Nyungwe forest National park Situated in the south west corner of one of Africa’s small nation Rwanda south of Lake Kivu on the border with Burundi, Nyungwe forest park is a huge intact tropical rainforest with a dense canopy that stands high and proud. Sitting on a 1000 square kilometre, the park is ultimately one of the world’s most gorgeous and untouched mountain rainforests. Becoming a national park in 2004, Nyungwe forest park is believed to have one of Africa’s oldest forests which have managed to stay green even through the Ice age thus explaining its diversity.
Nyungwe forest is the source of Africa’s great rivers. It feeds the Nile from the rain it receives in the east and that that is received in the west feeds Congo. The forest receives over 2000mm of rain annually.
The park can be mistaken for a scene in the fairy tale with its magnificent rainforest that is filled with its varied nature and wildlife escapades for you to materialise yourself in. giant tree ferns, ebonies and tall old mahoganies tower above you as other epiphytes and orchids to every branch. Chimpanzees and 12 other species of primates including 400 strong troops of Rwenzori black and white Colobus, over 300 species of birds including 16 endemic ones as well as 75 varied species of mammals call this home.
Biking or even hiking this stunning terrain, experiencing the canopy walk, tracking the famous chimpanzees, relaxing by waterfalls as you watch the beautiful birds are just a glimpse of the activities you can do at Nyungwe.
Travelling through the forest, tourists observe the cooling mist and lush green mountains in the background as they listen the sounds of the wild that create an incredible wild game experience. Do not miss to try out the thrilling canopy walk on East Africa’s highest canopy walk on a metal bridge that is suspended 50 meters up above the forest.
Wildlife in Nyungwe forest park.
Roughly 400 species of chimpanzees live in Nyungwe forest and is one of East Africa’s last untouched populations and as well boasts 2 wild chimp communities that welcome guests one being in Uwinka and the other in Cyamdungo. It is therefore not shocking that chimpanzee tracking is a widespread activity in Nyungwe especially when the trees are in full bloom as well trained game guides will be seen to lead you all the way. Viewing of these chimpanzees is not enough; you will enjoy learning about their behaviour which is truly fascinating. Be reminded that you will need to wake up early in the morning.
The only location in Africa you will find ‘supergroups’ of more than 300 species of Colobus monkeys is Nyungwe. It’s here that you will see L’Hoest’s monkeys, as well as the owl faced monkey which is an Albertine Rift endemic that stays in Nyungwe’s southern forests.
The birdlife at Nyungwe forest park
Birdlife International describes this as the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda. Nyungwe hosts about 310 species of birds 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift although bird spotting has proven to be challenging at times. Trekking to the sounds of the birds has been found to be a lot easier and more enjoyable. The guides here at Nyungwe are so knowledgeable and can easily identify a bird species just by the sound of its cry.
A safari to Nyungwe forest national park.
The journey from Kigali to Nyungwe forest national park is approximately a 4-5 hour drive. The drive is made much more interesting by stop overs at different attractions en route for example the National museum and Nyanza’s king’s palace. Inside the park is Uwinka visitor center which is also worth a visit to know more about the park ranging from the history, culture to its flora and fauna.
Activities to engage in while at Nyungwe forest national park
Primate safaris in Nyungwe forest national park
Lovers of primates, this is the ideal destination with over 13 species to look at. You will experience the famous chimpanzee trekking starting early at dawn so as to track one of the eight chimp groups as well as the thrilling mountain gorillas. Seeing these lovely animals is not always guaranteed as they are known for keeping in the dense forests. In addition to this you will get the opportunity to also see the Rwenzori colobus monkeys and the grey cheeked mangabey that will keep jumping from tree to tree in circles around you as they chase each other. The L’Hoest monkeys along the roads will grace your visit as you drive past them.
Bird watching in Nyungwe forest park
With over 300 resident bird species here in Nyungwe, bird watching is one of the incredible activities to engage in while here. The birds to look out for include great blue turacos, gigantic hornbills, sparrowhawks with 27 endemic ones to the section of the Albertine Rift Valley.
Forest hiking in Nyungwe forest park
Exploring the interior of Nyungwe forest is very fascinating and is being made better with over 130 kilometre hiking routes created and more are yet to be created. Trails in the forest last about 1-8 hours and walking in there is an experience you should do for yourself. One of the shortest trails is called Igishigishigi trail which has the highest canopy walk in East Africa with impressive views of Nyungwe forest. Leading you to the highest mountain in the park which is 2950m is Bigugu trail which is a 6 hour long trail.
Discovering the diverse ecosystem of the park is not complete without exploring the rich culture of the place. Music, dance and drama are integral parts of Nyungwe culture. Tours to Banda village which is down the mountain from Uwinka visitors centre is only 15km. Here you will have the opportunity to engage in activities like basket weaving, local food tasting. Dancing to the tune of the local ballads as well as attending a traditional wedding ceremony if you are lucky.
Safari camps and lodges in Nyungwe forest park.
Accommodation in the park spans across a range of budgets though it limited. Here is a rundown of the camps and lodges available.
Nyungwe top view hotel
Since February 2011 Nyungwe top view hotel has guaranteed its gusets the most stunning views in the Nyungwe forest area and the numerous tea plantations that surround it. Set on top of a hill, the lodge is close to the headquarters of the park and only a 5 minutes drive off the main road.
Two large tiered rondavel with an amazingly high roof make up the main areas of Nyungwe Top view. The hotel was constructed in a way of merging traditional and modern themes that make it very unique from the rest. Circular wicker lights hanging from the ceiling light up the dark tiled stairs opening into a mezzanine balcony. The reception is found on the ground floor where walls showcasing the traditions of Rwanda and sparingly furnished with a few comfortable sofas for the guests to dive into after a long journey.
From the dining area which has a very exotic bar to suit your taste on the second floor, fascinating views of Lake Kivu and volcanoes of Congo far off in the clear sky can be seen. At the front are glass doors right at the rondavel that open into the neatly kept lawn of the hotel.
Spotlessly clean bedrooms are fitted with tiled bathrooms that have a toilet, sink and shower all of the utmost quality you will ever find. While here you will also be able to engage in several fun activities like safari drives through the park, canopy walks name it.
Nyungwe forest lodge
Right at the edge of the park, Nyungwe forest lodge the only five star lodge in the park was opened in March 2010. Boasting of an impressive view that overlooks the forest canopy, the lodge sits right in the middle of a tea plantation.
The lodge has 24 lavish rooms which are located in a 6 wooden villa of 4 rooms each. It also has 2 presidential suites which are in separate villa all encompassed with a Jacuzzi. These will leave you feeling like a royal all your stay there. Highly exotic, the rooms have a traditional finish to them to portray the rich culture of Rwanda.
A fitness centre, an out-door heated swimming pool, massage parlours, a gift boutique are all found here at the lodge as well as free access to wiFi internet for all its guests. A restaurant that has a private terrace, a bar and a tea lounge provide you with the best treatment you can find with its every jolly and caring staff. The dining area is surrounded by an open fire that gives you warmth in case it gets cold.
After the days’ activities, Nyungwe forest Lodge is the perfect place for you to relax and dine from.
ORTPN guest house also called Gisakura guest house
This is also located at the very edge of the forest which has 12 simple yet classy rooms for its guests to stay and relax. The guesthouse was constructed using tiles, wood and bricks. Food here is traditional home cooked food but its taste leaves you yearning to see the magical hands that put the food together. The guest room has self contained bathrooms that provide hot water as well. It is a very good place to stay particularly for budget spenders.