Just in the southwestern part of Rwanda, lies Nyungwe Forest National Park, a Park occupied by the largest part of the remaining tract of montane rain-forest in East Africa. It occupies a total area of 1015 square kilometers.
The Park’s central ridge divides the two largest drainage systems in Africa (Nile & Congo River). With its source of the World’s longest river in the slopes of Mount Bigugu, Nyungwe is an important area in Rwanda that supplies water to 70% of the country.
Nyungwe is appreciated by travelers for many reasons; one of them is its rich biodiversity that consists of over 120 butterfly species, more than 1050 plant species including 250 Albertine Rift Endemics and 200 orchids.
Other than flora, Nyungwe is home to vertebrate fauna embodying 38 reptiles, 85 mammals, 310 species of birds (15% are Albertine Rift Endemics) and 32 amphibians.
On top of that, this Park is a legendary when it comes to primate safaris in Rwanda. Over 13 species of primates inhabit the lush habitats in Nyungwe including the Chimpanzees.
Nyungwe’s population of chimps is estimated to about 1000 individuals. Other common primate species are L’Hoest’s monkeys, Ruwenzori colobus, Olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, Silver monkey, Angola Colobus and red-tailed monkeys.
Birds in Nyungwe
Nyungwe National Park is recorded with over 284 species of birds. Out of these species, 26 Albertine Rift Endemic species occur in the Park suburbs.
While on Nyungwe birding excursions, you can sight some species like Chapin’s flycatcher, Ruwenzori Turaco, Batis diops, Francolins, Rockefeller’s sun bird, Regal Sunbird, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Francolins Nobilis, Black and White Hornbill to mention but a few.
Its flora is really one of its kind in East Africa, it consists of more than 200 plant species (including flowering plants, giant lobelia and orchids).
The vegetation zone differs according to altitude whereby at 2500m above sea level, the vegetation is Alpine mainly dominated by bamboo trees and shrubs.
At 1900m, you can find taller tree species of Cyathea Manniana, Newtonia and Carapa. Whilst, areas at 2250m are occupied by tall trees and fern species like Symphonia and Polycscias.
It’s about 217km from Kigali up to Nyungwe Forest National Park, this is a distance you can drive in 4x4 Safari vehicle. En route you there are numerous breathtaking sceneries to marvel.
If you have enough time, you can stop over at the National Museum for its diverse display of art works. After continue with the journey to Nyungwe via hill hugging routes
Other than road transport, you can go by air means. Private charters are often arranged from Kigali up to Kamembe international airport near Nyungwe Forest National Park. By planes it’s about 49 km from Kigali up to Kamembe, it takes one hour for the flight.
Activities in the Park
Nyungwe is inhabited by 13 species of Primates including the Chimpanzees. This Park is only place to go for these human-closely related species. Part of the chimpanzees that are habituated are the ones feasible for the tracking excursions.
Tracking sessions are done in groups, it’s advised to keep your voice at low tone and move slowly while in the Jungle.
These primates are very sensitive; therefore if you scare them, you are most likely to miss beholding them in the Jungles.
Expeditions start in the morning after briefing at the Park headquarters, it is advised for any tourist to come with water for drinking in the Jungles, put on long sleeved shirts and strong hiking shoes.
Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walk
What a breathtaking experience had from heights above sea level, Canopy walk is another highlight for Safaris to Nyungwe Forest National Park.
This walkway suspended amid higher slopes and giant trees is about 200 meters long and 40 meters high.
Before the walk, you ascend and descend the valleys and hills in the Jungles up to the starting point. From this point you are briefed about the walk and after it starts.
This adventure is some scary but rewarding with sweeping views of tree tops, rolling hills and towering volcanoes in DR Congo. For birders, you will spot a lot of species while on this walk. It is not good for the faint-hearted.
For birders, Nyungwe Forest National park is a birding hotspot not to miss. It is recorded with over 310 bird species, 27 of which are Albertine Rift Endemic.
Rare species that are not found anywhere else appear on the eastern side Albertine rift. You can sight plenty of species while on canopy walk.
Some of the species to wonder at are red-faced woodland warbler, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, mountain masked apalis, francolins, Ruwenzori Turaco and sun-birds.
While in the Jungle you are not only limited to Chimpanzees but you have the chances to track or sight other primate species. These Primates in the habitats of Nyungwe Forest National Park include Mona monkeys, Owl faced monkey, cheeked Mangabeys, L’Hoest’s monkey, grey cheeked Mangabeys, Silver and blue monkeys together with Ruwenzori colobus.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is perfect for guided hiking expeditions. It stars multiple hiking trails that wind through the dense Jungles and rolling hills in the Jungles. These trails are highlighted as below.
This trail is liked by birders because it offers scenic sights of the red-collared mountain babbler. More than that, it takes you through magnificent views of Lake Kivu and rolling hill of Democratic Republic of Congo. It also boosts wonderful wildflowers including the orchids, giant lobelias and the red-hot pokers.
Just at the Park’s eastern boundary on the slopes of Nyabwe is this circular trail that is easily accessible to visitors staying at KCCEM guest house. The trail head lies about 200m on the left of the main road, its 3 km past Kitabi Entrance gate.
This trail is the park’s largest swamp set within a caldera. It leads from the forested main road downhill to the low-lying Kamiranzoivu.
Karamba Trail - Among the trails in Nyungwe, this is the easiest to go and perfect for bird watching expeditions.
If you are after breathtaking sceneries in Nyungwe Forest National Park, this is the best trail to follow. It starts at Gisakura tea plantations winds through lush Jungles up to the cascading waterfall; you can swim in the turquoise water in the pools of this fall.