Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the South Western region of Rwanda; bordering Burundi in the South with Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo situated in the western part of the national park. Nyungwe Forest National Park is part of the renowned Nyungwe Forest which is the largest tropical rain forest in East and Central Africa. The forest has been in existence for over thousands of years. It happens to be one of the best Rwanda National Parks.
A Brief History of Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park covers a total surface area of 1020 sq km and at a height of between 1600- 2950 meters above sea level. Nyungwe Forest covers an area of over 1000 sq km and receives a record amount of 2000mm of rainfall every year. The forest is also Rwanda’s largest water catchment area holding 2/3rds of all the country’s water. This large tropical forest also contributes to the water distribution in River Congo and the Nile River as well.
In 1903, Nyungwe was declared a forest reserve by the German colonial government. Between 1958 and 1973, the total land coverage of this tropical African rainforest greatly reduced due to fire outbreaks in the forest, large scale deforestation and poaching of animals. In 1974, the last buffaloes that inhabited Nyungwe Forest were killed by poachers.
In 2004, Nyungwe National Park was first established as a national park following the ranking of Rwanda as one of the top 10 tourist destinations on Lonely Planet.
However, in 2005, Nyungwe Forest National Park was declared as a protected area and it is during this time that tourist visits to the national park increased.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to over 300 bird species and 75 mammal species inclusive of 13 primate species. This makes the national park a place to be for any curious and adventure thrilled visitors.
Attractions in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda has a number of attractions that have tourists from all over the world jetting into the country to visit the park. Some of the attractions in the national park include;
- Birds: Nyungwe Forest National Park has an estimated number of about 300 bird species with 26 of these only found in the Albertine Rift. This makes the national park a good destination for bird-watching safaris. Some examples of bird species that exist in the forest include; Melaenornis ardesiacus, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Black and White casqued Hornbill, Batis drops, Crytospiza Jackson bird and the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher among so many more species.
- Wildlife: Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is famous for its habituated Chimpanzees. The national park is home to 13 primate species with a concentration of up to 400 black and white colobus monkeys. This makes it the only national park in Africa with the largest concentration of black and white colobus monkeys. There are also other species of monkeys such as; L’Hoest monkey, Angola colobus monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, the Silver monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, vervet monkey, Olive Baboon and the Red tailed monkey to mention but a few.
- Flora: Nyungwe being a forest that has existed for ages, contains quite a large number of trees and plant species such as; prinaria exelsium, cyathea manniana, carapa, newtonia, orchids, mosses, ferns, podocarpus and so much more. This makes Nyungwe forest national park a great destination for botanical studies or research.
- Isumo Waterfalls: These waterfalls are roughly 17m high and are characterized by overlying cliffs, caves, and Kamiranzovu Swamp. While hiking to these waterfalls, tourists can spot birds, beautiful wildflowers and even a couple to non-poisonous snakes. Tourists can view the falls from a bench overlooking the falls at a distance of 50 meters.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Nyungwe national park has a wide range of activities carried out within the park and these include;
Chimpanzee Tracking: Nyungwe National Park is home to 25% of all primate species in Africa with the majority of its chimpanzees being habituated. Tracking chimpanzees in the make one of the highlights of a visit to the national park and there are about 500 individuals living within Nyungwe Forest National Park.
A chimpanzee tracking permit in Nyungwe National Park costs USD 60 per person and the activities last between 2- 6 hours. Tracking begins at exactly 8 am from three major points which are; Uwinka, Kitabi, and Gisakura.
Colobus Monkey Tracking: Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is home to about 400 black and white colobus monkeys. Tracking these colobus monkeys costs USD 60 dollars and can take from 2- 5 hours with an hour of direct contact.
Forest Canopy Walk: The forest canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park was introduced in October 2010 as a new tourism product in the park. The canopy walkway extends 200 feet above the forest floor and is 90 meters long. The Nyungwe Forest canopy walk begins at Uwinka headquarters and lasts 2 hours. It will cost USD 60 dollars per person for those who want to take part in this activity. The canopy walk also allows tourists to explore the higher forest canopy with beautiful views of the forest’s landscape.
Forest hiking: Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is a hiking paradise. With a total of 13 hiking trails, hiking expeditions in the forest can last between 1- 8 hours and cost USD 40.
Birding: The national park is home to over 300 bird species that tourists can sight such as; Archer’s Robin-Chat, the Strange weaver, Chapin’s Flycatcher and Rockefeller’s sunbird amongst others. Birding in Nyungwe national park costs USD 50 per person per day.
Hike to Isumo waterfalls: Tourists visiting Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda can enjoy a guided hike to the renowned Isumo waterfalls. The falls are 17 meters high and give tourists great views of some caves and even Kamiranzovu swamp. Some hiking trails will offer a tourist chance to see snakes, birds, butterflies wildflowers and unique tree and plant species. There are hiking trails that begin at car park 1 and car park 2 which may be shorter hiking routes as compared to other head trails in the national park.
Other activities that tourists can partake in while visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park include; Congo Nile guided hike which is a 3 day hiking expedition; and camping in the forest.
Accommodation Facilities in Nyungwe National Park
There are a variety of accommodation facilities available while on tour to Nyugwe National Park. The accommodation options comprise hotels, lodges, guesthouses, motels, and campsites. Some of these places that you can choose to stay in include;
- Nyungwe Forest Lodge: Nyungwe Forest Lodge was established in 2010 and has 20 luxury rooms and 2 VIP/ Presidential rooms with each of these VIP rooms having a Jacuzzi and private balcony with views overlooking Nyungwe Forest. Nyungwe Forest Lodge offers its guests luxury services like; swimming, health gym and spa treatments. There are some activities that guests can engage in while staying at Nyungwe Forest Lodge and these include; chimpanzee tracking, bird watching, canopy walk and a guided forest walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Nyungwe Forest Lodge also provides its guests with transportation to the national park, with even a provision for helicopter flights to Kigali International Airport.
- Gisakura Guest House: Gisakura Guesthouse is located 2 km from Nyungwe National Park. It is situated along the road to Rusizi and is close to the Gisakura tea estate. This guesthouse offers low budget and mid-range accommodation with rooms ranging from USD 43 to USD 85. Activities that guest staying in Gisakura Guest House can indulge in are; canopy walk, chimpanzee tracking, hiking and bird watching among others.
- Nyungwe Top View Hotel: The Nyungwe Top View Hotel was constructed in 2011 and is a five minutes’ drive to Nyungwe National Park. The hotel is also a 4- 5 hour drive from Kigali City. Some amenities provided at the hotel include; a restaurant and well-stocked bar, electricity, security and medical services given that the hotel is located 10 km from a medical Care Center. While staying at Nyungwe Top View Hotel, guests can take part in activities such as; tracking chimpanzees, bird watching, forest walk and the canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park. Other accommodation options for visitors near Nyungwe National Park include; Nyungwe Nziza Eco Lodge and One & Only Nyungwe House.
Best Time to Visit Nyungwe Forest National Park: Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is open to visitors all year round. However it is best to visit the park during the dry seasons which are between December- February and June- August.
How to Get to Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe is located in Butare district near Cyangugu town in south western Rwanda. It is a 4- 5 hour drive from Kigali to the national park and covers a distance of 225 km. One can either take a bus or hire a car to Uwinka Center or Gisakura. Hiring a car from Kigali can cost between USD 32 – 43 dollars.
Nyungwe Forest National Park can also be accessed by air from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe International Airport. Upon arrival at Kamembe International Airport, one may choose to drive 32 km to the national park or hire a helicopter depending on one’s budget.
Nyungwe National Park is a place to be for those who love nature and the park offers great activities that a visitor can do along with friends and families. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Rwanda, don’t forget to include this amazing national park to your tour itinerary.