In the southwest corner of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast untouched tropical rainforest with a high, dense canopy. Nyungwe Forest National Park is a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali and it became a National Park in 2004 as Rwanda sought to increase its tourism beyond the country’s mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park.
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!
Primates in Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe is an ideal destination for lovers of primates, with 13 different species living here, and most visitors will go for at least one tracking experience, the most popular of which is chimpanzee trekking. Starting very early in the morning, chimps are tracked in groups of eight and as with the mountain gorillas, you will have just one hour in their company once they’ve been located. Trekking in search of grey-cheeked mangabey and Rwenzori colobus monkeys is also on offer in Nyungwe Forest, the latter of which can be found here in troops of several hundred. And there’s no need to trek far to see l’Hoest’s monkeys – you will often see them ambling along the roadside as you drive past.
Birdwatching in Nyungwe Forest
The birds in Nyungwe Forest National Park are spectacular. Around 310 species reside here, although as in most tropical forests, you’ll have to look hard for them. Giant hornbills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrowhawks are amongst the specials, of which 27 are endemic to this section of the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest also contains 26 of the Albertine Rift endemic birds, more than any other site in east Africa. Steep hills and a road that cuts through the forest allowing easy views of the canopy make this place an ideal place for bird tourism, the forest also has over 100 species of orchid and many other flowering plants of interest. Since the genocide tourism has started to recover and recently there has been a large increase in the numbers of people visiting Nyungwe.