Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park

The park is located in southwestern Rwanda covering an area of over 1,000 km2 and consists of pristine tropical rainforest with high and dense foliage. Nyungwe is considered one of the oldest evergreen forests in Africa.

Nyungwe national park is home to 13 primate species with the world’s largest troupe of 400 Colobus monkeys and a number of chimpanzee troupes.  It is home to about 310 bird species and 75 species of mammals.

Top Things to Do in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee Tracking

The most popular activity in Nyungwe Forest is chimpanzee tracking. Nyungwe forest has about 400 individual chimpanzees distributed into two habituated groups.

The chimpanzee trekking experience starts at 5 am and each trekking group has a maximum of 8 members and can take between 2-6 hours. Most of them live in Nyungwe Forest (60 individuals) while the rest are found in Cyamudongo Forest (30 individuals). The briefing takes place in either Uwinka, Gisakura, or Kitabi.

Rwenzori Colobus Monkey Trekking

The forest has 13 off-the-beaten-track hiking trails where you are accompanied by a guide.

One of the famous trails leads to the Rwenzori Colobus Monkeys which are split into 2 groups habituated for visitors. The Uwinka group comprises about 500 colobus monkeys and the Gisakura Group has 60 monkeys.

The Gisakura group is the most visited because it is easily located without much hiking. The Gisakura Colobus Monkeys group has four trekking schedules each day; 8 am, 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.

The Uwinka colobus group has one schedule in a day at 9 am because the experience can take a full day depending on where the monkeys would have traveled to in search of food.

There are 13 primate species at Nyungwe Forest, look out for the Angola Colobus Monkeys, Dent’s Mona Monkeys, Grey Cheeked Mangabeys, Hamlyn’s Monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Olive Baboon, Red-tailed Monkeys, Silver Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, White, and Black and Colobus monkeys can be seen as well. Groups of golden monkeys have been spotted occasionally as well.

Canopy Walk

The canopy walk is a 2-hour stroll on a 200meters long trail 50 meters above the forest cover and one of the most exhilarating activities to do at Nyungwe Forest National Park. The canopy walk starts at the Uwinka Visitors Center and while at the top you take in sights of panoramic views that a hike on the ground would not offer.

There are viewing points/decks along the walkway that offer opportunities to take a break as you marvel at the amazing scenery and wildlife.  For safety reasons, children below the age of 6 years are not allowed to participate in the canopy walk.

Birding safaris

According to Birdlife International, Nyungwe National Park has over 300 bird species of which 27 can only be found in the Albertine region. From the Albertine Rift endemics to the Forest endemics, the species include the Archer’s Robin-Chat, Barred long Tailed Cuckoo, Blue Turaco, Chapin’s flycatcher, Doherty’s Bush Shrikes.

Bird Watchers in Rwanda can also sight the grey-chested Kakamega, Handsome Francolin, Lagden’s Bush Shrikes, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Purple Throated Sunbird, Red-collared Mountain Babbler, Rwenzori Double Collared Warbler, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, White Bellied Robin-chat, White Headed Wood Hoopoe and the Yellow Eyed Black Flycatcher. The Karamba Trail, Uwinka Trail, and Umugote Trail are the best birding trails in the park.

Biking through the Congo Nile Trail

The Congo Nile Trail passes through Nyungwe National Park allowing visitors to bike through this particular section.  The Congo Nile Trial offers perfect opportunities to explore the park as a whole. As one meanders through the trail by bike, they are bound to encounter countless bird species, primates, and other forest wildlife.

It is also a perfect way to see all the beautiful tree and plant species that makes the forest so attractive to nature lovers. Camping is a must while biking through the trail. It is therefore important to carry along the right clothing, camping equipment, snacks, and water.

Nature walks and Hikes

There are 13 hiking trails in Nyungwe national park.  Covering 130km and can be done within a week.  The main trails are the Bigugu Trial, Ngabwe Trail, Canopy Trail, Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail, Congo Nile Trail, Bigugu Trail, Igishigishigi Trail, Karamba Birding Trail, Irebero Trail, Isumo Waterfall Trail, Imbaraga Trail, Umugote Trail, Muzimu Trail, Rukuzi Trail, and Umuyove Trail.

The most popular trails are Bigugu which provides views of DR Congo and Lake Kivu as well as the Islands. It takes you to the highest peak in Nyungwe Forest Park.

The Igishigishigi( Great Blue Turaco) trail covers a distance of 2km with remarkable views of the Nyungwe forest canopy, beautiful wildflowers, occasional monkeys, and several birds. The total time on this trail is between one and two hours depending on one’s interests.

Fitness is needed to enjoy your nature walk because the terrain is unpredictable. Look out for primates, birds, butterflies, rivers, insects, and much more.

Visiting Isumo Waterfall

Embark on the Isumo Hiking Trail in the park which is 10.6 kilometers long and is moderate in difficulty and be hiked within 4 hours. The hiking involves descending downhill with views of a small stream flowing before continuing into densely vegetated and steep rainforest Ravines passing through slippery and steep areas of the park after which you descend to a very dense part of the forest before seeing the waterfall.

The Izumo waterfall squeezes through a narrow section of rock before plunging down and continuing deep into the forest as a stream. Look for primates, birds, and butterflies, and get in tune with nature through the amazing sounds, cool breezes, and views of the dense forest.

Visiting the Gisakura Tea Plantation

Get to visit the processing plants or go directly to the plantation and learn how tea is grown, harvested, and processed. You may get an opportunity to join in picking tea and putting it into a basket. The area around the estates has amazing scenery of the forest and Mount Bigugu on the horizon.

Cultural and Community Visit

The people of Rwanda have a unique culture and there are countless opportunities to experience it while on a tour of the Nyungwe forest. The best place to start is to visit places like the Kitabi cultural village or Banda Community Village. You can also attend performances by the Cyamudongo cultural troupe or friends of Nyungwe.

All these groups showcase the rich culture of the people of Rwanda through dance, drama, and storytelling. There are always opportunities to buy souvenirs (local crafts and art pieces).

Where to stay in Nyungwe Forest National Park

One & Only Nyungwe House

The lodge was formerly Nyungwe Forest Lodge but is now under the One & Only hotel group. It’s located in the middle of a tea plantation with 6 high-end wooden villas and 22 Luxury rooms. This lodge offers magnificent views of the Nyungwe Forest and the tea plantations. The lodge does not only offer the most comfortable rooms but is also the best place for tracking primates in the park including chimpanzees.

Nyungwe Nziza Ecolodge

Nyungwe Nziza Ecolodge is found in Kitabi and is a mid-range and standard option that has 10 spacious rooms that reflect the traditional African style with grass-thatched roofs and modern comfort. The area around the lodge has good biking trails and bikes can be rented on arrangement.

Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel

The hotel is a 3-star comprised of 12 rooms including four twins and eight double rooms, every room has a fireplace, seating space plus a balcony with a stunning view of the park.

The best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park

Late June through early September is the dry season and high season at Nyungwe Forest. The trails are less slippery which is ideal for hiking and exploring the walking trails.

For bird watching, the November-April months tend to attract migratory birds. December to February is the best time for birding as there are fewer showers of rain. In May and June; the food supply is abundant and it is the main nesting season.

Getting to Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe National Park is approximately 225 km (140 miles), or four to five hours driving, from Kigali. Alternately, you can fly into Kamembe Airport, a half-hour drive from the park’s western edge, and get picked up by the lodge.

What to bring for the chimpanzee trekking

Waterproof hiking boots, Sun hut, Sunscreen, Insect repellent, Trousers or Pants, and long-sleeved shirts.

Other Rwanda Destinations

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