Nyungwe Forest National Park is known for its high-altitude, mountainous rain forest in the southern Rwanda and was conserved as a reserve in 1933 and established in 2004. The conserved part of the park covers 378 square miles of the country’s land (970 square kilometers).
Lying on a surface area of 1 000 km2 of imposing hills in the south-east of Rwanda, the Nyungwe National Park is the greatest reserve and one of the oldest high altitude forests in the Eastern Africa. It existed before the last glaciation. Being unique as a result of the diversity of its flora, the forest is a home to 200 different tree species and a myriad of flowers, including the giant lobelia and a number of colored orchids.
The Nyungwe is situated in the Albertine Rift, a series where Uganda’s Mountain of the moon starts in the western direction of Democratic republic of Congo and Uganda. Neighboring Burundi’s National park Kibira, Nyungwe has just been recorgonised as a National park to the International level and a number of visitors frequent the park every year for primate watch safaris in Rwanda and known for being the biggest rain forests remaining in Africa and East Africa’s conserved forest with a high high-altitude.
Nyungwe is endowed with a variety of animal species with primates species ranging 13 in total, 275 Avi (birds) species thus a bird watchers paradise, 38 species of reptile, 32 amphibian species, mammals are 85 and plants species noted are approximately 1068 thus attracting many visitors to Africa as a wildlife safari destination.
Location itself in a region where several large-scale biogeographical zones meet and the variety of terrestrial biomes offers a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.
The most beautiful bird in Nyungwe is the big blue turaco – a bird that has a strange blue color, with red and green feathers, which flutters from tree to tree in psychedelic processions. An important network of well maintained pedestrian tracks takes you through the forest to water falls and panoramic sights. A comfortable and rustic inn and a perfectly well-located camp are located on the main road. You can visit the reserve in one day from Butare or Cyangugu. Nonetheless, Nyungwe requires more time. Anyone wishing to see the chimpanzees or other smaller primate species on the spot will need at least two days – and lovers of ornithology may never want to leave.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is made up of a variety of habitats including montane forests, bamboos, grasslands, and swamps. This is a home to 13 primate species such as chimpanzees, endangered golden monkeys, Blue Monkeys, colobus, red tailed monkeys and grey checked mangabeys. There are also about 300 bird species. It is a top eco-tourism destination with a growing network of hiking trails that offer visitors great opportunities for world class bird watching, chimpanzee tracking, colobus monkey watching, kamiranzovu visit, community walks, Canopy walk, orchid ogling among others. Many Rwanda safaris organized to Nyungwe national park mainly go for chimpanzee tracking, bird watching, canopy walk, Black and while colobus monkey tracking and forest walks among others.
Hiking trails in Nyungwe forest National Park
The park offers 13 hiking trails like “Igishigishigi” meaning tree fern – this trail trails range from easy to difficult and from 1.7 kms to 10.6 kms in length.
High class Bird Watching in Nyungwe forest National Park
The park is home of over 278 bird species, 26 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. It is one of the best bird watching destinations in Africa and the world at large. Birds like the Great Blu Turaco, the Crowned Hornbill and the Blue-Headed Sunbird among others are found here.
Ape trekking in Nyungwe forest National Park
With 13 primate species recorded here, Nyungwe has one of the highest diversity of primate species in a single location. Unfortunately, several of these species are endangered. Some of the species seen in Nyungwe forest National park include; Blue monkeys, the vervet monkey, Grey-checked mangabey, dent’s monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, red- tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, Angola colobus, Owl- faced monkey and so on.
Orchid Ogling in Nyungwe forest National Park
Nyungwe is home to 154 species of orchids, eight of which are endemic to Rwanda. The Park hosts 68% of the orchid flora of Rwanda. It is one of the world’s greatest concentrations of orchids.
Wildlife viewing in Nyungwe forest National Park
The tropical forest is endowed with a variety of forest animals like cerval cats, Golden Cats, Wild Cats, Side-Striped Jackal, Mongoose, Congo Clawless Otters, Genet, Civets, Duikers, Bush Bucks, Hyrax, Leopards among others. The forest animals can be viewed while searching for the primates or bird in the forest. Some mammals like leopards are dangerous to man but the tourists are always escorted by the armed rangers to ensure their safety.
Canopy walks in Nyungwe National Park
The first ever hanging platform which allows tourists to view different animal species in Nyungwe forest was unveiled on October 15. And as officials here announced, it will be the first in this region and just the third on the African continent. The Canopy Walkway is 40 meters above the ground level, and 90 meters long, above a steep, deep valley, that affords the clients the dizzying platform from which to be at the “eye-to-eye level ” with different primate species, and many bird species, all of which are fond of inhabiting the upper scales of the forest.
Community tours around and in Nyungwe forest national Park
For proper preservation of Nyungwe forest, the nearby communities need to be directly involved in the struggle of protecting the park however, it can be successfully done by rewarding, educating and giving park of the profits from the park to the nearby communities by improving their welfare through improving road, constructing wells, boreholes, constructing healthy centers among others. The history and people of the area are diverse, with many examples of song, dance, music, cuisine, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the ecotourism attractions of Nyungwe. So many Rwanda safaris and tour packages available online offered by credible touyr operators such as Gorilla Expeditions Limited, going to Nyungwe National park to experience the true African wilderness and all the activities above.
Traveling to Nyungwe Forest by Air
If planning to fly to Nyungwe, the only Airport in Rwanda is in Kigali the capital of Rwanda and Air Rwanda flies there on a daily basis. From Kigali, you travel by road to Nyungwe and attraction to see before reaching the park include Rwanda’s National University tourists may opt to stop at the museum or culture centre on the way to Nyungwe.The journey takes you about 5 hours, on the narrow. Visitors are advised to carry bottled mineral water and smacks since the park does not offer shopping facilities.
The nearest shopping centre is in the western direction of Nyungwe in the village of Gisaku also a source of tourist information about Nyungwe forest and attraction can be ac A canteen with hot meals and tourist facilities are available at Gisakura, a tiny village located on the western edge of the forest road. The Conservation Project of the Nyungwe Forest (PCFN), supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), maintains an office and tourist welcome center here, as well as the canteen and guest rooms. There are forest research and conservation activities happening at this site. The Rwandan parks department has an office here as well. PCFN maintains several nice walking trails from Gisakura into the forest. You may also tour a tea factory at Gisakura, and visit a small forest fragment in the tea plantation where colobus monkeys are readily visible.
Where to Stay
There are several options for your stay at Nyungwe Forest. There are camping facilities at Uwinka, if tourists choose to stay the night in the forest. There are also limited number of rooms in a small cabin at Uwinka that may be available to rent. Tourists should plan to bring their own food with them for their stay at Uwinka in the forest. Proceed to Gisakura and the PCFN office to check in and reserve a campsite or cabin space at Uwinka. Tourists may also stay at the guest house in Gisakura, and return each day to hike in the forest, an easy 40 minute drive. Lastly, there are several hotels and restaurants in Cyangugu, a town about an hour drive from Gisakura along the border with DRC.