Nyungwe Forest National Park
Set in Southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is about 5-6 hours’ drive, approximately 230kms from Kigali capital city and it is by far a stunning primate destination worth exploring. Founded in 2004, the park occupies an area of about 1000sq.km, featuring largely a tropical rain-forest. It sprawls between the elevation of 1600 and 2950m. Compared to most protected areas, Nyungwe Forest National Park is rated among the few best-preserved montane rain-forest parks in East-Central Africa thus offering authentic experiences to visitors on Rwanda safari.
History of Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park was designated as a reserve in 1903 under the management of the German colonial government. Between 1958 and 1973, its size reduced to 150sq.kms due to deforestation and fire outbreak. Most of the elephants were killed and around 1975, buffaloes were also killed. However, the park recorded an increase in the number of colobus monkeys around 1984.
Research facilities were established in Uwinka but unfortunately, they were destroyed during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. From 1995, most of the facilities were restored and in 2004, it was designated as a national park. Today, Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the exceptional primate safari destinations in East-Central Africa.
Wildlife in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park boasts of its biodiversity. Over 13 primate species live in Nyungwe Forest thus making it one of the best primate safari destinations on the African continent. The popular wildlife species include over 500 chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, bush babies, Dent’s Mona monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, silver monkeys, Angola colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys and many more.
- Bird species in Nyungwe Forest National Park
About 310 bird species are confined within Nyungwe National Park making it an exceptional birding safari destination in Rwanda. 27 of the bird species in this park are endemic to the Albertine Rift area. However, the birds to sight in Nyungwe Forest National Park include grey chested Kakamega, Grauer’s rush warbler, Neumann’s short-tailed warbler, chestnut throated, Chapin’s flycatcher, regal sunbird, Doherty’s bush shrike, Rwenzori Turaco, the large blue turaco, the purple breasted sunbird, blue-headed sunbirds.
- Other attractions in Nyungwe National Park
The other exceptional tourist attractions to explore in Nyungwe Forest National Park include Izumo falls, Kamiranzovu falls, amphibians, reptiles, 1000 plant species and watching over 120 butterfly species.
Activities to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Chimpanzee tracking
Chimpanzee tracking is the top leading activity in Nyungwe National Park. It is estimated that about 500 chimpanzees exist in Nyungwe Forest National Park, 60 of which have been habituated for tourism purposes. Treks to view chimpanzees in this park commence from Uwinka and Cyamudongo sectors. Cyamudongo Forest is composed of 30 chimpanzees. Each chimpanzee trekking permit in Rwanda costs $100 per person.
Birding in Nyungwe National Park allows you to identify diverse bird species that make up a total of 310 estimated birds in the park. The birds to sight in the park include Rwenzori Turacos, blue turacos, Grauer’s warblers, regal sunbirds, red-faced woodland warblers, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, mountain masked Apalis, red collared, Albertine owlet, Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori Apalis, Neumann’s warblers, paradise flycatcher, Shelley crimson wing to mention but a few. Most of the Albertine rift endemic birds exist in Kamiranzovu.
- Primate watching
Nyungwe National Park is blessed with diverse primate species making it an incredible primate destination to visit on Rwanda safari. Besides chimpanzees, the other primates to look for in Nyungwe Forest National Park include Dent’s Mona Monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, silver monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons.
- Canopy walk
Canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park is an exceptional experience and first of its kind in East Africa. It begins from the Uwinka visitor center and one can spend 2 hours walking along the suspended canopy walkway at about 60 meters above the ground. A canopy walk in this park lets one view different plant species, primates, and birds and enjoy the breathtaking view of Nyungwe Forest canopy.
Hikers in Nyungwe National Park can embark on a 130km walk via the designated trails. Depending on the trail you choose, some trails can take you up to 3 hours. The popular trails include canopy trail, Bigugu trail, Igishigishigi trail, Muzimu trail, Umugote trail, Congo Nile Divide trail, Irebero trail, Imbaraga trail, Ngabwe trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Izumo fall trail and many more. Each trail has something unique for you to explore.
- When to visit Nyungwe National Park
Depending on one’s travel needs, Nyungwe National Park is open to visitors all year-round. However’ the dry season is best for chimpanzee tracking, nature walks or canopy walk. The dry season in Rwanda is normally in June, July, August, September and December, January, February.
- Getting to Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is set in Southwestern Rwanda, approximately 5-6 hours’ drive from Kigali capital city. Using a 4×4 safari vehicle allows one to explore the surrounding areas en-route to the park. By air, there are flight services offered from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe airport. From Kamembe, one spends about an hour’s drive to Nyungwe Forest Lodge.
In summary, for unique primate experiences, a visit to Nyungwe National Park is worthwhile on Rwanda safari.