There are 3 sections that make up the canopy walk in Nyungwe including the longest walk of 90m, 45m extension and 25m stretch is the shortest. A day canopy walk in Nyungwe takes 2 hours and exposes visitors to the park’s unique primates, birds, the lush forest cover and more.
Nyungwe has a total of 310 bird species thriving in the different habitats. These include the yellow eyed black flycatchers, mountain sooty boubou, white bellied robin chat, grey chested Kakamega, purple breasted sunbirds, black and white casqued hornbills, handsome francolin.
Gisakura tea plantation tours/cultural safaris
Nyungwe Forest National Park safaris never go without a visit to the Gisakura tea plantation or community nearby. The tea estate lies at the extreme side of the park and activities to engage include walking through the tea plantation, learn the process taken to process tea from planting till the final stage. The villages worth considering to enjoy cultural safari include Kibati, Banda villages.
What is the best time of the year to visit Nyungwe?
Safaris to Nyungwe are possible to be made at any time of the year. But, the dry season is undoubtedly the best time to consider visiting the park for chimpanzee trekking, hiking, etc and that is from June, July, August, September, December, January, February.
Tourists can be guaranteed of successful chimpanzee tracking experience unlike the during wet season (March-May/October-November) when heavy rains are experienced with the ground becoming muddy or slippery.
Where to stay/Accommodation facilities
The accommodation facilities in and around Nyungwe consist of luxury, budget and mid-range. They include Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nziza Eco-Lodge, Gisakura Hostel, etc.
Getting to Nyungwe National Park Rwanda safari
Road travel: Use rental car in Rwanda and expect to spend about 6 hours to drive through Muhanga-Huye to Nyamagabe route and your trip will begin from Kigali. By air travel: fly using domestic flights starting from Kigali airport to Kamembe Airport where a driver guide can pick you to be dropped at the park-3 to 4 hours’ drive.