Nyungwe National Park is located in southwestern part of Rwanda, at the extreme border between Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The famous Nyungwe forest national park is one of the best preserved and conserved montane rainforest in whole of the East and Central Africa. The park lies at an elevation of 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters above sea level and its expansive network of well-maintained forest trails direct visitors to a number of waterfalls and viewing points.
Covering over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe Forest national park that was gazzetted in 2004 is surely one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine mountain rainforests. It’s believed to be one of Africa’s oldest forests, staying green even through the Ice Age, which explains its diversity.
It is strategic position in the landmark between the wonderful basin of the river Congo found on the western part of the park and the stunning basin of the world’s longest river Nile makes the park to be Rwanda’s primary water catchment area, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters
Nyungwe forest park has wide range of wild life species hence giving it first priority for protection and conservation in the African continent. The forest is situated in a region where several large-scale bio-geographical zones converge and the variety of terrestrial biomes offer a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.
Nyungwe is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Birdlife International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe forests extend to altitudes covered by the few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, moths, butterflies, and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination in the making.
The area around Nyungwe national Park is inhabited by local people who are well diverse, with many examples of song, cuisine, dance, music, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the nature side of trip to this part of Africa.
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Flora of Nyungwe-
Nyungwe national park is home of the largest block of montane forest in East Africa and the Park boasts of more than 200 different types of trees and 140 species of orchids including eight that are endemic. The park contains numerous medicinal plants that have served as remedies for centuries, such as East African satinwood and California Bayberry.
Nyungwe forest has a wide diversity of animal species, making it a priority for conservation in Africa. The park is home to habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primates’ species including a 400-strong troop of habituated Ruwenzori Black & White Colobus, and home to 75 different species of mammal. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa. In fact, the number of endemic species found here is greater than in any other forest in the Albertine Rift Mountains that has been surveyed. The forest, which reaches its maximum altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, is of particular interest for the presence of colonies of chimpanzees.
Other animals besides primates comprise of the leopard, golden cat, serval cat, side-stripped jackal, Genet, African civet, slender and the marsh mongoose which represent the carnivores. There are also three species of duikers, two species of flying squirrels, tree hyrax, and Congo clawless otter.
Birds’ species –
Described by Birdlife International as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda,” the Nyungwe National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Although actually spotting birds in the park’s forests may be challenging, the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. If you would like to learn about birds you might see and hear, book a guide for $50 U.S. at the headquarters of the Rwanda Development Board. The guides so knowledgeable about birdlife in Nyungwe they can identify birds by ear, such as the rwenzori turaco, grey-chested kakamega, Purple-breasted, Blue-headed, the Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill. Ruwenzori Apalis Apalis ruwenzorii, Ruwenzori Batis Batis diops, Stripe-breasted Tit Parus fasciiventer and Ruwenzori Nightjar Caprimulgus ruwenzorii, Dusky Crimson Wing Cryptospiza jacksoni as well as Archer’s Robin-chat Cossypha archeri among others.
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Being home of roughly 400 species of chimpanzees, Nyungwe is the one of the parks of East Africa’s with intact populations of Chimps. The park boasts of two wild chimp communities in Cyamdungo and around Uwinka area. Thus, it’s not surprising that chimpanzee tracking is a popular activity in Nyungwe especially when the park’s trees are in full bloom during the summer. A beautiful hike through the forest will lead you to these fascinating creatures where you can see them up close.
The highly rewarding activity Starts very early in the morning, chimps are tracked in groups of eight trekkers, you will have just one hour in their company once they’ve been located. Sightings aren’t as reliable or as clear as gorillas however, since they often remain in dense forest, but their engaging playfulness and human-like characteristics make the long day worthwhile experience.
Chimpanzee tracking can be done year-round in Nyungwe Forest, and while it is never guaranteed that you will see them, sightings are very common and guides are skillful in tracking them.
Described by Birdlife International as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda,” the Nyungwe National Park is home to roughly 310 bird species, 27 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Although actually spotting birds in the park’s forests may be challenging, the bird songs you’ll hear during the trek will surely make it more enjoyable. If you would like to learn more about birds in Rwanda, the best place is Nyungwe National Park. you might see and hear.
Black and White Colobus Trekking
There are large troops of black and white colobus monkeys residing in Nyungwe Forest. These primates often travel in groups of over 300 individuals. It is possible to purchase a permit to trek these animals. Walking through a montane rainforest and being surrounded on all levels by these active and cheeky monkeys is not to be missed.
Visitors to Nyungwe National Park can experience the rainforest from a new perspective: the Canopy Walkway. Hanging 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers is East Africa’s only Canopy Walkway that provides a stunning view of the park’s amazing wildlife and nature. The Walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the Igishigishigi trail.
Conducted year-round, the Canopy Walkway Tour is highly rewarding with the splendid views of the unique sceneries around Nyungwe National Park. All participants must be at least six years of age and children must be accompanied by adults. This activity lasts 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop enroute. You walk to one end of the walkway and return the same way. It is important to note that the walkway does sway and if you have a fear of heights, you might not find this activity enjoyable.
Nyungwe’s forested landscape makes it an ideal destination for forest walks – whether they’re novices or experienced – as the park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails. The trails are blessed with an amazingly diverse landscape and represent the most scenic way of exploring the forest. The ones listed below are a must for travelers seeking a challenging, yet enjoyable forest walk experience.
Congo-Nile Divide Trail-As the name suggests, you’ll get acquainted with two of the world’s most iconic rivers as this multi-day, 227 km trek curves alongside the Congo and the Nile. Geared towards experienced hikers, you’ll navigate through varied landscapes such as rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests during this trek.
For those going on a multi-day trek, you don’t have to reserve a campsite (areas along the trail have been set aside for camping) but you do have to bring your own camping equipment. In addition, a number of shops that supply food and snack have been set up along the trail and there will be nowhere during the trek that you won’t be within 5-10 kilometers of refreshments.
Igishigishigi Trail-A comfortable trek for novices, this 2.1 km hike will amaze you with its majestic views of the Canopy Trail and dazzling wildflowers. The Igishigishigi Trail can also be combined with the longer Imbaraga or Umoyove Trails.
Karamba Trail -Another relatively easy hike, the Karamba Trail – located on the former site of a gold mine, market and army camp – is considered one of the best spots for birding in Nyungwe as it is flanked by numerous fern trees.
Umugote Trail-This hike provides marvelous views of numerous ridges, rainforests as well as stunningly beautiful flowers and on a clear day, the Kibira National Park in Burundi. The trail is also a prime location for primate viewing and birding.
Umoyove Trail-Also known as the Mahogany Trail, you’ll relax by a waterfall, take a strolll under some of the park’s tallest trees and savor the scent of aromatic leaves during this trek. In addition, the Umuvoye Trail provides access to several side trails used for chimpanzee viewing.
Uwinka Trail-Although considered a difficult hike, this trail that takes you through rather lovely ravines is the perfect place to listen to early morning bird calls.
Irebero Trail-This trail loops around two of the highest peaks in the park and provides views of Lake Kivu in Rwanda.
Imbaraga Trail-Geared toward experienced hikers, the trail rewards hikers with the sight of four scenic waterfalls – any of them will be refreshing after trekking a little less than 10 km.
Bigugu Trail-The highest peak in the park, this trail offers incredible flora and – on a clear day – views of Lake Kivu as well as hills and islands belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Isumo Trail-This trail takes you through verdant tea fields, a steep rainforest ravine and to top it off, the biggest waterfall in the Nyungwe National Park.
Kamiranzovu Trail-Water enthusiasts will love this trail it features the park’s largest wetland, an acient swamp and brilliant waterfalls.
Muzimu Trail-A relatively easy hike in the remote northeastern part of Rwanda takes your through pine and eucalyptus forests.
Ngabwe Trail-Two paths lead hikers to the summit, which is a lovely picnic and camping site.
Rukuzi Trail-This exhilarating hike provides outstanding chimpanzee spotting locations as well as views of Banda Village, from where you can hear children’s voices carrying up the mountainside.
As wonderful as exploring the diverse ecosystem of the Nyungwe National Park is, you really won’t get a feel for the area until you discover its rich culture. The region’s song, dance, music and cuisine are all integral parts of Nyungwe’s culture and walking tours of Banda Village – located 15 km down the mountain from the Uwinka Visitors Centre – represent the perfect setting for learning about an area where people have lived for more than 50,000 years. The tours provide guests the opportunity to participate in activities such as local food tasting and basket weaving and if you’re fortunate, you might able to attend a traditional wedding ceremony and learn about traditional medicine.
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Nyungwe National Park is located in southwestern part of Rwanda 225kms about 6 -7 hours’ drive from Kigali Capital City.
To get to the park, one can take a bus out of Kigali from Nyabugogo Bus Park towards Ruzizi and hop off at Uwinka Center. The bus ride to Nyungwe will be closer to 8 hours or longer.
The main entrance is at Uwinka on the main Cyangugu – Huye road. It’s about 55km from Cyangugu and 90km from Huye. The road is mostly in good condition. There are regular buses along the route and hitching is also an option. Buses are often full when the reach here and therefore travellers planning to use a bus should board at the Bus Park.
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Nyungwe forest lodge-Luxury
Nyungwe Forest Lodge is situated in Gisakura, a working tea plantation, on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park. The lodge is the only five star hotel offering luxury services to visitors on their Safari tour to Nyungwe national park.
Spanning on beautiful natural environment of Nyungwe forest, the lodge was carefully designed to fit harmoniously within its unique natural surroundings of Nyungwe forests.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge consists of 22 luxury rooms distributed in 6 wooden villas of four rooms each. The lodge also has two presidential suites in separate villas with one of these having a Jacuzzi. All the rooms in the hotel are characterized by features like Air conditioning, Private deck, Electronic safe, Hairdryer, En-suite bathroom with indoor shower, WiFi access, Flat LCD screen and digital satellite channels, Fire place, International electric adaptors among others.
The dining areas in the luxury lodge are built up with a wood-fenced area containing tables and chairs around an open fire which provides a great location for outdoor dining and sundowners. The restaurant is designed with private terrace, a tea lounge and a bar.
Hotel Facilities which are offered to the visitors include a Swim in the heated rim-flow swimming pool with views into the rainforest .At the pool side people can socialize while enjoying the sights of the green lush forest species. The lodge has treatment rooms and Jacuzzi pool where visitors can relax and refresh their bodies.
The lodge also has spacious conference room with nice facilities which favor business meetings and events, get together parties, birth day parties among others.
As one might expect, the lodge also organizes excursion activities and among these include chimpanzee trekking, Guided walks in the Nyunngwe National Park, black and white colobus monkey trekking, grey – cheeked mangabey trekking and the Kamiranzovu Swamps and Waterfall walks. Bird watching and cultural tour.
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel- Mid-Range
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel was opened in February 2011 and it has the most beautiful views in the Nyungwe Forest area. Located five minutes’ drive off a main road, up a very rough and steep dirt track, it is set on top of a hill with views across numerous tea plantations, and close to the headquarters of Nyungwe National Park.
The main areas at Nyungwe Top View consist of a large, two-tiered rondavel with a phenomenally high roof. Although a rondavel is a traditionally built round house, this building offers a rather more modern take on the theme. The ground floor, where one will find the reception, is sparsely furnished with a few modern angular sofas and walls adorned with traditional Rwandan murals. Circular wicker lights hang from the ceiling and dark tiled stairs lead you up to a mezzanine balcony.
The Lodge‘s dining area is located in the second floor, with tables and chairs set on a rather out-of-place black-tiled floor, and a expansive veranda with tables and chairs of steel and moulded plastic.
Glass doors at the front of the rondavel open onto Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel’s beautifully kept lawn. On each side of this is a row of six red-brick cottages. Each of these double or twin cottages houses a small lounge area at the front, with terracotta-tiled floors, a sofa chair and coffee table, and a fireplace which can be lit for you on cold evenings. Although the furniture is different in every cottage, it is always angular and modern, and not of great quality, so it appears to be wearing quite quickly.
The bedrooms are quite sparse, furnished only with a bed and some hanging space for clothes, but they have plenty of space and were spotlessly clean. There are no fans or air conditioners but the team here will put hot-water bottles in your beds on cooler nights.
The tiled bathrooms each have a sink, toilet and shower and some also have baths. Towels are provided but toiletries are not.
The activities organized at the lodge include Chimpanzee trekking colobus monkeys trekking, birding walks, and adventurous canopy walk.
Gisakura Guest House- Budget
Gisakura guest house is a small, friendly accommodation facility that is situated 2km from Nyungwe National Park near the Gisakura tea estate on the road from Cyangugu.
Gisakura guest house is a comfortable and affordable place to stay for travellers to Nyungwe National Park. The accommodation rooms at the Guest house have hot water and showers. Gisakura guest house’s location is ideal for canopy walks in Nyungwe, birders to this birder’s dream location and for visitors wishing to track chimps and the rare colobus monkeys in Nyungwe forest. Gisakura guest house is close to ORTPN reception chimp tracking offices and to Uwinka interpretation Center
The staff working at Guest house is friendly and welcoming and huge meals can be prepared with a couple of hours’ notice.
Visitors who wish to stay in the guest house are requested to book their rooms earlier and confirm one week before travelling because it gives an assurance of the availability of rooms or other service needed.
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