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Nyungwe National Park – Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda

With a handful of tropical rainforests that still exist in Africa; this is undoubtedly one of a few protected areas with a vast montane rainforest. This park lies southwest of Rwanda just at the border between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is one of the oldest tropical rainforest that still exist in this continent and have thrived since the last ice age. It is among a few well conserved protected areas and mountain forests in East and Central Africa. Given its vibrant conservation status, this park is perhaps the most significant site for Rwanda’s biodiversity and it is of no doubt that it boasts of its 1068 species of plants, 13 primate species that make it a true capital of primates, over 310 avian species, 85 species of mammals, 38 reptile species, 32 amphibian species among others. Due to its diversity, this park was founded in 2004 making it one of the 4 splendid protected areas in Rwanda. If this is a kind of safari destination that you have ever dreamt to explore in life then you need to pay a visit during dry season which starts from June-August or around December to January. It receives rainfall amount of about 2000 mm each year.

What to see while on safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park

This 970 square kilometer protected area also comprises of one of the remote sources of the mighty River Nile and primarily made up of montane rainforest, bogs, swamps, grasslands, bamboo and many more. Being one of the important bird areas in Rwanda bird lovers on safari in Africa have opportunity to spot out some of its bird species that make up a total of about 310 with 27 of them being restricted to the Albertine rift. Among other amazing bird species for you to sight while on birding tour at this park include the Rwenzori Turacos, Grauer’s rush warbler, purple breasted sunbird, red throated Alethe, Rwenzori apalis, Rwenzori batis, alehe poliophrys, stripe breasted tit parus fasciiventer, Shelley’s crimsonwing, Cossypha archeri, Rwenzori nightjar, archer’s robin chat, red collared babbler, yellow eyed black flycatcher, regal sunbird, cinnyris regius, Neumann’s warbler, kupeornis ruficinctus, cryptospiza jacksoni and Shelley a mention but a few.

This park straddles at elevation of about 3000 meters and popular for its diverse ecosystems with diverse floral species that are worth exploring while on safari in Rwanda. The primate species that thrive in this park include the red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Angola colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, silver monkeys, chimpanzees, olive baboons and others. Its flora mainly comprises of 200 tree species plus 140 orchids and 8 of them are endemic. Its mountainous terrain features different vegetation types that range depending on the altitude. At 2950 meters, you will find the sub alpine vegetation that consists of bamboo and shrubs especially the podocarpus, Philippia, bamboo and Erica Johnstoni. As you come down to 2500 meters, there are mainly Hagenia Syzygium, balthacaria, podocarpus and Macaranga. At 2250 meters, you will find tall species of trees together with ferns and include among others polycscias, Newtonia, engtandophragma, symphonia as well as cyathea manniana. At the lower altitude, you will explore mostly Newtonia, Carapa, prinaria exelsium, cyathea manniana and engtandophragma.

What to do on safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee trekking

If you are planning to engage in chimpanzee tracking while on safari in Rwanda then the only choice you have is Nyungwe Forest National Park. This primate adventure starts at 8:00am at the park headquarters with morning briefing from one of the park officials and after, you will set off to the jungles with a guide to look out for these fascinating creatures. This experience will take you about 2 to 6 hours depending on their location and while trekking for them, don’t miss to spot out most of the bird species that thrive at this park. Up on getting chimpanzees, you will have an hour with them to explore more about their general behavior. To be part of this lovely primate experience, you need 90 dollars to book for your permit.

Colobus monkey trekking

This is another most exciting primate experience that you need not to miss to engage in while on safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park. This park boasts of over 400 individuals of colobus monkeys most of which will come your way as you trek. This experience equally begins at the park headquarters and usually lasts for two to five hours and visitors have only an hour of face to face encounter with them.


If you are good at hiking then consider this park a must to visit while on vacation in Rwanda and you won’t regret in life. It comprises of about 13 remarkable hiking trails that make it a true hiker’s paradise. Most significantly, they offer you opportunity to come close with natural beauty of the protected area while on foot. While on hiking adventure at this park, you will be amazed by remarkable views of different primates, birds, butterflies, wildlife and explore most of its distinct plant species that are of medicinal importance and several trees and not to forget several flowers. The notable hiking trails for you to explore at this park include among others the extensive Congo Nile Divide trail which covers a distance of 227 kilometers and requires a good number of days for you to complete your hike. Others include Karamba trail, Igishigishigi, Uwinka trail, Irebero, Umugote trail, Bigugu, Isumo, Kamiranzovu, Imbaraga, Rukuzi and Ngabwe trail. Each of these trail reward hikers with distinct experiences.

Bird watching

This park is also ideal for birding and there are over 300 distinct bird species that wait for you to spot while on safari in Rwanda. They include among others the Grauer’s warbler, the Rwenzori Turaco, purple breasted and blue headed sunbird, Rwenzori batis, alehe poliophrys, stripe breasted tit parus fasciiventer, Shelley’s crimsonwing, Cossypha archeri, Rwenzori nightjar, archer’s robin chat, red collared babbler, yellow eyed black flycatcher, regal sunbird, cinnyris regius, Neumann’s warbler, kupeornis ruficinctus and others.

Canopy walk

If you are interested in experiencing something unique while on tour in Rwanda then don’t miss to be part of the canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park. This activity offers you opportunity to explore most of the bird species, butterflies, primates and others. This experience costs $60 each person and starts from Uwinka visitor center.

Where to stay while on safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park

The available accommodation options for you to spend a night at this park include Nyungwe Forest Lodge (luxury), Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel (midrange), Gisakura Guesthouse (budget) or alternatively, you can go camping at Uwinka visitor center where there are about two camping facilities including Mount Bigugu peak camp and Congo Nile Divide trail campsites.

Getting to Nyungwe Forest National Park

This park is 225 kilometers’ drive approximately 4 to 5 hours drive off from Kigali. It can be reached both by road and air. By road, you can hire a vehicle with local/ground tour operator a fact that most of them are very knowledgeable about destination or simply board the bus to Ruzizi from Nyabugogo Bus Park in Kigali and you will spend about 8 hours on the road. For adventure enthusiasts, you can embark on a self drive from Kigali to Muhanga and then to Nyanza to Huye town or from Huye westwards to Nyamagabe that is next to the park. By air, you can take a flight from Kamembe airport about 32 kilometers away from Nyungwe Forest National Park. Domestic flights are always arranged for visitors by Rwandair.

In conclusion, if you are a primatologist and you wish to catch a glimpse at varied primate species then consider Nyungwe Forest National Park a must to include in your travel plan and you won’t regret thereafter.

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