Nyungwe National Park
Located in the South West corner of Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is an untouched natural rainforest that is filled with exciting biodiversity.
Covering over 1000 square kilomtres, Nyungwe is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
Home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates species (including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus), it’s also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species, including 16 endemics, and is home to 75 different species of mammal.
This majestic rainforest is filled with nature and wildlife experiences for you to emerge yourself in. Hiking or even biking the beautiful terrain, tracking the famous chimpanzees, experiencing the canopy walk, witnessing beautiful birds, relaxing by waterfalls are just a glimpse of activities that Nyungwe offers.
Sounds and views collaborate to create a one-of-a-kind wildlife experience. Exploring through the forest, travellers will witness the lush green mountains and cooling mist in a landscape that won’t be soon forgotten.
Cultural activities are also available around the forest.
The home of roughly 400 species of chimpanzees, Nyungwe is home to one of East Africa's last intact populations and boasts two wild chimp communities that welcome guests (one in Cyamdungo and other around Uwinka). Thus, it's not surprising that chimpanzee tracking is a popular activity in Nyungwe (especially when the park's trees are in full bloom during the summer) as well-trained guides often lead visitors through the park's forests. And while actually viewing chimpanzees is not guaranteed, you'll enjoy learning about these creatures and their natural habitats from your guides. But you'll probably have to get up around four a.m. to succeed in this very challenging activity as chimps are mostly likely to be seen early in the morning.
If you're interested in obtaining a permit for chimpanzee tracking, contact the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chimpanzees are far from the only creature that will fascinate wildlife lovers in Nyungwe as with thirteen recorded species, the park is home to East Africa's most diverse primate population. Nyungwe is the only location in Africa where you'll find "supergroups" of more than 300 Colobus monkeys and one of the few places worldwide where you'll see L'Hoest's monkeys (primarily on the main round near Uwinka). Another rare animal you might also run into is the owl-faced monkey, an Albertine Rift endemic that inhabits Nyungwe's southern forests. In fact, most of the monkey species found in the park are endemic. Described by Birdlife International as "the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda," the Nyungwe National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Although actually spotting birds in the park's forests may be challenging, the bird songs you'll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. If you would like to learn about birds you might see and hear, book a guide for $50 U.S. at the headquarters of the Rwanda Development Board. The guides so knowledgeable about birdlife in Nyungwe they can identify birds by ear, such as the rwenzori turaco and grey-chested kakamega.
If you would like a permit to go birding in Nyungwe, contact the Rwanda Development Board at email@example.com.
Visitors to Nyungwe National Park can experience the rainforest from a new perspective: the Canopy Walkway. Hanging 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, East Africa's only Canopy Walkway provides a stunning view of the park's amazing wildlife and nature. The Walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail or if you're not part of a tour, hiking the Imbaraga or Umuyove trails.
Conducted year-round, the Canopy Walkway Tour costs $60 U.S. per person. All participants must be at least six years of age and children must be accompanied by adults. You should bring a raincoast as rain frequently falls in Nyungwe. But if you don't come with a raincoat, you can rent one as well as walking boots and sticks.
For more information about tour starting times, contact the Rwanda Development Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nyungwe’s steep landscape makes it as an ideal destination for hikers - whether they're novices or experienced - as the park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails. The trails are blessed with an amazingly diverse landscape and represent the most scenic way of exploring the forest. The ones listed below are a must for travelers seeking a challenging, yet enjoyable experience:
Congo-Nile Divide Trail
As the name suggests, you'll get acquainted with two of the world's most iconic rivers as this multi-day, 227 km trek curves alongside the Congo and the Nile. Geared towards experienced hikers, you'll navigate through varied landscapes such as rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests during this trek.
For those going on a multi-day trek, you don't have to reserve a campsite (areas along the trail have been set aside for camping) but you do have to bring your own camping equipment. In addition, a number of shops that supply food and snack have been set up along the trail and there will be nowhere during the trek that you won't be within 5-10 kilometers of refreshments.
For a map of the trail, click here.
A comfortable trek for novices, this 2.1 km hike will amaze you with its majestic views of the Canopy Trail and dazzling wildflowers. The Igishigishigi Trail can also be combined with the longer Imbaraga or Umoyove Trails.
Another relatively easy hike, the Karamba Trail - located on the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp - is considered one of the best spots for birding in Nyungwe as it is flanked by numerous fern trees.
This hike provides marvelous views of numerous ridges, rainforests, stunningly beautiful flowers and on a clear day, the Kibira National Park in Burundi. The trail is also a prime location for primate viewing and birding.
Also known as the Mahogany Trail, you'll relax by a waterfall, take a strolll under some of the park's tallest trees and savor the scent of aromatic leaves during this trek. In addition, the Umuvoye Trail provides access to several side trails used for chimpanzee viewing.
Although considered a difficult hike, this trail that takes you through rather lovely ravines is the perfect place to listen to early morning bird calls.
This trail loops around two of the highest peaks in the park and provides views of Lake Kivu in Rwanda.
Geared toward experienced hikers, the trail rewards hikers with the sight of four scenic waterfalls - any of them will be refreshing after trekking a little less than 10 km.
The highest peak in the park, this trail offers incredible flora and - on a clear day - views of Lake Kivu as well as hills and islands belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This trail takes you through verdant tea fields, a steep rainforest ravines and to top it off, the biggest waterfall in the Nyungwe National Park.
Water enthusiasts will love this trail it features the park's largest wetland, an acient swamp and brilliant waterfalls.
A relatively easy hike in the remote northeastern part of Rwanda takes your through pine and eucalyptus forests.
Two paths lead hikers to the summit, which is a lovely picnic and camping site.
This exhilarating hike provides outstanding chimpanzee spotting locations as well as views of Banda Village, from where you can hear children's voices carrying up the mountainside.
As wonderful as exploring the diverse ecosystem of the Nyungwe National Park is, you really won't get a feel for the area until you discover its rich culture. The region's song, dance, music and cuisine are all integral parts of Nyungwe's culture and walking tours of Banda Village - located 15 km down the mountain from the Uwinka Visitors Centre - represent the perfect setting for learning about an area where people have lived for more than 50,000 years. The tours provide guests the opportunity to participate in activities such as local food tasting and basket weaving and if you're fortunate, you might able to attend a traditional wedding ceremony and learn about traditional medicine.
Numerous community based tourism initiatives have been launched in the Nyungwe National Park to enhance the preservation of Rwandan culture, and one such project is the Kitabi Cultural Village. Situated at the eastern edge of the park, the cultural village features a campsite, a restaurant and for those interested in Rwandan history, a model of the king's palace. The Village also offers three different day trips that bring traditional Rwandan culture to life for visitors with activities such as a dance ceremony, banana beer production and bow-and-target shooting. And to top it off, for $40 U.S. a night, you can stay in traditional Rwandan thatched hut accommodation.
Another location in the Nyungwe National Park offering a community-based tourism product is the Banda Village. Located in the heart of the park and easily accessible via a downhill hike from the end of the Canopy Walk, the village provides visitors the opportunity to learn more about Rwandan culture through community walks where activities such as traditional medicine making and maize-grinding are performed and taught. And if you book an overnight trip, you'll be treated to a special fire-making ceremony and dance reserved for overnight visitors.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has collaborated throughout the years with local communities and leaders to find ways of conserving the beauty of Nyungwe through tourism development, awareness campaigns and policy development. In large part because of the hard work of many parties, Nyungwe was designated Rwanda's third national park. The WCS and its partners have since created a network of moderate hiking trails, a canopy walkway and the region's first interpretation center. The Rwandan government has also expressed its commitment to preservation by developing a park management plan with WCS that regulaties zoning for conservation, tourism and sustainable harvesting. Home of the largest block of montane forest in East Africa, the Nyungwe National Park boasts more than 200 different types of trees and 140 species of orchids (including eight that are endemic). The park contains numerous medicinal plants that have served as remedies for centuries, such as East African satinwood and California Bayberry.