Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park, home to a quarter of Africa’s species of primate, and to nearly 300 species of birds, constitute one of the oldest and rarest high-altitude habitats in central and eastern Africa. Nyungwe situated in the southwest, in the Albertine Rift, it has been a forest reserve since 1933 and it boasts over 250 species of tree, many of which first originated in the Congo and parts of East Africa. Apart from being Rwanda’s leading chimpanzee tracking safari destination for primates and birding tours in Rwanda. Nyungwe forest Rwanda is the source of Africa’s great rivers including Nile and Congo Nile. Perhaps the best way to experience this wonderland is by way of the Canopy Walkway. Strung high among the treetops is a sturdy steel bridge, built much like a traditional rope bridge but incredibly strong. From its high vantage point, you can look down towards the forest floor to spot the many varieties of birds and monkeys present at this elevation.

You may be wondering what a chimp trek is actually like. You’ll put on your hiking shoes, stroll through flattish terrain, and chimpanzees will whimsically be swinging from branches overhead as you snap photos. Of all the primates in the Nyungwe Forest, it is the Chimpanzees that are the most popular in the park. In many ways, tracking Chimpanzees is a totally different experience from that of the Mountain Gorillas; unlike the Gorillas, the Chimpanzees are constantly moving around and at high speeds, jumping from tree to tree making lots of noise. In contrast, the Gorillas are usually found sitting eating quietly in a forest clearing. One of the other huge differences between the two tracking experiences is that with the Gorillas, one is allowed one hour to observe and photograph them; with the Chimpanzees, there is no time limit. Keeping up with them is the biggest challenge and the biggest determining factor of the amount of time spent with them.

Arriving at Nyungwe National Park, the forest is gorgeous, made more stunning by Rwanda’s hills (when we refer to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ we are not kidding). For anyone looking for an easy to moderate hike with great forest views, the Canopy Walkway is a great first brush with the forest! The tour is more of a hike than just a simple tour so be prepared for some medium terrain and dress accordingly. You’ll need hiking shoes, and a raincoat is suggested in case of a shower. Hiking sticks are provided and despite making you look like an Austrian trekker, they’re actually very handy! The Canopy Walkway hangs 70 meters above ground and represents the highest canopy experience in East Africa.

It’s one of the few treks that start from the Gisakura side of the park and takes three to five hours to complete depending on your fitness level. The vegetation is eye-catching to avoid disturbance, that’s why visitors are encouraged during the briefing by guides at the start of the walk to be environmentally friendly.  Do not pluck off flowers or plants, visitors in large groups will be divided into small groups in order to have an eco-friendly visit in the forest. The weather is wet and rainfall is unpredictable. Walking to the waterfalls can be strenuous due ragged landscape and muddy trails, one must be fit, dressed in warm clothing, rainproof gears, good hiking shoes and also carry some packed snacks or drinking water. Since it’s in the middle of Nyungwe forest, don’t expect amenities. Even if you don’t come across any other fauna, this trail is particularly famous for its rare species of orchids and birds, including the greater swamp warbler.

Nyungwe National Park is very famous for its vegetation cover as well as being home to many different bird species as compared to the other national parks. The park is home to over 310 species of birds. Nyungwe has something of a legendary status among birdwatchers in East Africa and is by far the country’s top spot for birdwatching with some 300-plus species. The dense forest cover means actually getting a good view of a bird can often be frustratingly hard, which means that only serious birders are likely to get feathered into excitement by many of the park’s birds. The dirt Rangiro Rd, which starts 1.5km east of Uwinka, and the Imbaraga, Umuyove, and Kamiranzovu Trails are all highly recommended for birdwatching. There are six specialist birding guides based in Nyungwe who need to be booked in advance for specialist birdwatching trips.

Nyungwe forest national park is a popular Rwanda tour destination for hiking trails and forest hikes. With the guidance of expert tour guides, hikers are led into the forest onto a clear network of the trail system to wander into and explore the Nyungwe forest wilderness. Several trails that can be taken on a hiking tour include the Kamiranzovu trail where wildlife species produce amazing sounds and sceneries, the Congo Nile Trail drive, close to 230km long to explore and discover unique wilderness experiences in Rwanda.

Also, a hike to Mt Bigugu 2,925m offers hikers on tour of Rwanda exciting combination of body exercise, thrilling experiences, adventure, and fun all rolled in one. The hiking trails take from 4 hours to 3 days. There are also 130kilometers of hiking trails that are found in Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda. In case you are in this park, you can easily spend a week here as you hike through the ancient afro-montane forest.