Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi, to the south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west and it’s probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established in 2004 and covers an area of approximately 970 km2 of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park borders.
Extending for 1,000 square kilometers across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of mountain forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. A uniquely rich centre of floral diversity, the forest has more than 200 different types of tree, and a myriad of flowering plants including the other-worldly giant lobelia and a host of colorful orchids. Nyungwe Forest National Park is a true rain forest and it receives 2,000 mm of rainfall annually. It is also one of the oldest forests in Africa, and that is one of the reason as to why it boasts such a high level of diversity. Nyungwe Forest National Park, along with other forests of the Albertine Rift, was unaffected by the drying up of the lowland areas during the last ice age, and therefore become a refuge for forest plants and animals.
Nyungwe is most alluring for its primates: 13 species in all, including humankind’s closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome Lhotse monkey and hundred-strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe harbors almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of mountain forests on the Albertine Rift. The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue Turaco – an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
An extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points. A comfortably rustic rest house and perfectly situated campsite lie alongside the main road, and the reserve can readily be visited as a day trip from the towns of Butare and Cyangugu. Nyungwe does, however, deserve more time: anybody who wants to track chimps and see several varieties of smaller primate will need two days there – and dedicated birdwatchers might never want to leave!
The top things to see and do in Nyungwe forest in Rwanda which is also a land
of thousand hills is also home too many natural wonders and the forest is one of them. This forest also covers an area of over 1000 sq kilometers and it’s even larger than it extends into Burundi where Kibira National park.
This national park is also the largest tropical afro Montane rainforest east or central Africa and a rainforest it is and receives over 2000mm of rain each year and its Rwanda’s largest water catchment area and its home to 2/3rds of all Rwanda’s water. The forest also feeds both the river Congo and the River Nile with water.
When you arrive in Nyungwe forest, you come here on the winding roads through the huge tea fields and then there is Nyungwe forest national park, like developing its massiveness like a national Geographic Video and only better since you are here in that large forest with its endless Kamiranzovu swamp, the trails through out, the forest canopy walk, which is the only one in East Africa, the chances for birding, the primate tracking and viewing and taking in the flowers like the orchids that are found here and the many butterflies that they attract.
Nyungwe is also not a compact park but large forest and the things to do and see here also take some planning as that your time on the safari is not wasted with drive times. You can also find 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. Also the park is with its uncountable of the natural wonders and is not missed if you are coming to Rwanda and it will be one of those items to mountain gorilla tracking in Rwanda.
Hiking in Nyungwe Forest National park
This national park is also a hiker’s paradise. There are also 13 hiking trails with over 130 kilometers of the trails through the forest. The visitors can also spend a good week as you are hiking the many trails, as you explore the ancient rain-forest and discovering many habitats found in the forest.
The private hikes are also from one to eight hours in length and most can also be completed in case you are in reasonable physical shape. With your personal input, we can also arrange the hike that is right for you and will not be too active. Hiking in Nyungwe Forest is the time of discovering in a primal rain forest that will simply amazing may visitors with its fairy tale like appearance, its wildlife, birds, primates, plants, flowers, butterflies and the trees.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest
The park is also a good location where you can add chimpanzee trekking to your gorilla trek with in volcanoes national park without driving long distances. Chimpanzee trekking also starts in the morning and its best to carry a day pack where you have a couple of liters of water, have long trousers, the long sleeved shirt, rain jacket, the hiking boots and the hat. There will also be a maximum of over 8 people in your group that sets out to track the chimpanzees. These chimps at Nyungwe forest have been and are being habituated which means that they are used to human beings. Even though gorilla tracking, however, many set out to track these closest cousins as they play in Nyungwe forest national park.
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.
Also as you track any of the primate group, you will likely see some other monkeys along the trek. These might include; L’ Hoest’s monkey, the Owl faced monkeys, Mona monkey and the blue monkeys. The forest is also a primate country and you can also trek the chimps, the gray cheeked and the Colobus monkeys in the ancient forest.
About Nyungwe Forest Canopy walk and the Hike
This canopy walk is also the first tree top forest canopy walk in East Africa and the third in all Africa. This walk is also an activity not to be missed in Rwanda. In case you are coming to Rwanda to trek the mountain gorillas, you can add on some days and include Nyungwe forest and enjoy the canopy walk as part of your safari itinerary. This canopy walk is also 50 meters above the ground and this can also be dizzying heights for some people, you will see the monkeys move around in the tree tops, the birds that are flying above you and below you and a beautiful view of the huge Nyungwe forest. It’s also an amazing sight. This canopy walk is also 90m long which is not a long distance, however, it’s when you are 50 m above the ground.
Birding in Nyungwe forest
Nyungwe Forest has 300 bird species and 27 of them are endemics and are part of the species that are found in the forests of the albertine rift. For example the Grauer’s Warbler which is an albertine rift endemics hat can be found within the mountain swamps like the Kamiranzovou with in Nyungwe Forest .you can also find both the Rwenzori Turaco and the large blue Turaco. The sun birds of many types like the purple breasted and the blue headed sun bird and can be found in flowering trees. Nyungwe is also birder’s paradise and you will see many other things from the orchids to the primates during your birding walks with in Nyungwe Forest.
Nyungwe forest national park is located in South western Rwanda, close to the Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo, with the Burundi border in the south. It is located near Cyangugu town, about 225km and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali.
You can either drive to the park from Kigali, or fly there. You can’t walk there though, that would take an extraordinary amount of drive and time.
Travelling by road
With 225km to cover from Kigali to the Nyungwe forest, you will need a good functional car to make good time. You can either go by bus or hire a car.
By bus;you can take a bus headed to Ruzizi from Nyabugogo bus park in Kigali, get off at Uwinka Center. Travelling by bus takes a little bit longer, and the bus ride might even be 8 hours long. There are buses that drive through he park, and you could hope on those, but they are usually quite full.
By car; Hiring a car is much more comfortable, convenient and will take a much shorter time. You will avoid the hustle of travelling the difficult stretches such as stretch between Uwinka Center and Gisakura.
Hiring a car could cost you about 30,000-40,000RWF per day.
The journey by car starts in Kigali. Travelling south you will come across several towns, one of the main cities you will come across is Huye town, which is about 32km from Kigali. The road up to there is quite smooth, but has some very sharp turns so your driver should be careful. A hundred or so more kilometers and you will be in Nyungwe. It is best not to cut your time too close, especially since the drive through the park is also quite lengthy. Budget some extra time before your scheduled activity is set to start to make allowances for any unexpected stops and just in case you don’t make it in 5 hours as expected.
If you are adventurous and want to drive yourself, here are a few road directions from Kigali.
-From Kigali drive south west to Muhanga, then south to Nyanza and on to Huye town.
-From Huye drive on Westwards towards Nyamagabe, which is quite close to the Nyungwe park entrance.
Focusing on the road is good especially if you are the driver, but even then try not to get so carried away following directions to the park and forget to enjoy the journey.
There are several interesting sights along the way. If you have the time, you can make a few stops. You could stop at the Nyanza king’s palace at Nyabisindi as you drive through Nyanza. The palace is a historical landmark that has recently been reconstructed. It is a goldmine of information about Rwanda’s cultural history and Royalty in Rwanda. You could also make time along the way to take in the sights and sounds at the National museum. There is quite a lot to see there including locally made arts and crafts, and traditional entertainment-you might get to see a demonstration of the “intore” dancers. There is also the Gikongoro’s Genocide Memorial along the way.
Let yourself enjoy the journey fully, even as you try not to get lost along the way. You can make your bookings for a bus through your tour operator, or hire a car for self-drive in Kigali. Either option will get you there.
Traveling by air
If you are looking for a much faster means of transport, then you can book a flight with RwandAir. The airline offer domestic flights and one of its domestic routes is Kigali-Kamembe. RwandAir offers a minimum of 9 flights a week from Kigali to Kamembe International airport.
Kamembe airport happens to be a short 32km from Nyungwe forest lodge, which offers helicopter pickups. It is quite a convenient arrangement if you can afford it.
Travelling to Nyungwe Forest national park shouldn’t be difficult if it well planned. An easy way to do that is hire a safari company to make the arrangements on your behalf.
So you have decided to go on safari to Rwanda, and on your agenda is a visit to Nyungwe forest. Question is where do you stay for the night, or if your spending more than one day, then for the duration of your safari.
There are a number of accommodation options; lodges, hotels, guest houses, and camps. Some of these include:
Nyungwe Forest National Park Lodge
Nyungwe forest lodge was set up in 2010 and has fast become a favorite with tourists in the area. It is situated in a tea plantation close to the Nyungwe forest. This lodge was the first ever 5 star accommodation establishment in the region. It has some of the best facilities in Rwanda and very good service.
Nyungwe forest lodge has luxury facilities such as a gym and a swimming pool, and over looks the forest canopy so you are guaranteed some good views of the scenery in the area.
It has comfortable luxury rooms, one of them even has a jacuzzi.
Board basis is full board and it includes meals. You can either dine outdoors, or in the restaurant, or in your room.
There is access to WIFI, and telephone services, so you can communicate to people back home. There are also sate-lite TVs in the rooms to keep you in touch with the rest of the world.
Security at the Lodge is quite good, with very minimal threat of wild animals, and there are security guards day and night.
Guests at the lodge have the opportunity to go chimpanzee tracking, go on guided walking through Nyungwe forest, enjoy the canopy walk and birdwatching in Nyungwe forest national Park.
Transport to the park is provided and there is even a provision for helicopter rides to the airport.
Payment for hotel facilities can be made in US dollars, Pounds or Rwandese Francs.
Gisakura Guest House
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.
Gisakura offers opportunities to visit chimpanzees, the canopy walkway, bird watching, and hikes along different trails.
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.
Cost of rooms ranges from about $43 to $85. which makes this affordable accommodation.
The guest house is secure and there is very minimal risk of encounters with wild animals.
Gisakura guest house: Comfortable and affordable
Nyungwe Top View Hotel
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. You can either dine inside or outside.
The hotel is connected to electric power grid. The power is always, on so you do not have to worry about spending nights in the dark
Health and security: there is a medical care center about 10km from the hotel. However it is best that you get your malaria shots before travelling.
Security is good. there is no danger of wild animals, and there are security guards around the hotel every time of the day.
Currency and foreign exchanges: Nyungwe top view hotel accepts and can exchange US dollars, British pounds and Euros.
Nyungwe top view hotel offers activities mainly centered around the park. So look forward to tracking chimpanzees, seeing he Ruwenzori Colobus monkey, birdwatching, forest walk, and going on the Nyungwe canopy walk.
The hotel provides a driver to take you around the park and the various places you might want to visit.
All in all the hotel is a comfortable, convenient and safe place to stay during your safari.
If you are travelling to Rwanda for a safari in Nyungwe, the best thing to do would be to consult your tour operator on what place of accommodation would best suit your needs.