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NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

Nyungwe forest national park is the second known protect area in Rwanda covering an area of over  1000 square kilometers, located in the mountainous south western part of Rwanda near the verge of Burundi to the south of lake Kivu and the democratic republic of Congo. Nyungwe forest national park is regarded one of the biggest single area of montane forest in east and central Africa covering bamboo, grassland and swamp. The park can be reached in just about 5-7 hours’ drive from the capital Kigali on a clear weather condition. The park is recognized for being among the few not only in the central but also in the whole of Africa for housing over 13 species of primates some of which are only seen in this park. The highlight of these primate species are the chimpanzee over 400 individuals are recorded at the park, they’re the most intelligent primate on earth nest to human sharing almost 98% of human genes. Other primates that the park houses include 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus monkey, baboons, civet monkey, mona monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, owl-faced monkey, red tailed monkey, golden monkeys, olive baboons, among other. The park hosts over 300 species of birds including 16 endemics, mammal’s species are about 85 including side striped jackal, a few type of mongoose, golden cat, wild cat antelopes among others. The Nyungwe forest boosts over 200species of trees including some magnificent tracts of African mahogany, mulanje, cedar, nwetonia and albizia, and it also hoses over 140 species of orchids (including eight that are endemic). The park is also a home to over 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species and butterflies. A number of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests eco region in Africa.

What to do at the park

Primate tracking:

Primate tracking is the most sought after activities done at the park, chimpanzees are the most tracked primate at the park they are fabulous fan to watch when playing in fruitful trees or tree branches. The park boasts two wild chimp communities that welcome guests (one in Cyamdungo and other around Uwinka). Tracking begins very early in the morning after short briefing from the park wardens about chimp tracking, after you will follow the ranger guide to the forest to begin the activity, viewing chimpanzee is not a guarantee although chances of seeing them is over 90% the experienced guides at the park most of the time know where they can locate our cousins. Tracking time is unpredictable it can go from 1-8 hours as meeting them depends on where they spent the last night from, so a reasonable degree of fitness is called for . You are also reminded to come with tracking gears since tracking is done in the montane rain forest come with strong shoes/boots, long sleeved shirts/blouses, insect repellent, bottled water. Ounce you land on these chimps you strictly allowed to stay with them for only one hour learning about how they behave in their natural habitats as well as taking as many photos as you can (a flash camera is not allowed). See also other primate species like the owl-faced monkey, black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, more than 300 Colobus monkeys, mona monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys among others.

To be considered among the 8 members allowed to track chimps you must poses a chimp permit which costs $70 per person per tracking and you are advised to book earlier prior to your safari through your tour company in order to avoid the inconveniences.

Forest walk:

They’re very many trails in Nyungwe forest national park waiting for you to explore and each trail has its own experience, the trails leads you through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points in a group of a ranger guide. Some of the trail include the

waterfall tail, this trail can go from 1-6 hours depending on the stopovers you make on the way, during the walk you will be in position to see various species of primates and bird species like spotting the Albertine rift endemics, such as the Rwenzori turaco, continue through the tree-fern covered ravines, across several bubbling streams until you reach a pretty waterfall a fantastic view.

Kamiranzoru Trail: this takes approximately 3 hours, the trail takes you through the low laying boggy areas which are gorgeous in orchids and localized swamp related bird species so bird lovers are rewarded with a chance to view various species of birds.

You can also decide to take Bigugu Trail for those who are physically fit as this trail is known as the toughest trail as it leads you up the Bigugu peak. The Bigugu peak is 2,950m high and is the highest point in Nyungwe Forest, offering imaginary views of the countryside.

Colored Trails: is fantastic trail good for watching primates and various specs. Other trails include Igishigishigi Trail, this is 2.1 km hike will astonish you with its majestic views of the Canopy Trail and dazzling wildflowers.

The Karamba Trail: this is one of the easy trail as it takes you  to the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp , not only that but it’s  considered one of the best spots for birding in Nyungwe as it is flanked by numerous fern trees.

Canopy walk: anonymously

It’s one of its kind activity last from 1-2 hours however it depends on how often you stop on the way, you walk up to the end way and you come back however, during the walk you will be fortunate to come close to several species of primates, birds just meters from you . For these who fear height this activity may not fortunate for you. Canopy walks are guided by experienced guides and the Tour costs $60 U.S. per person children must be accompanied by adults, you are recommended to bring a rain coat since it’s a rain montane forest it can rain at any time or if you forget it you hire it at the park headquarters, strong boots/shoes plus a walking stick are also a must not forget.

Bird watching:

Nyungwe forest national park is a home to over 300 species of birds 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift, bird lovers are rewarded a lot. The park headquarters or the Rwanda Development Board has experienced guides how can be hired at a fee of $50 U.S. they are knowledgeable and they can help you to identify all the various species of birds by their ears/ see. Bird watching in Nyungwe forest national park needs a kin watcher since it’s a tropical forest sometimes it’s hard to see some of the birds, so the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. The guide will also help to give relative information on any species they find during birding.

Community walks:

If you want to learn more about the culture of the local people you can book this activity as you will be in position to take a walking tour to the Banda community located 15 km down the mountain from the Uwinka Visitors Centre, these people will entertain you through their cultural song, dance, music and cuisine as part of their culture. If interested you can participate in their activities like dancing, basket weaving, and local food testing among other activities, These people will also introduce to you their historical background about how they have managed to leave in the area for over 50,000 years. The tours provide guests the opportunity to participate in activities such as local food tasting and basket weaving

Accommodation in Nyungwe forest national park

Nyungwe forest lodge, Nyungwe top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guest House