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Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda; Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda is primarily carried out in Nyungwe Forest National park , one of the oldest  and  largest rainforest reserve in Africa covering an area of approximately 1,015 square kilometers.

The park is located in the southwestern regions of the country, bordering Burundi to the south, Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. It is known for its rich biodiversity and stunning mountainous terrains with altitudes ranging from 1,600 to 2,950 meters above sea level.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is characterized with a tropical rain climate with a considerable rainfall all year round. Its rain seasons range from March to May and September to December.

Nyungwe forest is famously know for it’s primate population, hosting about 13 impressive primate species and among these include the chimpanzees. At the forest you also sight Rwenzori colobus, L’Hoest’s monkeys, mona monkeys, silver monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, the Dent’s monkey, black faced ververt monkeys, baboons, grey-cheeked Mangabeys, black and white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys.

It is a habitat to 75 mammal species, a variety of reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is also a popular destination to birders holding over 300 bird species namely flycatchers, red-collared mountain babblers and Ruwenzori turacos, Chapin’s flycatcher, purple-breasted sunbirds, Rockefellers’ sunbird among others.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzees trekking in Rwanda is only offered in two destinations that is Nyungwe Forest National Park and Gishwati Mukula National Park. Nyungwe Forest National Park is believed to hold about 500 chimpanzees and Gishwati Mukula is believed to hold the smallest number though the exact number is less documented as compared to that of Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Two groups of chimpanzees have been habituated in the park with most of them living in Nyungwe forest and the rest in Cyamudongo Forest.

chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Best Chimpanzee Trekking Experience in Nyungwe National Park

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda usually starts very early in the morning when the chimps are very active in their habitats in search of food and going about their daily activities for an amazing experience.

Just like any other Adventurous activity in the park as it starts with a small briefing at the park head quarters  from a professional park guide.

You are briefed about the health and safety guidelines, your way of conduct while in the chimp habitats, about what to expect, do’s at the habitats, among others.

Trackers are then divided into small groups and each is assigned to a particular chimp habitat.

Accompanied by an experienced knowledgeable guide and a park ranger, they follow trails into the forests for a few hours depending on how quickly you have located the chimp group.



chimpanzee trekking experience in Nyungwe forest


One or two hours are spent observing the chimps, following them here and there, taking as much photography as you wish and with the guide offering you deep insights into their lives.

Note that chimps in Nyungwe forest are sometimes hard to track since the forest is very big and they might sometimes move very deep in search of food compared to Cyamudongo forest, which is relatively smaller and chimps can be tracked with in few foot steps around the forest.

Differences between Chimpanzee Trekking and Gorilla trekking

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is very similar to gorilla trekking with a few differences differences for-example;

chimpanzee trekking is  not a physically so demanding activity as chimps are found on low lands in open tropical forests hence requiring a tracker to move a reasonable small distance to encounter with them unlike the gorillas which are found very deep into the dense forests on steep mountain slopes.

However, it requires a reasonable fitness to follow up on these primates as they are fast both in the tree branches and on the ground.

Chimpanzees are easy to track as they don’t wander off to very distant places, up on the mountains  like gorillas in search of food and new habitats requiring trackers to trek for a couple of hours before encountering them. A simple gorilla trek can last between 3-5 hours while a simple chimp trek can last for generally a  few hours, about 2 hours.

Chimpanzee trekking is an active and dynamic experience as it involves following up on chimpanzees as they swing from one tree branch to another unlike gorilla trekking which is more of observing, quietly and very calm while in their presence.

Therefore chimpanzee photo shoot will require an active and professional photographer for the best shots as  these creatures are very dynamic requiring an individual to follow up on them. This can make photography quite challenging because they hardly settle down like gorillas.

Chimpanzee Trekking Rules and Regulations in Nyungwe Forest National Park

chimpanzee trekking rules and regulations have been setup by the Rwanda Development Board to ensure safety of visitors to the chimp habitats and the well-being of these amazing primate species.

Chimpanzee trekking is  restricted to individuals of 15 years and above for crucial reasons which include safety, health, physical fitness and behavioral considerations.

A chimpanzee trekking Rwanda permit is required to allow you access to the activity. Chimpanzee trekking permits are only issued by the Rwanda Development board, therefore you can acquire it directly from their office in Kigali or through your licensed tour operator.

A chimpanzee trekking permit for international visits only costs USD 150, foreign East African Resident USD 75 and Rwanda Citizens USD 25.

Visitors are expected to act accordingly concerning the health guidelines to minimize on the chances of transmitting human diseases to chimpanzees.

Littering the park is prohibited as it can come with affections to these primate species.

Feeding the chimps human food or touching them is not allowed as humans are prone to different diseases which can affect the chimps.

Health rules include maintaining a safe distance from the chimps, avoid visiting chimp habitats when ill most especially when suffering a communicable disease such as flu and following health guidelines from your guide.

Chimpanzee Trekking Rules and Regulations in Nyungwe Forest National Park

What is the best time for Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National park

Chimps are best seen in the morning when they are active and still present in the habitats.

They tend to scatter out to different parts of the forest in search of food and adventure later in the day.

Chimpanzees of Rwanda are open for tracking all year round but we recommend dry seasons ranging from June, July and late August. During these seasons, forests are vibrant, species very active, trails very passable and trees are filled with fruits limiting the movement of the chimps  offering you with the best views and photos of chimps as they jump from one tree to another, you watch them interact as they are feeding, having a good time.

Dry seasons are also great days of enjoying nature and walks around the park offered with stunning vibrant views of nature.

Essential Packing List for Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda

Some of the essential item to park to ensure a successful chimp trek in Rwanda include the following

Light weight, neutral colored clothing are recommended. They should long-sleeved  and long trousers to minimize on the chances of being bitten by wild insects such as mosquitoes.

A good pair of strong covered shoes or simple hiking boots to make you feel very comfortable and overcome some challenging terrains like slippery grounds with much ease during your treks .

Pack insect repellents as parks are habitats to different wild insects such as tsetse flies and mosquitoes which are very harmful to human species.

A pair of garden gloves for safety of your hands as forests are featured  with different tree species inclusive of those with thorns which you can touch unknowingly hence causing damages to your fingers. Gloves will also protect your hands from getting contaminated with germs after touching different surfaces in the chimp habitats.

A good digital camera and its gadgets inclusive of  with lenses for the best shots to capture soul captivating moments and to keep memories of your chimp Rwanda safari.

Food and water as the trek can take a couple of hours and you might feel the need of eating something to level up.

A sun hut, wet wipes, sunscreen oils and sun glasses to help you during very hot days. To make your trek very comfortable and enjoyable.

You will also need to keep some cash on you as you may want to pay for porters to help you carry your trekking gear through out the adventurous trek.

We recommend a water proof trekking gear bag, water proof shoes and a simple rain jacket just in case it rains while in the course of your journey, your items such as cameras are very safe.

What other Adventurous Activities can be done at Nyungwe National park?

Although chimpanzee trekking is the popular activity most enjoyed by visitors to this destination, the park has a lot of other adventurous activities to offer from nature walks to hiking, birding, cultural visits, among others. Let us look at these activities in details;

Canopy Walk

The canopy walk in Nyungwe is one of the most thought activity by visitors to this destination. It can be done done before or after the chimp trek.  A traveler can chose to do it on the same day with chimp as it takes about 2-3hours and it is not a physically demanding activity. The canopy walk of Nyungwe includes a trek  on the 60m high suspended bridge

canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest.

which was strategically positioned at the top of thick the forest offering visitors with uninterrupted  stunning aerial views of the large forest, birds and primates that you would have missed while on the ground.

Primate spotting,

Nyungwe national park is habitat to 13 primate species therefore, a part from chimp tracking, a visitor might be interested tracking other

primates of Nyungwe forest

primates . the ,most thought of primate tracked at the park after the chimp is the white Columbus monkeys.

At the park, you will find a large group of them leaving just at the edge of the forest which makes there tracking very easy and hence can easily be added to a chimp tracking itinerary and done on the same day since they wont require much energy and time to encounter them.

Bird Watching

Nyungwe National park is a bird have to over 300 bird species inclusive of the 26 species which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. These are  best seen during guided nature walks around the park with help of a guide to help you easily spot them in their habitats. Some of the popular

bird watching in Nyungwe forest

birds sighted at the park include the Ruwenzori Nightjar, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Neumann’s Warbler ,Sunbirds, Apalis argentea, Archer’s Robin-chat, Dusky Crimson Wing, Grauer’s Warbler, Handsome Francolin  Kungwe Apalis, Large blue Turaco, Ruwenzori Apalis and Ruwenzori Batis.

A combination of a chimp trekking adventure together with birding will make a perfect and enjoyable safari experience in the forests of Nyungwe National Forest Park.

Hiking trails of Nyungwe forest.

Nyungwe forest is featured with different trails offering nature lovers the best trekking experience. The most preferred  include the  Bigugu trail , Igishigishigi trail and the most trek-able trail to the waterfalls leading you to the Isumo waterfalls. Other trails around the park include e Bigugu Trial, Ngabwe Trail, Canopy trail, Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail, Congo Nile Trail, Bigugu Trail, Karamba Birding Trail, Irebero Trail, Imbaraga Trail,

hiking trails of Nyungwe forest

Umugote Trail, Muzimu Trail, Rukuzi Trail and Umuyove Trail. The most popular trails are and The trails offer you up-close stunning views of different plants, birds,colorful butterflies, different insects, monkeys and small mammals living in the forests .most of the trails are very long digging deep into the forests requiring a traveler to be well prepared before embarking on them.

Relaxing at the Waterfall

The most popular waterfall visited around the park is Isumo waterfall close to Nyungwe house. It is accessible via a trail called isumo waterfall trail, a very long trail featured with steep and slippery terrains passing through dense regions of the forest. It very cool and relaxing around the fall, featured with best views of the forest, a nice place to cool off after long treks in the park.

Visiting the Gisakura Tea Plantation

Best done in the evening after adventurous chimp treks. A nature walk to the farm will reward a nature enthusiasts with stunning views of large stretches of  a tea plantation, covering different landscapes. At the tea farm, you will see how tea is grown, harvested, collected, cleaned and then processed. Out can also actively participate in tea picking and gathering while interacting with the farmers for a enjoyable evening.

How to get to Nyungwe Forest National park

Nyungwe is commonly accessed via road. This is the most affordable and adventurous ways exposing you to different stunning scenery along the country side during the course of your ride. You can be able to make as so many stops as you wish at those soul captivating spots for snaps and fun.

Accessing the park from Kigali is a about a 5-6 hour drive, a long distance which requires a traveler to be well prepared and equipped before embarking on it.

The park can also be accessed via Air using a chattered aircraft  that are always readily available at Akagera Aviation, Kigali to  Kamembe airport which is approximately 32km from the park.

Accommodations at Nyungwe Forest National park

Accommodations at Nyungwe forest park range from mid-range to super-luxurious hotels suiting all travelers needs found both within and outside of the park.

The luxurious hotels offer services that meet with the standards of East African hotels.

Luxurious accommodations include the  luxurious Nyungwe House, Inzozi beach hotel, .

Budget accommodations include Gisakura guest house, Rwiza village guest house, home saint jean and EAR guest house.

Mid range accommodations include Nyungwe forest lodge ,Nyungwe top hill hotel and Moriah Hill Resort.



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