Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe rainforest is in southwestern Rwanda bordering Burundi along the south with Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is probably the best preserved rainforest in the mountains throughout Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest is one of the sources of the Nile.
The National Park was established in 2004 and covers an area of approximately 970 km² of rain forest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park boundaries.
The main entrance is at Uwinka on the main Cyangugu – Huye road. It’s about 55km from Cyangugu and 90km from Huye. The road is mostly in good condition. There are regular buses along the route and hitching is also an option. Buses are often full when the reach here so if you’re getting a bus out it may be best to try and book your ticket in advance. If travelling from Cyangugu ignore the sign in town that says its 20km and further ignore the sign 15km from Cyangugu directing you right up a dirt track. These refer to a small off shoot of the park, not the park proper.
What to see in Nyungwe forest
Nyungwe is home to 13 species of primates recorded in Nyungwe and these include; the Blue Monkey, Vervet monkey, Grey- cheeked mangabey, Dent’s monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, Red- tailed monkey etc.
About 500 chimpanzees live here including a small community in the nearby Cyamdungo Forest. It is common to hear
Common Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes) the only ape in Nyungwe, 500 live in this park. Your guide can help you spot them and their signs: calls, nests, or scat.
Adolf Friedrich’s Angolan Colobus (Colobus angiogenesis Ruwenzori) Nyungwe is the only forest in Africa where these monkeys form large “super groups” of over 350 individuals. L’Hoest’s Monkey (Cercopithecus L’Hoest)/Sun-tailed Gabon/Peruses’ Cameroon These three monkeys were most likely one species that lived in a continuous larger forest before the last ice age. Over time the forest split into fragments and each monkey adapted to its own forest. Today they are separate species. Blue Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis Doggett) .These tree-dwelling guenons can be found around Uwinka.
Silver Monkey (Cercopithecus Doggett) Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti) Hamlyn’s Monkey (Cercopithecus Hamlyn) Red-tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) Dent’s Mona Monkey (Cercopithecus dent) Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) Olive Baboon (Patio Anubis) Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Lophocebus albigena)
Birds of Nyungwe
Nyungwe is classified by Birdlife International as an “Important Bird Area” (IBA), which means that the park has “true significance” for the international conservation of bird populations…” In their fact sheet, they say that Nyungwe is one of the most important forests for conservation of montane birds in the region.
A birder’s paradise, Nyungwe is home to 278 species of birds—26 of those are found only in the few forests of the Albertine Rift. Grauer’s Rush Warbler is an Albertine Rift endemic that thrives in isolated mountain swamps, such as Kamiranzovu. Turacos such as this Ruwenzori Turaco are rare elsewhere but abundant in Nyungwe. You are likely to hear their loud repetitive call resonate in the forest. Spectacular and rare sunbirds, such as the endemic Purple-breasted and Blue-headed can be seen feeding in flowering trees. The Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, one of two hornbill species in the park, is known by its huge bill and honking call.
What Safari Activities are Done in Nyungwe Forest
Tourist activities in the park
In October 2010, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) launched canopy walk tourism in Nyungwe National Park as part of a strategy to diversify tourism attractions. Canopy tourism is also aimed at encouraging tourists to spend a longer time in Rwanda. The Canopy Walk is the only attraction of its kind in East Africa. This is the first ever hanging platform that allows tourists to view different animal species in Nyungwe Forest. It allows tourists to view butterflies, birds and blue monkeys that dwell in the upper levels of the forest. The forest has 13 rare primate species, the world’s largest ever recorded arboreal troop of black/white colobus monkeys, and nearly 300 species of birds and 154 types of orchids.
The canopy walk is a guided tour starting from the Uwinka Visitors center in Nyungwe forest, followed with a 30 minutes’ walk via the Igishigishigi trail in a steep slope deep into the forest to the starting point of the walk way. The walkway can however be done via the long trails of Imbaraga or the Umuyove.
Many primates, birds, butterflies can be spotted from the Top of the Canopy walkway with also great views of the entire forest canopy including Lake Kivu on a clear day.
There are also a couple of multi day trails such as the Nile-Congo divide trail (which is the only way of reaching the longest source of the Nile). These must be booked at least seven days in advance (they will not negotiate this).
What to carry or bring during the canopy walk.
- At least 1, liter of bottled water.
- Trekking/Hiking boots.
- Rain jacket.
- Walking stick.
- Small back pack.
Chimpanzee tracking is available and there are two groups habituated to human contact. In principle, Colobus monkey tracking is also available but they may have moved too far away from the trail head to be tracked.
Bird watching in Nyungwe Forest
The birds in Nyungwe Forest National Park are spectacular. Around 310 species reside here, although as in most tropical forests, you’ll have to look hard for them. Giant hornbills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrow hawks are amongst the specials, of which 27 are endemic to this section of the Albertine Rift Valley.
Forest hiking trails in Nyungwe
Over 130 kilometers of hiking routes have been created in Nyungwe Forest National Park, allowing visitors to explore its interior and its fascinating habitats. Walking in Nyungwe is excellent, with trails lasting from one to eight hours. The beautifully named Igishigishigi Trail is one of the shortest hikes yet includes East Africa’s highest canopy walk with spectacular views across Nyungwe Forest, while the 6 hour Bigugu Trail leads you to the highest mountain in the Park at 2950m.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe 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, Learn More about Chimps trek in Rwanda to be able to drive your own adventure.
Canopy Walk in the jungle of Nyungwe in Rwanda
Nyungwe is the only destination in Rwanda for canopy walks, treetop walks or treetop walkways- provide pedestrian access to the forest canopy, its available in morning & afternoon, recommended to self drive travelers.