Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the southwest of Rwanda, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the town Cyangugu, and 90 kilometers (55 miles) from Huye. It covers a vast area of approximately 970 km² (378 miles²), and is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest, reaching an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level.
Nyungwe lies in the Albertine Rift, a mountainous section of East Africa, which is home to many endemic animal and plant species that probably found refuge here during the last Ice Age. Mount Bigugu is the park’s highest point, and offers great vistas of the surrounding areas. From some parts of the park you can view the majestic Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great lakes. Surrounded by rivers Congo to the west, and Nile to the east, Nyungwe holds two thirds of Rwanda’s water, and creates colorful ecosystems inside its grasslands, bogs and swamps.
The park now enjoys the country’s highest level of protection, which will hopefully help preserve this incredibly rich natural habitat. Nyungwe is most famous for its numerous primate species, which represent a quarter of all of Africa’s primates. Chimpanzee families can be easily spotted with the help of a guide, and Ruwenzori colobus and L’hoest’s monkeys also live in this ancient forest, as well as 10 other monkey species.
Chimpanzee trekking is a major activity done in Nyungwe forest national park. Sheltering the highest population of chimpanzees in Rwanda roughly 400 individuals, On the actual day of trekking, travelers transfer to any of the three starting points of Gisakura, Uwinka and katabi where they attend a simple bring about the trekking dos and don’ts before embarking into the forest to meet the chimpanzees. Unlike mountain gorillas, chimpanzees are trekked at a relatively low cost of 60usd which make it a not miss on your Rwanda safari. On meeting the chimpanzees, you will witness the characters of chimpanzees such as feeding habits and how adult females nurse the babies juts like human mothers, which make them the most interesting animals to spend time with.
The canopy walk is a 200 meters walk above the forest. Visitors to the park walk on the built trail, which hang 60 meters above the forest rewarding them with an aerial view of the national park, wildlife, adjacent communities, Virunga volcanoes and attractions in the neighboring countries. Participants in the walk must be aged 6 years and above and each one must have a valid permit. Interestingly the canopy walk is done at 60usd, which is relatively cheap but rewarding you with a thrilling experience which last for a lifetime.
Nature walks and hiking
A nature walk /hiking is the best way to explore in full the beauty of this jungle. The park has over 13 hiking trails, which are approximately 130 kilometers, which lead into the interior of the forest. Each trail lead to a different point such as waterfalls caves and swamps and each trail offer unique features. The hiking trails include Igishigishigi trail, Bigugu trail, Ngabwe trail, Isumo waterfall trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Karamba birding trail, Source of the Nile trail, Irebero trail, Muzimu trail, Imbaraga trail, Congo Nile trail, Umoyove trail, and Rukuzi trail among others. Some trails are long while others short hence providing a chance to all kinds of travelers to enjoy any f the hikes depending on one’s physical fitness and the ability to hike. Depending on which trail a travel follows, a forest walk in Nyungwe forest national park can as short as three hours to as long as 3 days. Hiking through the forest help travelers to enjoy a peaceful calm environment, while listening to the sweet sounds of birds singing up in the trees which melodies keep running in the minds of travelers.
Sheltering over 300 bird species, Nyungwe forest is a key birding spot in Rwanda. Out of the total bird population in Nyungwe forest, 121 are forest birds while 27 are endemic to the Albertine rift valley. The most spotted birds in Nyungwe forest national park include Rockefellers 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 babbler, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Congo bay owlet, mountain sooty Boubou, and the Neumann’s warbler among others. Experienced guides help in spotting these birds as well as explaining the unique characters of each spotted bird in the forest.
Besides chimpanzees, Nyungwe forest national park is a home to over 200 monkey species hence a best spot for monkey tracking and primatology. While in Nyungwe forest national park, expect to meet different species of monkeys, which include L’ Hoests monkeys, black and white colobus, blue monkeys, and red tailed monkeys among others. These monkeys are similar in characters but are only differentiated by their colors. Monkey trekking is a very joyful experience given that monkeys are lively and playful creatures that keep you alert all the time by their continuous movements, shouts while jumping over you across tree branches.