- Nyungwe Forest National Park
East Africa’s largest remaining swathe of mountainous jungle, Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the continent’s oldest forests, home to towering tree ferns, showers of butterflies and the most diverse primate population in the region.
Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, are the biggest draw card here and Nyungwe chimpanzee trekking is becoming more and more popular, especially in combination with a gorilla trek. Living in highly mobile families, the chimps are harder to find and keep up with than the more sedentary gorillas of Volcanoes National Park but their behaviour is as fascinating and they appear as warily curious of us as we are of them. The forest is also home to a dozen other primate species including colobus monkeys in troops numbering up to 300 individuals as well as several hundred bird species.
It is a four or five hour drive to Nyungwe Forest from the capital city of Kigali and accommodation is available at a handful of lodges on the edge of the forest. Our top of the range Nyungwe chimpanzee trekking lodge has air-conditioned suites, a gym, swimming pool and Wi-Fi but there are more budget-minded accommodations too and all offer chimpanzee trekking.
Activities offered at Nyungwe’s lodges naturally focus on trekking for chimpanzees and other primates but there are also hiking trails throughout the forest, allowing you to explore this unique landscape on walks ranging from one to eight hours. Especially recommended is the forest’s aerial walkway, allowing you to stroll above the rainforest canopy for stunning views.
The best time to go to Nyungwe Forest for chimpanzee trekking is as it is for gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park – the two dry seasons of December to February and between June and October. These periods will certainly give you the best weather and the easiest hiking conditions but bear in mind that Nyungwe’s chimpanzees are often more difficult to find during these drier times as they are forced to look for food deeper in the rainforest.
Along with chimp trekking, we’ve highlighted our favourite Nyungwe experiences below as well as our suggested accommodation for inspiration and ideas. Contact us with your requirements and we’ll recommend a packaged tour for you or will tailor-make one to your specifications.
Nyungwe Forest National Park on the map
EXPLORE AFRICA’S OLDEST MOUNTAIN RAINFOREST
Nyungwe is home to one of the most important chimpanzee populations in East Africa. Expert guides take you into the forest to find & follow a family of chimps as they forage in the forest, hooting & whooping as they move, displaying moods & behaviour that may seem somewhat familiar to watching humans!
Chimpanzees are the main draw at Nyungwe but they are just one of 13 species of primate in the forest. Guided walks take you in search of these smaller monkeys which include the well-known black & white colobus monkeys as well as rarities such as L’Hoests’s & owl-faced monkeys plus endearing galagos, also known as bush babies.
Spotting wildlife from the rainforest floor isn’t always that easy so make sure you spend some time 60 metres (200 feet) above ground level on Nyungwe’s canopy walkway. Suspended between giant trees & running for 200 metres (660 feet) over the rainforest, it makes the ideal place to spot birds & monkeys as well as orchids & butterflies.
With 27 Albertine Rift endemics on a list of around 300 bird species, it’s no wonder Nyungwe Forest has been described as a bird watcher’s paradise. It is rated by Birdlife International as Rwanda’s most important site for bio-diversity conservation & lodges have expert guides to take you straight into the action.
With all the excitement going on around primates, it’s easy to forget that Nyungwe Forest is home to countless other plant & animal species; guided walks open up the secrets of the rainforest, revealing forest glades shimmering with butterflies & curious-looking orchids hanging off giant trees.
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