Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda, Chimpanzee trekking and Golden Monkey Tracking

Having 13 primate species, Nyungwe National park is known for being the only and only home for Chimpanzees in Rwanda. The park is located in the South Western Rwanda, bordering Kibira National Park in Burundi to the South, Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo to the West.

The Park is the one among the oldest and best montane rainforest in central Africa, 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 comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources.

The park was established in 2004, spanning an area of about 970km2 of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs

The mountainous region  located within the park borders combines with the wildlife, including  a small group of chimpanzees as well as 12 other species of primate, such as  the L’Hoest’s monkey endemic to the Albertine Rift.

Nyungwe Forest National Park was established in 2004 spanning an area of about 970 km2.  Cyangugu, the nearest town is located just 54 km to the west while Mount Bigugu is located within the park borders.

Besides the 13 primate species , Nyungwe National park is also ahome to 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species, many of which are a restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa.

How to get to Nyungwe National park

Nyungwe National Park is located just 5 hours drive from Kigali international airport, and can be easily accessed by both road and Air.

By road;

Getting by road to Nyungwe National park can either be by public means or a rental car from a trusted car rental company like 4×4 car rental Burundi. One can leave for Nyungwe national park by bus from the Nyabugogo Bus park in Kyigali to Uwinka traveler’s center. The bus drive may take at least 8 hours which may cause so much delay for travelers who have fixed schedules in Rwanda.

Travelers can opt for rental option from 4×4 car rental Burundi offices in Kigali, for self drive or with adriver.  Self-driving or chauffeur driving  is a quick, reliable, fast and trusted means for travelers to get to Nyungwe national park , so as to avoid the hustle at Uwinka and Gisakura.

Since you are in a country of thousand hills,  the roads are smooth and sharp, which calls for attention while driving. The journey starts from Kigali, proceeding towards the south, crossing the towns with rolling hills. The drive then continues through Huye town, just 34km from the capital city of Rwanda.

By Air:

Getting to Nyungwe National Park can also be possible by arranged by domestic flights by Rwanda Air which require early booking. Rwanda air offers 9 flights per week from Kigali to Kamembe international Airport, which is located a 40km drive to Nyungwe Forest national Park. It is sometimes lucky that some hotels arrange the domestic flights for those who can afford.

What to see and do in Nyungwe national park

Chimpanzee tracking is the major activity in Nyungwe National Park, although it habits anumber of Mammals including, blue monkeys, White monkeys, colobus monkeys, warthogs, antelopes among others. The most sought after activity after chimpanzee tracking is, canopy walks in the forest, yet other breathtaking activities life Forest walks, Bird watching, and Monkey trekking respectively;

It may be hard to hit on the most important activity to start with when you get to Nyungwe Forest National park. So below are the what you can see and decide to do at Nyungwe national Park:

Chimpanzee trekking

chimpanzee trekking-Nyungwe National parkNyungwe Forest National park is a home to about 400 individual chimpanzees in Rwanda. Tracking Chimpanzee is a major activity in Nyungwe forest national park. Nyungwe national Park has three starting points from which trackers converge for briefing, namely; Gisakura, Uwinka and katabi .

The trackers are informed about the do’s and donts of tracking chimpanzees, after then led by the help of arranger to the forest to search for the chimps.  Unlike the expensive mountain gorilla permits, chimpanzees are trekked at a relatively low cost which makes it a must do activity in Rwanda among other safaris. All trackers are entitled to an hour stay in the presence of the intelligent chimpanzees upon encounter, as they as they witness the human like 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.

A valid trekking permit is a must a have a pass  to see and interact with these gentle giants for an hour. All trekkers are urged to keep a 7m distance away from the chimpanzees to avoid the spread of human wildlife diseases such as cough and flue since chimpanzees are closer relatives to human beings hence susceptible to human diseases.

Hiking trails

Referred to as Forest walks, hiking trails are the best way to fully explore the beauty of Nyungwe forest national park. Endowed with 13 hiking trails, which are about 130 kilometers, these trails lead hikers/trekkers into the forest interior. Each trail leads to a remarkable feature including waterfalls caves and swamps hence offering unique features.

These hiking trails include Isumo waterfall trail, Igishigishigi trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Bigugu trail, Ngabwe trail, Kamiranzovu marsh trail, Karamba birding trail, Source of the Nile trail, Irebero trail, Muzimu trail, Imbaraga trail, Umoyove trail, and Rukuzi trail. All trails are of different sizes in that some are long while others are short hence providing a chance to all kinds of travelers to enjoy any of the hikes depending on one’s physical fitness and the ability to hike.

The forest walks depend on how long the trekker wants to spend along the trails because all trails have different time intervals from at least 3 hours up to the longest which takes 3 days. Hiking through the forest help travelers to enjoy a peaceful calm environment, while listening to the sweet melodies of birds singing up in the trees which keep running in the minds of trekkers.

Canopy walk

Nyungwe national Park is the only adventure destination with a 200m canopy walk above  Nyungwe Forest national Park in Rwanda and East Africa as a whole. Trekkers 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. The two hours trek start and end at Uwinka information center – the park  headquarters and it’s also the end point. All trekkers must be at least 6 years of age, each one must having a valid permit. The cost of the trekking permit is pocket friendly, thus rewarding you with a thrilling experience which last for a lifetime.

Bird watching

Nyungwe forest National park is also an birders paradise for avid birders. The park inhabits about 300 species of birds, out which 121 are forest birds, whereas 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 babler, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Congo bay owlet, mountain sooty boubu, the Neumann’s warbler, and more. Ranger guides also help in spotting these birds as well as explaining the unique characters of each spotted bird in the forest.

Monkey trekking

Apart from chimpanzees, Nyungwe forest national park inhabits 300 monkey species which makes it the best spot for monkey trekking. There are hig opportunities of encountering different Monkey species, which include L’ Hoests monkeys, black and white colubus, blue monkeys, and red tailed monkeys among others. These monkeys species have similar but are only differentiated by their colors. Monkey trekking is another unique heart warming experience given that monkeys are lively and playful creatures that keep you alert all the time by their continuous movements, shouts while jumping from one tree brunch to another.