Nyungwe Forest National Park
At 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe is considered one of the world’s most beautiful and unspoiled mountain rain-forest. Its diversity is explained by the fact that it stayed green even through the Ice Age which also makes it one of Africa’s oldest rain forest.
Nyungwe rain forest is positioned in the southwestern Rwanda, bordering Burundi and Lake Kivu, to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Found in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east, the eastern side of the Nyungwe forest comes also as one of the branches of the Nile sources.
This park is home to 12 other primate species including habituated chimpanzees and 400- Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus. Nyungwe is also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics and 75 different species of mammal. This scenic wonder in the southwest of Rwanda offers a variety of activities that one can engage in.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park:
Hiking on Trails; There is over 130 kilometres of hiking routes in the Nyungwe Forest, offering inner and mesmerizing habitats. The walk on the trails lasts from one to eight hours. The exquisitely Igishigishigi Trail is one of the shortest hikes and most common trail. It covers East Africa’s highest canopy walk with spectacular views across the forest. The Bigugu Trail takes 6 hours leading one to the highest mountain in the Park at 2950m.
For one interested in Hiking, I recommend several days in Nyungwe hiking the various trails, discovering the ancient rainforest and exploring the numerous habitats found in the forest.
Birding; For passionate birders enjoy birding in the habitant with over 300 bird species found in Nuyngwe Rainforest. While in the forest, be on the lookout for the great blue Turraco, Ruwenzori Turaco, greater black Turaco, the Giant hornbills, the greater blue and red-breasted sparrow hawks are also among the residents. Also be on the lookout for the 27 endemic to this section of the Albertine Rift Valley.
Carry your birding book and other gadgets that will help you identify the different bird species, and with an experienced guide and park fees permit enjoy either a full or half day birding!
Tip: Birding is highly recommended in the long dry season especially when the migrants are around .
Canopy walk; The Nyungwe Canopy starts with a 30-minutes hike from the Uwinka Visitors Centre inside from the park entrance. The canopy walk is 50 meters above the ground and offers outstanding views of the valley and also the forest. There is also a bypass for those with heights phobia. This is a wonderful extra activity for one visiting Nyungwe.
Chimp Tracking ; This is the most commonly known activity in Nyungwe forest and a must do. Since it’s a dense rain forest, one has to wear sturdy walking shoe, long trousers, rain jacket and a long sleeved top/shirt trekking through the undergrowth off the beaten track following the guides and rangers in search of these chimps. Remember to carry a lunch box and plenty of water as one can never tell the amount of time to be spent in the forest. Upon encounter you will enjoy viewing chimps sitting on branches, enjoying a meal, swinging free tree to tree branch and the babies hiding behind the mothers.
Despite the bad weather or thunder, the hike will still continue. While in the forest you might end up off the marked trail depending on the location of the chimps. Since the chimpanzee location can’t be predicted, be ready for a physically challenging hike. For those with heavy gadgets, take a porter (Local experienced people) to carry this for you and these also come in handy during a needed push and pull in the forest.
Tips: Being a rain forest, the weather is so unpredictable so bring raingear and a sweater as it can get chilly.
Chimpanzee trekking is an unforgettable encounter with Mans close relatives the chimps!
Nyungwe National Park has so much to offer apart from chimps!!!