Location: South Western Rwanda, Rwanda
Ideal length of stay: 2 – 4 nights
About the Park
Nyungwe forest is one of the less disturbed natural forests on the African continent. The forest is located in southwestern Rwanda and forms part of the Congo Nile forest network.Nyungwe forest stretches several kilometers over a number of hills with a variety of vegetation species including some of the oldest trees in east and central Africa. This forest is a water catchment area and a haven to many wildlife species that are usually explored by a number of nature friendly tourists.
Nyungwe Forest park in Rwanda is known for its high-altitude, mountainous rainforest in the southern Rwanda and was first gazzeted as a forest reserve in 1933. Later in 2004, it was upgraded to a status of a national park. The conserved part of the park covers 378 sq miles of the country’s land (970 square kilometers). The Nyungwe Forest National Park is situated in the Albertine Rift, a series where Uganda’s mountain of the moon starts in the western direction of Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Neighboring Burundi’s National park Kibira National Park, Nyungwe has been recognized as a national park to the International level and a number of visitors frequent the park every year for primate watching, nature treks and bird watching. Today the park remains as one of the biggest rain forests remaining in Africa and East Africa’s conserved forest with a high high-altitude.
Planning for an adventure to Nyungwe Forest National Park. Here is useful information on how to get to Nyungwe Forest, maps and guides etc.
Travel By Road
Nyungwe forest can be accessed by road from Kigali Rwanda’s capital city. It takes about a 6 to 7 hours drive along a well-tarmacked road in the hilly and remote countryside of Rwanda.
Tourists from volcanoes national park can also access the forest by road but this is however along drive that takes about 9 to 10 hours. Read More about Getting to Nyungwe Forest.
Traveling to Nyungwe Forest by Air
If planning to fly to Nyungwe, the only Airport in Rwanda is in Kigali the capital of Rwanda and Air Rwanda flies there on a daily basis. From Kigali, you travel by road to Nyungwe and attraction to see before reaching the park include Rwanda’s National University tourists may opt to stop at the museum or culture centre on the way to Nyungwe.The journey takes you about 5 hours, on the narrow. Visitors are advised to carry bottled mineral water and smacks since the park does not offer shopping facilities.
The nearest shopping centre is in the western direction of Nyungwe in the village of Gisaku also a source of tourist information about Nyungwe forest and attraction can be ac A canteen with hot meals and tourist facilities are available at Gisakura, a tiny village located on the western edge of the forest road. The Conservation Project of the Nyungwe Forest (PCFN), supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), maintains an office and tourist welcome center here, as well as the canteen and guest rooms. There are forest research and conservation activities happening at this site. The Rwandan parks department has an office here as well. PCFN maintains several nice walking trails from Gisakura into the forest. You may also tour a tea factory at Gisakura, and visit a small forest fragment in the tea plantation where colobus monkeys are readily visible.
When to Visit the Park – What is the best time to visit Nyungwe Forest?
The best time of visiting Nyungwe forest national park is much more based on individual interests and preferences and therefore it can either be in the dry season or the wet season. Chimpanze tracking at its best in the wet seasons as there’s always a lot of food within the forest and this makes the shy animals move less and easy to locate, unlike in the dry seasons when there’s limited food in the forest and the animals have to move long distances in search for food.
On the other hand, canopy forest walks and nature walks are best recommended in the dry seasons where the tourists can move freely within the park and enjoy their tourist activities without any disturbances caused by the rains.
Nyungwe Tropical rainforest national park is in the country side of the country and can easily be reached from Kigali – Rwanda’s capital city by road transport; and this s usually a 5 to 6 hours’ drive.
Things to See
Nyungwe tropical rain forest is a home to several wildlife and bird species and therefore offers quite a number of tourist activities to its visitors such as primate watching since it’s a renowned habitat for several primates like the chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and baboons. Tourists also enjoy other activities like golden monkey tracking, chimpanzee tracking, forest nature walks, forest canopy walks, birding etc.
Nyungwe is endowed with a variety of animal species with primates species ranging 13 in total, 275 Avi (birds) species thus a bird watchers paradise, 38 species of reptile, 32 amphibian species, mammals are 85 and plants species noted are approximately 1068 thus attracting many visitors to Africa as a wildlife safari destination. Location itself in a region where several large-scale biogeographical zones meet and the variety of terrestrial biomes offers a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals. Learn more about the things to see in Nyungwe Forest.
Things to Do
Tourists visiting this great ecotourism destination can go for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest to discover more about the chimpanzees that are some of human’s closet primate species.
Nature Treks / Forest Walks
Forest walks are also organized and undertaken following the major forest trails with great sightings of a number of wildlife species. Forest walks gives tourists a chance to closely interact with nature and view some of the small wildlife species like insects.
Tourist can also go for canopy walks. Nyungwe forest national park has the only canopy walk way in east Africa that stands over 500 meters high offering great aerial views of Nyungwe forest ecosystems and wildlife species that like staying in the higher canopy layers.
Bird Watching in Nyungwe Forest
Birding is another adventurous and nature friendly activity that can be carried out while in Nyungwe forest national park especially seeking to view the major endemic bird species that the forest has. Nyungwe Tropical rain forest is considered the best bird watching site in Rwanda especially for the montane birds like the11 of the 23 species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome and 71 of the 74 species of this biome of Afro tropical Highlands that occur in Rwanda are also seen at this site.
The forest reserve is believed to hold about 300 bird species with 26 species endemic and can only stay in forests found in or along The Albertine Rift and cannot be found in any other forests except those in the Albertine Rift Mountains, the giant hornbills, and great blue Turacos, red breasted sparrow hawks, with about 28 purple and blue breasted sun birds. All these birds do fill the forest with wonderful sounds and sights / views which is such an amazing experience.
Considering its record, Nyungwe tropical rain forest will provide you with a diversified bird sight which include among others; The great blue turaco- a chicken sized bird with garish blue, green and yellow feathers normally seen gliding between the trees along the main road, The flycatcher-along tailed blue, orange and sometimes white bird usually seen around the rest house. While at this trip, you should watch out for the red throated alethe, a much localized bird with a distinctive blue-white eyebrow. The alethe habitually follows colobus troops to eat the insects they disturb and somany other interesting types.
Where To Stay
There are several options for your stay at Nyungwe Forest.
There are good and standard accommodation facilities around Nyungwe forest reserve where tourists can stay at affordable rates. They include Nyungwe forest lodge, which is a luxurious accommodation facility, situated on the outskirts of Nyungwe forest. This lodge offers great scenic views of Nyungwe forest and has well spaced rooms with first class hospitality services. This lodge is located a few kilometers from the major tracking trails.
Nyungwe top view hotel is another place where tourists can stay while in Nyungwe forest national park. This hotel is situated on a hill and also offers great views of Nyungwe forest as well as lake Kivu. It’s a mid range accommodation facility with standard hospitality services.
Budget travelers to Nyungwe forest can have accommodation at Gisakura guesthouse, which also situated on the outskirts of Nyungwe forest. This guesthouse has good basic facilities and it’s also not far from the tracking trails. There are camping facilities at Uwinka, if tourists choose to stay the night in the forest. There are also limited number of rooms in a small cabin at Uwinka that may be available to rent. Tourists should plan to bring their own food with them for their stay at Uwinka in the forest.
Proceed to Gisakura and the PCFN office to check in and reserve a campsite or cabin space at Uwinka. Tourists may also stay at the guest house in Gisakura, and return each day to hike in the forest, an easy 40 minute drive. Lastly, there are several hotels and restaurants in Cyangugu, a town about an hour drive from Gisakura along the border with DRC.