Catching a glimpse of Nyungwe forest, tucked away in the middle of tea Plantations and rolling hills, it’s vastness can be deceptive.
The largest tropical afro Montane rainforest east or central Africa, Nyungwe forest is probably the most preserved forest in Africa. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a national park in 2004 and some say it is the most important site for biodiversity in Rwanda. It is home to over 1000 species of creation after all.
Nyungwe forest national park is located near Cyangugu town in South western Rwanda, about 225km and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park. It covers an area about 1020 sq.km and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level.
Nyungwe receives over 2000mm of rain each year and its Rwanda’s largest water catchment area, feeding both the river Congo and the River Nile with water.
Roads that wind over hills and through tea plantations lead you to Nyungwe forest national park. Here you can experience Kamiranzovu swamp, hiking trails through out, the forest canopy walk, birding, primate tracking and more.
It has some amazing and breathtaking scenery and is a vantage point for picturesque views of the Virungas and the Congo. Nyungwe is nature at its very best. It is lush and beautifully green, often seen with cooling mists in the early mornings and late evening.
Nyungwe is also not a compact park but large forest, home to over 300 different bird species, many butterflies, orchids, 75 mammal species including the 13 primates, and there have also been the sightings of the golden monkeys.
With all that space and wildlife, there is much to do in the region.
Nyungwe national park is a hiker’s paradise with some 13 hiking trails over 130 kilometres through the forest. Tracks range from easy to difficult, taking just 4 hours up to 3-day long hikes. Some of the popular treks include:
Ngabwe Trail – 4.7kms, takes 3 hours, moderate level
Bigugu Trail – 7kms, takes 6 hours, difficult level
Igishigishigi Trail – 2.4kms, takes 5 hours, moderate level
Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail – 6kms, takes 3 hours, moderate level
Isumo waterfall Trail – 10kms, takes 4 hours, moderate level
Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning and takes a good 4 hours and more. Therefore, you need to be prepared. Carry a day pack with a couple of litres of water and dress appropriately with long trousers, the long-sleeved shirt, rain jacket, hiking boots and the hat. The chimps at Nyungwe forest have been and are being habituated, which means that they are used to human beings.
There are also over 13 primate species that are found in Nyungwe forest. There are also unconfirmed sightings of the golden monkeys that have also been reported. Apart from chimpanzee trekking, you can also trek the grey cheeked Mangabeys and Ruwenzori colobus Monkeys in Nyungwe Forest. These monkeys can also be seen in large groups of up to 300 colobus monkeys. As you track any of the primate group, you will likely see some other monkeys along the way. These might include; L’ Hoest’s monkey, the Owl faced monkeys, Mona monkey and the blue monkeys.
Nyungwe Forest Canopy walk
This canopy walk is the first tree top forest canopy walk in East Africa and the third in all Africa. An activity not to be missed in Rwanda, the canopy walk takes you 50 meters above the ground to the tree tops, where you can spot monkeys moving around and birds that are flying above you, all to the backdrop of the beautiful Nyungwe forest. This canopy walk is also 90m long which is not a long distance, however the hike to get there takes about 4 hours return.
Nyungwe Forest has over 300 bird species, 27 of which are endemics and are part of the species that are found in the forests of the albertine rift. Here you can find the Grauer’s Warbler, the Rwenzori Turaco and the large blue Turaco and many more species of birds.
Where to stay
Nyungwe offers a number of accommodation options, ranging from moderate to luxury.
The newly opened One&Only Nyungwe Resort is luxury re-defined in the forest. This luxury lodge is situated within a working tea plantation and offers a fascinating look at unique African wildlife and culture – from up-close encounters with rare primates and exotic birds, to heart-warming interactions with local people and tailor-made experiences like gastronomic picnics in the wild. Rates are full board with all meals included.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge was set up in 2010 and was the first ever 5-star offering in the region. It is situated in a tea plantation close to the Nyungwe forest, overlooking the forest canopy so you are guaranteed some good views of the scenery in the area. It has comfortable luxury rooms with a full board basis (includes meals).
Gisakura is comfortable accommodation for people working within smaller budgets. This guest house is found about 2 km from the park. It is located close to the Gisakura tea estate along the road to Rusizi. For meals, the guest house offers breakfast, lunch dinner, and carry away snacks can be arranged if you are planning to spend the day out in the national park. Food and drinks are included in full board.
Nyungwe Top view hotel might not be a five-star hotel but it offers pretty good accommodation close to the park. This hotel which opened in 2011, is only a five minutes’ drive Nyungwe forest national park and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali and has some very amazing views of Nyungwe forest.
Accommodation here is in red brick cottages furnished with only necessary furniture. There is a dining area and a lounge. Meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) are covered in full board costs.
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