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Located in the southwestern part of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a natural wonder home to a huge variety of wildlife.
One of the most popular activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park is primate tracking. You can embark on a guided trek through the forest to catch a glimpse of the park’s resident primates in their natural habitat.
Chimpanzee tracking is a particular highlight, with treks lasting anywhere from 1-6 hours. For those looking for a more unique experience, golden monkey tracking is also available.
In addition to primate tracking, you could also take part in nature walks, bird watching, and even a canopy walk that offers stunning views of the forest from above.
How To Get There
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, approximately 225 kilometers from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.
There are several ways to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Driving is the most popular way to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park. The journey by car from Kigali takes around 6-8 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
The roads leading to the park are well-maintained, and the scenery along the way is breathtaking. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see some of the primates along the roads around the National Park.
You can rent a car in Kigali or hire a driver to take you to the park.
JORD’s NOTE: There is a strict speed limit of 60km/h that is enforced all over Rwanda, with hefty fines. There are also speed cameras EVERYWHERE.
So although you might feel like you could go faster on the rural roads, be careful.
If you prefer to travel by bus, you can take a bus headed to Ruzizi from Nyabugogo bus park in Kigali. The bus will take you to Uwinka Center, which is the main entrance to the park.
The journey by bus takes a little bit longer, and the bus ride might even be 8-10 hours long. There are buses that drive through the park, and you could hop on those, but they are usually quite full.
If you’re short on time, you can take a flight from Kigali to Kamembe Airport, which is located near Nyungwe Forest National Park.
The flight takes around 45 minutes, and there are several flights per week. From Kamembe Airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to the park.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the most biodiverse regions in Africa, with a wide range of wildlife species.
The park is home to over 1,100 plant species, including 265 that are endemic to the area. Additionally, there are 345 bird species, 30 of which are Albertine Rift endemics, and 85 mammal species.
Nyungwe is home to 13 different species of primates, including the L’Hoest’s monkey, which is endemic to the Albertine Rift. Other primates found in the park include chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus monkeys, and blue monkeys.
Chimpanzee tracking is a popular activity in the park, and visitors can go on guided treks to observe these intelligent animals in their natural habitat.
PLEASE NOTE: You are not guaranteed to see Chimpanzees. There are very smart and will often head in the other direction when they hear humans approaching.
FUN FACT: Forest Elephants once roamed Nyungwe National Park, but unfortunately all died out in the 1970s. There is an ongoing discussion about re-introducing the African Forest Elephant to Nyungwe.
Birdwatching enthusiasts will be thrilled with the variety of avian species in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
The park is home to 345 bird species, including the Rwenzori turaco, red-throated alethe, and the Ruwenzori batis.
Visitors can go on birdwatching tours with experienced guides who can help identify different species and their behavior.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a botanical paradise, with over 1,100 plant species, including 265 that are endemic to the area.
The park is also home to a variety of orchids and ferns. Visitors can take guided nature walks through the forest to learn about the different plant species and their medicinal properties.
Nyungwe Forest National Park offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to different fitness levels and interests.
Here are three trails that you might want to explore:
The Igishigishigi Trail is the most popular hiking trail in Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is an easy trail that is suitable for all levels of fitness.
The trail is approximately 1.7 km long and begins near the Uwinka Reception Centre. The trail is named after the tree fern, which is abundant in the forest.
Along the trail, you will see beautiful scenery, a variety of bird species, and different types of trees.
The Umugote Trail is a moderate hiking trail that is approximately 4 km long.
The trail begins at the Gisakura Reception Centre and takes you through the forest to a waterfall.
Along the way, you will see a variety of bird species, butterflies, and other wildlife. The waterfall at the end of the trail is a great spot to relax and take in the scenery.
The Karamba Trail is a challenging hiking trail that is approximately 10 km long. The trail begins at the Uwinka Reception Centre and takes you through the forest to the Karamba Waterfall.
Along the way, you will see a variety of bird species, monkeys, and other wildlife.
The waterfall at the end of the trail is a great spot to take a refreshing swim.
When hiking in Nyungwe Forest National Park, it is important to wear comfortable hiking shoes, carry enough water, and follow the park’s rules and regulations.
You might also want to consider hiring a guide to help you navigate the trails and learn more about the forest’s flora and fauna.
One of the most popular activities to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park is the Canopy Walkway.
This 160-meter long suspension bridge is suspended above a ravine in the lush montane rainforest of Nyungwe National Park. The bridge is 70 meters high and provides an exhilarating perspective on the ancient treetops and wildlife.
To access the Canopy Walkway, you can either join a guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail or hike the Imbaraga or Umuyove trails. The guided tours are highly recommended as they provide valuable information about the forest and its inhabitants.
The Canopy Walkway is open every day, all year round, depending on the availability.
The Canopy Walkway in Nyungwe offers its walkers great views of the great East African landscape, the primates below, and the different sections of the Nyungwe forest.
As you walk, you can spot the different animals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians that live in the forest.
The walking sticks are provided free of charge, and the hike is easy and takes only 2 hours to complete.
Before embarking on the Canopy Walkway, it’s important to carry some essentials. These include a liter of drinking water and hiking boots.
Children must be accompanied by adults, and the cost of the Canopy Walkway is currently US $40 per person, plus the park entry fee.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is not only a place for nature lovers but also for those who are interested in learning about the culture of the local communities.
Here are some cultural experiences you can enjoy during your visit to Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Banda Village is a community-based initiative located in the heart of Nyungwe Forest, just 15 km from the Uwinka Visitor Center.
This village offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the traditional lifestyle and culture of the local people. You can take a guided tour of the village and see how people live, work, and socialize.
During the tour, you will visit local homes and see how they are constructed using traditional materials such as bamboo, mud, and grass.
You can also learn about the daily activities of the villagers, such as farming, weaving, and brewing banana beer. Additionally, you can participate in a traditional dance performance and taste the local cuisine.
Tea Plantation Tour
Rwanda is famous for its high-quality tea, and Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to some of the best tea plantations in the country. Y
ou can take a guided tour of the tea plantations and learn about the tea-making process from start to finish.
During the tour, you will see how tea is grown, harvested, and processed. You will also learn about the different types of tea and their health benefits.
Additionally, you can taste some of the best tea in the region and buy some to take home.
Overall, Nyungwe Forest National Park offers a unique cultural experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
When planning a trip to Nyungwe Forest National Park, it’s important to consider accommodation options. Fortunately, there are a few great options available to you.
One&Only Nyungwe House
This is the most luxurious option available in Nyungwe National Park.
This beautiful property is set within a tea plantation on the edge of the park, and offers stunning views of the surrounding forest. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed, with plenty of modern amenities to ensure your stay is comfortable.
It’s certainly on the higher end though, with rooms costing around $2000 per night.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, Gisakura Guesthouse is a great choice.
This guesthouse is located just a short distance from the park entrance, and offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price.
The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the park, and can help you plan your activities during your stay. Some of the activities available at Gisakura Guesthouse include guided walks, bird watching, and cultural experiences.
JORD’s NOTE: This is where we stayed and the hosts were very welcoming. We had our own bungalow chalet, and they even came to set up and stoke our fireplace.
Best Time to Visit
Nyungwe Forest National Park is open for visitors all year round. However, the best time to visit the park depends on your interests and activities.
The park is located in a rainforest, so it is important to consider the weather conditions before planning your trip.
The dry season from June to September and December to February are the best times to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park. During these months, the trails are less wet and slippery, and the vegetation is less thick, making hiking easier.
Additionally, the dry season is the best time for chimpanzee trekking, spotting other primates, and hiking. At this time, the trails are less slippery, and activities are less likely to be interrupted by heavy rainfall.
If you are interested in bird watching, the rainy season from March to May and October to November is the best time to visit the park. During this time, the forest is lush and green, and many bird species are active and easier to spot.
|Interest||Best Time to Visit||Notes|
|General Visit & Hiking||June to September & December to February||Trails are less wet and slippery. Vegetation is less thick for easier hiking. Ideal for chimpanzee trekking and spotting primates.|
|Bird Watching||March to May & October to November||Forest is lush and green, ideal for bird watching. Many bird species are active and easier to spot.|
|Rainy Season Challenges||March to May & October to November||Trails can be muddy and slippery due to heavy rainfall. Some activities may be more challenging.|
It is important to note that the rainy season can make some activities more challenging due to muddy trails and heavy rainfall.
However, the park offers alternative activities such as canopy walks and cultural visits during this time.
Overall, the best time to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park depends on your interests and activities. Consider the weather conditions and plan accordingly to make the most of your visit.
Nyungwe Travel Tips
When planning a trip to Nyungwe Forest National Park, it’s important to keep in mind a few travel tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience.
All visitors are required to pay the National Park entry fee, as well as additional permits for certain activities, such as chimpanzee tracking and the canopy walk.
Currently, the Park entry fee is set at $100 per person per day, or $150 for two days.
Make sure to book your permits in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during peak season.
The weather in Nyungwe Forest National Park can be unpredictable, so it’s important to pack for all conditions.
Bring comfortable and sturdy walking shoes, as well as lightweight clothing that can be layered for warmth. Don’t forget rain gear and insect repellent.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and numerous bird species.
When viewing wildlife, it’s important to keep a safe distance and follow the instructions of your guide.
PLEASE do not feed or touch the animals, as this can be dangerous for both you and the wildlife.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a remote area, so it’s important to take necessary safety precautions. Stick to designated trails and avoid wandering off on your own.
Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for potential hazards, such as steep drops or slippery paths.
Respect the local culture by dressing modestly and asking for permission before taking photographs of people or their property.
Learn a few phrases in the local language, such as “hello” and “thank you,” to show your appreciation for the community.
Here are a few key phrases to get you started:
|English Phrase||Kinyarwanda Phrase||Pronunciation|
|Excuse me / Sorry||Ndashaka imbabazi||N-dah-shah-kah im-bah-bah-zee|
|My name is [Your Name]||Nitwa [Your Name]||Nee-twa [Your Name]|
|How much is this?||Iki ni iki?||Ee-kee nee ee-kee?|
|Where is…?||Ejo heza…?||Ay-joh hay-zah?|
|Restroom / Toilet||Indwara / Toireti||In-dwah-rah / Toy-ray-tee|
|I love monkeys||Ndundubara imbwa||N-doon-doo-bah-rah eem-bwah|
|Are there monkeys here?||Ahabona imbwa hano?||Ah-hah-boh-nah eem-bwah hah-no?|
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top things to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park?
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a nature lover’s paradise and offers a variety of activities to enjoy. Some of the top things to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park include chimpanzee trekking, canopy walks, bird watching, hiking, and camping. You can also visit the Kamiranzovu Marsh, which is home to a variety of wildlife such as monkeys, baboons, and birds.
How long is the chimpanzee trekking experience in Nyungwe?
The chimpanzee trekking experience in Nyungwe takes about 2-4 hours, depending on the location of the chimpanzees. The trek is led by experienced guides who will take you through the forest to find the chimpanzees.
Can you recommend a hotel near Nyungwe Forest National Park?
Yes, there are several hotels near Nyungwe Forest National Park that offer comfortable accommodation for visitors. Some of the popular hotels include One&Only Nyungwe Hosue, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guest House, and Nyungwe Forest Lodge.
What makes Nyungwe Forest National Park unique compared to other parks in Rwanda?
Nyungwe Forest National Park is unique compared to other parks in Rwanda because it is the largest protected mountain rainforest in Africa. It is also home to over 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and baboons.
The park is also a major catchment area in Rwanda, supplying water to 70% of the country.
Of course, Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is the most famous activity here, but you certainly shouldn’t skip Nyungwe along the way.
What are some of the popular trails to explore in Nyungwe Forest National Park?
Nyungwe Forest National Park has a variety of trails to explore, ranging from easy to difficult. The Igishigishigi Trail is an easy trail that takes about 1 hour to complete and offers stunning views of the forest. The Kamiranzovu Trail is a moderate trail that takes about 3 hours to complete and takes you through the Kamiranzovu Marsh. The Bigugu Trail is a difficult trail that takes about 6 hours to complete and takes you to the summit of Mount Bigugu.
Are there any other unique activities to do in Rwanda besides visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park?
Yes, Rwanda has a variety of unique activities to offer visitors besides visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park. You can go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, or go on a cultural tour to experience Rwanda’s rich cultural heritage.