Nyungwe forest national park is located in the south western part of Uganda near the border of Burundi to the south of Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It can be reached in just about 5-7 hour drive from the capital Kigali. The park covers an area of about 1000sqkm covered by bamboo, grassland and swamps and the park is known as one of the biggest single area of montane forest not only in the east and central Africa but also in the whole of Africa. the park is famous for housing the highest number of primate species over 13 species of primates live in this park, however the major highlight of the primate specie is the chimpanzee, over 400 chimpanzees are estimated to live in this park only, hence making sighting a guarantee. Chimps are the closest relative of man sharing almost 98% of human DNA make-up and they are known as the most intelligent primate on earth. The park is also a home to over 400 Black & White Colobus monkey, red tailed monkey, olive baboons, baboons, civet monkey, mona monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, owl-faced monkey, golden monkeys, among other.
Not only primate species that inhabit the park, but it also hosts over 250 species of birds of which 16 are Albertine rift endemics, there are over 85 species of mammals including side striped jackal, a few type of mongoose, golden cat, wild cat antelopes, buffalo, leopard are also still present although not many among others. There is also a large area of bomboo forest at a higher altitude, you can also find over 200species of trees including some wonderful African mahogany, among many others and it also houses over 140 species of orchids (including eight that are endemic). Over 120 butterflies, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species and butterflies. A number of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests eco region in Africa. Nyungwe forest has been protected as a forest reserve since 1933. The forestry department and Rwanda tourism board maintains a number of very well kept and interesting trails of various lengths and levels of difficulty which is a pleasant and enjoyable activity.
What To Do At The Park
- Chimpanzee tracking/trekking
Chimpanzee tracking is regarded as the most tourist activity done at the park; many travelers to this park go specifically to see the chimps in their natural habitat. These delightful apes, more closely related to human than to any other living creature, they are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruitful trees. Nyungwe forest boasts two wild chimp communities that welcome guests (one in Cyamdungo and other around Uwinka) they are habituated to human standards making watching them in their home very possible and clear. Chimp Tracking activities are conducted daily at the park and all chimp tracking activities begins early in the morning at 080:00 am after reporting at the park headquarters for short briefing about the all process of chimp tracking. After, depart to the forest to begin the activity possibly the most interesting tourist activity done at the park. Tracking activities is unpredictable it can go from 1-6 hours since meeting them depends on where they spent their last night from. And Ounce they are met, you strictly allowed to stay with them for only one hour observing their behavior as well as taking photography. Chimpanzee tracking will give you more chance to see other primate species like the owl-faced monkey, black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, more than 300 Colobus monkeys, mona monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys among others.
Chimp tracking permit costs uUSD70 per person per tracking and you are advised to book earlier before your safari you can book your chimp permit through a tour company or a tour operator in order to avoid the inconveniences.
- Forest walk:
This is another interesting safari activity the park offers, there are many trails leading you to a number of attraction and each trail has its own experience, each trail is guided by an experienced ranger guide who will take you through the forest on foot, he will give you all the necessary and informative information on any forest flora and fauna you meet on the way. Some of the trails include the waterfalls trail this can go from 1-6 hours, the Kamiranzoru it last for about 3 hours, the Bigugu trails this trail is known as the toughest so some physical fitness is needed, its leads you up to Bigugu peak which is about 2,950m high and it has the highest point in Nyungwe forest, colored trail, the Karambi trail is regarded as the easy track it takes you to the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp, all these treks are fantastic for birding and primate watching
- Canopy walk:
Nyungwe forest National Park is one of the few parks in the whole of Africa to offer this activity and it lasts for about 1-3 hours, however it depends on the stopovers you make on the way. You walk up to the end and come back. The canopy walk offers great opportunity to come across several species of primate jumping from one tree to another plus several species of birds, butterfly flying just a few meters from you. If someone fears height this activity is not recommended for you, you will do other tourist activities which are favorable for you. Canopy walks are conducted by skilled guides who will take you through the all the process. Canopy walks costs usd $60 per person children must be accompanied by adults. Come with a rain jacket since it’s a montane rain forest it can rain at any time, come with strong boots/shoes plus a walking stick to help you during the walk.
- Bird watching:
Nyungwe forest national park is one of the spotting areas for birds; birders are gifted with a chance of watching over 300 species of birds that inhabit the park of which 27 are endemic to the Albertine Rift. The Rwanda development board has experience birders who are not only kin in bird watching but also passionate in the field, they help birders to identify species of birds and they are good at giving any informative information necessary during birding. A good camera is necessary since it’s a tropical forest, it’s sometimes herd to see birds, so the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable.
- Community walks:
This activity takes you to the see the local people who leave near the forest, the walk will take you to the Banda community which located 15km down the mountain from the Uwinka Visitors Center. Ounce here you will receive entertainment from the local people including cultural songs, dances and cuisine as part of their culture. You can still join them in their dance, basket making, songs as a way of learning more about African way of life, learn also their historical background, this activity is very interesting. Also you can be given opportunity to participate in activities such as local food tasting and basket weaving among many other others
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