Chimpanzee Tracking

Chimpanzees are man’s closest relatives. They share many of our traits and are arguably the most intelligent Apes after us humans. They are known to live up to 60 years in captivity. In Rwanda, chimps can be found in three main places – Nyungwe National Park (Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests) and Gishwati Mukura national park. Nyungwe National Park has the highest population of chimps (over 400 individuals) and other primates 13 species in total. Two chimpanzee communities have been partially habituated in Nyungwe National Park.


Nyungwe National Park, located in southwestern Rwanda, is one of the most significant conservation areas in Africa, renowned for its rich biodiversity and pristine montane rainforest. The park spans approximately 1,019 square kilometres and is home to numerous species of flora and fauna, including 13 primate species. Among these primates, chimpanzees are the most sought-after by tourists and researchers alike.

Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, share about 98% of their DNA with humans. Observing them in their natural habitat offers a unique glimpse into their complex social structures, behaviours, and interactions. Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is not only an adventure but also a significant contribution to the conservation efforts aimed at protecting these endangered species and their habitats.


  1. Preparation and Booking
  • Permits: Securing a permit is the first step to chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda. Permits can be obtained through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or authorized tour operators. The cost of the permit contributes to conservation efforts and the maintenance of the park.
  • Physical Fitness: Chimpanzee trekking can be physically demanding. Trekkers should be in good physical condition, as the trek involves navigating through dense forests, steep slopes, and uneven terrain.
  • Health Precautions: It is advisable to consult a healthcare provider before traveling. Vaccinations for yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A and B, and prophylactics for malaria are recommended. Trekkers should also carry a first aid kit and any necessary personal medications.
  1. The Trekking Experience
  • Orientation: Treks usually start early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters. Guides provide essential information about the trekking route, safety protocols, and what to expect during the trek.
  • Guides and Trackers: Trained guides and trackers lead the trekking groups. Trackers often go ahead to locate the chimpanzee groups and communicate their whereabouts to the guides. This increases the chances of successful sightings.
  • The Trek: The duration of the trek can vary from a couple of hours to a full day, depending on the location of the chimpanzees. The trek involves walking through dense vegetation, crossing streams, and climbing hills. The journey is as much about the adventure as it is about the destination.
  • Chimpanzee Encounters: Once the chimpanzees are located, trekkers can spend about an hour observing them. This time is regulated to minimize stress and human impact on the chimpanzees. Visitors can witness a range of behaviors, from foraging and grooming to playing and vocalizing.
  • Respect and Safety: It is crucial to maintain a safe distance of at least 10 meters from the chimpanzees. Trekkers should avoid making loud noises or sudden movements and should follow all instructions from the guides to ensure their safety and that of the chimpanzees.


Nyungwe National Park can be visited year-round, but the experience can vary significantly with the seasons:

  1. Dry Season (June to September, December to February): This is considered the best time for chimpanzee trekking. The trails are more accessible, and the chances of encountering chimpanzees are higher. The weather is relatively dry and pleasant, making the trek less challenging.
  2. Wet Season (March to May, October to November): While the forest is lush and vibrant during the wet season, the trails can be slippery and more challenging to navigate. However, the wet season offers a unique experience with fewer tourists and the opportunity to witness the forest in full bloom.


Tips for a Successful Trek

  • Start Early: Treks begin early in the morning, so it’s advisable to stay near the park headquarters the night before. This ensures a timely start and increases the likelihood of encountering chimpanzees.
  • Hire a Porter: Porters are available for hire and can assist with carrying bags and providing support during the trek. This not only makes the trek easier but also supports the local community.
  • Stay Hydrated and Energized: Carry enough water and energy snacks. The trek can be physically demanding, and staying hydrated and fueled is essential.
  • Follow the Guide’s Instructions: Guides are knowledgeable about the terrain and the behaviour of chimpanzees. Following their instructions is crucial for safety and maximizing the trekking experience.
  • Be Patient and Observant: Chimpanzee sightings are not guaranteed, and patience is key. Keep an eye out for other wildlife and enjoy the beauty of the forest.

Packing List

  • Clothing:
    • Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect against insects and vegetation.
    • Waterproof jacket or poncho for unexpected rain.
    • Comfortable hiking boots with good grip.
    • Hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
    • Gaiters to protect your legs from mud and insects.
  • Gear:
    • Small backpack for carrying essentials.
    • Binoculars for observing wildlife.
    • Camera with extra batteries and memory cards.
    • Walking stick or trekking poles for stability.
    • Reusable water bottle.
  • Personal Items:
    • Insect repellent.
    • First aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications.
    • Snacks such as energy bars, nuts, and dried fruit.
    • A copy of your trekking permit and identification.


Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park is a unique and enriching experience that offers a rare opportunity to observe one of our closest relatives in their natural habitat. The activity not only provides an adventure for visitors but also plays a crucial role in the conservation of chimpanzees and their forest home. Ultimately, chimpanzee trekking is more than just a tourist activity to do on a Rwanda safari; It is a journey into the heart of one of Africa’s most important rainforests, a chance to witness the wonders of the natural world, and an opportunity to support the preservation of biodiversity for future generations.