Nyungwe National Park protects Nyungwe Forest, which is the largest swathe of remaining montane forest in East and Central Africa as well as one of the best rated forest conservation site on the continent. 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, but following the return of order in 1995 development continued until 2005 when it was declared a National Park.
This untouched natural rainforest that borders Burundi in the south and Lake Kivu and the DRC in the west is Rwanda’s most important area of biodiversity represented by 13 species of primate, 75 species of other mammals, over 300 bird species, a staggering 120 species of butterflies, over 140 species of orchids, and over 1,000 other plant species. The main attraction in Nyungwe is undoubtedly chimpanzee trekking, but equally attractive is the pleasure of hiking on any of the 13 well preserved trails that crisscross this verdant ancient forest, offering opportunities to many of its inhabitants.
The sights and sounds of Nyungwe, particularly from the canopy walkway that is suspended 50m from the forest floor, are straight out of a fairy-tale – towering ferns, mahoganies and ebonies perched on the steep slopes and deep valleys; exotic wildflowers with colourful butterflies and birds fleeting around them, and from beneath the forest canopy, the sounds of any one of the 13 primates as they swing through the trees.