Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is the largest swathe of remaining montane forest in East and Central Africa. It was first declared a forest reserve by the German colonial government in 1903 but without committed conservation enforcement, the forest suffered from several fires, extensive woodcutting and even poaching of animals that led to the extinction of elephants and buffaloes. It was not until the 80’s, following the discovery of vast populations of Colobus monkeys living in massive groups that restoration of conservation was restarted. The 1994 genocide presented a new obstacle to conservation work, between 1995 and 2005 development continued and it was declared a National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park in southwestern Rwanda is the primary place for Chimpanzee Trekking. There are around 500 chimpanzees in total in the forest with 2 habituated Chimpanzee groups in Nyungwe, one group has around 30 members and the other 60 members. Nyungwe Forest National Park is around a 4 and half hour drive from Kigali and is one of Africa’s oldest montane forests.
Chimpanzee Trekking can also be done in Gishwati National Park which is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees.
Nyungwe Forest National Park contains a 13 primate species that account for 25% of Africa's total including L’Hoest’s Mountain Monkey, Owl Faced Monkey, Mona Monkey, Blue Monkeys, Grey-Cheeked Mangabey and Red-tailed monkey. Nyungwe’s primate population is only rivalled by Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda which is known as the Primate Capital of the world. Visitors to the park who want to do the Primate Trekking Experience start their trek at either Kitabi, Uwinka and Gisakura. Trekking through dense rainforests tracking down any of the primates can be strenuous, as they tend to move around from place to place looking for food. The terrain can be steep, slippery and muddy, passing through thick vegetation.
The Nyungwe Canopy Walkway is not only the first of its kind in East Africa, but is one of only three in Africa. The canopy is a 160m long and 70m high suspension bridge is accessible as part of a guided walk along the Igishigishigi, the Imbaraga or the Umuyove trails. It is easy to see why it is one of Nyungwe’s main attractions and a great way to appreciate the scale and magnificence of Nyungwe Forest.
From the Visitors Centre at the park headquarters in Uwinka you will head along Igishigishigi trail for around 30 mins before descending into the forest to the starting point of the platform walkway. Once on the walkway you will be at eye level with the forest canopy which gives you an incredible insight and perspective to what happens above the forest floor and how butterflies, numerous birds, Black and White Colobus monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, Blue monkeys, and L’Hoests monkeys all go about their daily lives. On a clear day you can see as far as Lake Kivu. This 2-hour experience is a must do activity if you visit the Nyungwe Forest
On account of its over 300 bird species Nyungwe Forset is recognized as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by Birdlife International. The Forest is home to Albertine Rift endemics (birds restricted to the Albertine Rift) and three birds that are not found anywhere else on the eastern side of the Albertine Rift:
Birdwatching can be done in Nyungwe Forest all year round but the best time is probably from January to June. April is the wettest month so getting around is difficult, as the foot tracks get very slippery. Birdwatching from November to April will allow you to also see migratory birds.