Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in extreme southwestern Rwanda and it is home to one of Africa’s oldest tropical rainforests. Established in 2004, Nyungwe Forest Park is a newly created Rwanda safari park and it is found at an altitude of 1600-2950m.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the Southern province of Rwanda close to the Rwanda border with D.R. Congo and Burundi. The park spans the Cyangugu town near Lake Kivu and from Kigali, it is about 6 hours drive/230kms. Nyungwe Forest National Park is the largest tropical forest park in Rwanda, expanding on a land area of about 1000sq.km and largely consists of montane forest, grassland, swamps, and bamboo, with an average rainfall record of about 2000mm.
The 1000sq.km Nyungwe Forest holds up to 75 mammal species including 13 primate species which include 500 chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, l’hoest monkeys; 15 reptiles, 120 butterflies, 310 birds, 12 amphibian species, 140 orchids, and 1068. The rainforest is also an important water catchment area including the Nile River.
Wildlife Primates of Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a diversity of wildlife and these include a range of primates including l’hoest monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, bush babies, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, silver monkeys, etc.
Over 310 bird species live in the various habitats of Nyungwe Forest National Park and they include forest and Albertine rift endemic species. The birds of interest on Nyungwe Forest safari include blue-headed sunbirds, Doherty’s bush shrikes, grey chested Kakamega, red collared mountain babblers, white-tailed blue flycatchers, dusky crimson wings, Rwenzori turacos, purple breasted sunbirds, handsome francolins, black and white casqued hornbills, red-throated alethe, yellow-eyed black flycatchers, mountain sooty boubou, Rwenzori nightjars, Lagden’s bush shrikes, Neumann’s short-tailed warblers, Rwenzori batis, etc.
Nyungwe Forest National Park protects several plant species of medicinal importance and a total of 1060 plants and tree species exist here. They include endemic plant species with notable species including mahogany trees, talenna rwandesis, orchids, etc. The vegetation zones at Nyungwe Forest include sub-alpine vegetation comprising bamboo and shrubs.
Top Safari Activities to do while in Nyungwe Forest National Park Rwanda
Chimpanzee tracking is, without doubt, the main highlight of Rwanda’s safaris to Nyungwe Forest National Park. There are more than 500 chimpanzees that call Nyungwe Forest home and 2 chimpanzee communities have been habituated and open for tracking. You can visit the chimpanzee community in Uwinka or Cyamudongo area, with a normal tracking session lasting for 2-5 hours.
Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest begins early morning at 7:00 am with a briefing on rules to be followed on a visit to see chimpanzees. The actual trek kick starts at 8:00 am and to engage in this interesting primate experience, you require a valid chimpanzee trekking permit each costing USD100 per person.
The amazing bit about chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is that tourists also have higher chances of encountering other primates. The park is a rich primate destination and you can come across the vervet monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, Rwenzori colobus monkeys, baboons, l’hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and more.
Monkey/colobus monkey tracking
Over 400 colobus monkeys live in Nyungwe Forest and tracking these primates is such an unforgettable experience awaiting you on the Rwanda safari besides chimpanzee trekking. The park inhabits a range of primates, the majority of which can be spotted on colobus monkey tracking including the black and white colobus monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, and vervet monkeys, Angola colobus monkeys, olive baboons, Dent’s Mona monkeys and more. There are magical trails taking you through unforgettable colobus monkey tracking including the Kamiranzovu trail, Bigugu, Uwinka, and waterfall trail.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a rich bird-watching area, priding itself on more than 310 bird species. Being one of the top birding spots in Rwanda, the bird check-list in Nyungwe Forest includes white-bellied robin chat, red collared mountain babblers, Shelley’s crimson wings, Rwenzori Apalis, Doherty’s bush shrikes, grey chested Kakamega, Rwenzori turacos, Chapin’s flycatchers, handsome francolins, Rwenzori batis, yellow-eyed black flycatchers and others.
Hiking or nature walking
Nyungwe Forest National Park has a range of nature walking trails each ushering nature lovers to its diverse habitats rich with natural wonders. The nature walk/hiking safaris in Nyungwe Forest allow you to encounter a number of the park’s primates, butterflies, floral species, birds, etc. The popular hiking trails to consider exploring include Bigugu trail 7kms taking you up to an altitude of 2950m/6 hours; Izumo waterfall trail 10.6kms trail taking hikers via the extensive tea plantations, trees, Nyungwe Forest; Ngabwe trail 4.7kms, Congo Nile trail, Karamba trail, etc.
In the whole of East Africa, Nyungwe Forest National Park remains the only place where canopy walks are done. This is a 50m high steel bridge built on the treetops extending 200m and offering a great chance for tourists to see a range of primates, birds, flora, and more. There are 3 sections to enjoy a canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest and the visitor experience starts from the Igishigishigi trail.
When to visit Nyungwe
Visits to Nyungwe Forest National Park are possible at any time of the year. The dry season however is known to be the best time for anyone intending to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park and on your calendar, mark June, July, August, September, December, January, and February. The least rainfall amount is received during these months unlike the wetter months- March, April, May, October, and November.
Where to stay while at Nyungwe Forest
The available places to stay while on Rwanda safaris in Nyungwe Forest National Park include budget, mid-range, and luxury. They include One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guesthouse, Nyungwe Nziza Eco-Lodge, and more.
Getting to Nyungwe Forest Rwanda
By road: Nyungwe Forest National Park located in the Southern Province is 6 hours drive from Kigali city center in a 4×4 safari vehicle. By air, fly from Kigali in a helicopter and land at nearby One & Only Nyungwe House.