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Rwanda Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris & Tours to Nyungwe Forest National Park

Welcome to Nyungwe Forest National Park. Here you will find current reliable, expert, and trust-able information about  Nyungwe National Park.

You will know where Nyungwe National Park is located, how to get thereattractionsactivities, gorilla trekking information/advice, accommodation, when to visit the park for Chimpanzee tracking safaris, and what to wear.

We have put together useful data on how to buy a Rwanda chimpanzee permit and the best trustable professional tour operators/companies for your Rwanda safari to track and see Chimpanzees in Rwanda.

Look out for our regular updates about Nyungwe National Park & Chimpanzees of Rwanda!!

A Brief About Nyungwe National Park

The stunningly beautiful Nyungwe National Park Forest is probably the best reason to prolong your safari in Rwanda.

  • Nyungwe Forest Spreading over 1,020 km², contains the largest swathe of remaining montane rainforest in East Africa. Montane rainforests are a rare and unique ecosystem, found only in mountainous areas above 1,000 meters/3,281 feet within the tropical belt.
  • The park is the most important catchment area in Rwanda, supplying water to 70% of the country. Its central ridge divides Africa’s two largest drainage systems, the Nile and the Congo.
  • A spring on the slopes of the 2,950-meter Mount Bigugu is now regarded to be the most remote source of River Nile, the world’s longest river.
  • Nyungwe Forest park is also a highly captivating safari destination for birders, primate watchers, botanists, and keen walkers, with its 130km network of walking trails and it is the site of the region’s only suspended canopy walk.
  • Nyungwe National Park contains more than 1,068 plant species, including 140 orchids and 250 Albertine Rift Endemics, along with at least 120 butterfly species.
  • The vertebrate fauna includes 85 mammals, 322 birds, 32 amphibians, and 38 reptile species, of which about 15% are Albert Rifts Endemics.
  • For most visitors on Rwanda safaris to Nyungwe, primates are the main attraction. The park harbors 13 species of primates (about a quarter of all Africa’s primates), including an estimated population of over 500 chimpanzees of which two communities are habituated for tracking.
  • There are also several monkeys including the acrobatic Ruwenzori colobus and the localized L’Hoest’s monkey.
  • Perhaps the best way to experience this wonderland is by way of the Canopy Walkway. Strung high among the treetops is a sturdy steel bridge, built much like a traditional rope bridge but incredibly strong.
  • From its high vantage point, you can look down towards the forest floor to spot the many varieties of birds and monkeys present at this elevation.

Nyungwe National Park Location

Nyungwe National Forest Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, on the border with Burundi, where it’s contiguous with the Kibira National Park to the south, Lake Kivu, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

This Rwanda safari park is situated about 135 kilometers southwest of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Map Of Nyungwe Forest National Park

When Was Nyungwe National Park Established?

Nyungwe became a National Park in 2004 as Rwanda sought to increase its tourism beyond the country’s mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, and is certainly worthy of its status because of its spectacular biodiversity.

Nyungwe National Park Weather & Climate

Typically, Nyungwe National Park receives over 2,000 mm of rainfall per annum. Combined with the park’s high altitudes, this means that the climate is very wet and cool.

Temperatures remain constant year-round due to the forest’s location near the equator. The temperatures are around 20°C/68°F during the day and it cools off to about 10°C/50°F at night.

What to see in Nyungwe Forest National Park?

There are a variety of attractions in Nyungwe National Park including;

  • 86 mammal species
  • Habituated chimpanzees and 12 other species of primate
  • 322 species of birds including 29 Albertine Rift Endemics
  • 1068 plant species including 140 orchids
  • 120 butterfly species
  • Has the region’s only canopy walk and a variety of hiking trails

Animals in Nyungwe Forest Park

A total of 86 mammal species have been recorded in Nyungwe National Park, most are very secretive and very difficult to see. Several antelope species inhabit the park including the secretive bushbuck and the very rare endemic race of Weyns’s duiker.

The primates, on the other hand, are Nyungwe main attraction, especially the charismatic Chimpanzee, as well as 12 other primate species including;

  • Ruwenzori colobus
  • Blue monkeys
  • L’Hoest’s monkey
  • Dent’s Mona monkey
  • Owl-faced monkey
  • Vervet monkey
  • Olive baboon
  • Grey-cheeked mangabey
  • Silver monkey
  • Golden monkey
  • Red-tailed monkey

Chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is the only park where you can trek habituated Chimpanzees in Rwanda, approximately 500 chimpanzees live in Nyungwe National Park.

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) stand alongside gorillas as the only great apes of Africa. And, it is, in large part, our close evolutionary kinship with chimpanzees that makes these distinctive black-coated apes of the forest so enduringly fascinating.

Chimpanzees share about 98.7% of our DNA and it is universally agreed that humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos (also known as pygmy chimpanzees) are more closely related to each other than to any other living creature, including gorillas.

Ruwenzori Colobus in The Park

The Rwenzori colobus is a highly arboreal and acrobatic leaf eater, easily distinguished from any other primate found in Nyungwe National Park by its contrasting black overall color, snow-white whisker, shoulder, and tail tip.

Though all colobus monkeys are very sociable, the ones in Nyungwe are unique in so far as they typically move in troops of several hundred animals, counting up to 400 individuals.

This unique race of black-and-white colobus monkeys is restricted to the Albertine Rift.

Blue Monkeys in Nyungwe

Despite its name, the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) is not noticeably blue. The real colors of a blue monkey are light grey and olive fur that together gives off this kind of blue hue as they are in the tree tops.

The Blue Monkeys live in the treetops that make up the forest canopy in Nyungwe Forest, meaning that you have to look up to spot them while on the trails in Nyungwe Forest.

They rarely come down to the forest floor but find food and shelter on the treetops.

They live in female-centric groups of 10 to 40, with only one male. All the females raise each other, infants.

L’Hoest’s monkeys in Nyungwe Forest

The L’Hoest’s Monkey (Allochrocebus L’hoesti), at times referred to as Mountain Monkey, is a handsome Albertine Rift Endemic, which is not easy to see as it mainly moves on the ground and prefers to live in the densely forested part of Nyungwe National Park.

The face of L’Hoest’s monkey is black. It also features a backward-projecting white whisker that partially covers its ears and it is the only guenon that habitually carries its tail in an upright position.

Dent’s Mona monkeys in Nyungwe National Park

Dent’s Mona Monkeys have a long black tail, a white rump, and a brown back. Their faces are quite furry, and when they find food, they carry it off with their large cheek pouches. They prefer fruit but, at times, will resort to leaves and even insects.

The Dent’s Mona Group is relatively small, with one male surrounded by his harem, however once again, as with other monkeys; it is females who rule the group.

Karamba area is the best place in Nyungwe for Dent’s Mona monkeys.

Owl-faced monkeys in Nyungwe National Park

Owl-Faced Monkey is unique in that it has a beak-like nose, and the face resembles an owl.  This shy monkey is rarely seen, but you just might be the lucky one as you hike along the many trails of Nyungwe Forest.

The Owl Faced is closely related to L’Hoest’s Monkey, and like it, Owl Faced Monkey lives in small groups of one male and various females.  Because Owl Faced Monkeys are so elusive, they have been hard to study

The Owl-Faced Monkey is gray and has a white stripe that goes from the top of the lip to the top

Vervet monkeys in Nyungwe National Park

This is grey Guenon that is very common all over East Africa, including in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest. They can be found around the Gisakura Guesthouse.

Vervet monkeys have light grey coats, and black faces and adult males are distinguished by their blue genitals. It is the only guenon you are likely to see outside the forest and it is thought to be the most numerous monkey species in the world.

Olive Baboons in Nyungwe National Park

Olive baboons (Papio Anubis) can also be encountered in Nyungwe National Park. Also known as the Anubis baboon, it is predominantly a terrestrial primate that lives in large troops.

Olive baboons are among the largest and stockiest forest primates, with uniform dark olive coats and dog-like muzzles, and large teeth, characteristic of all baboons.

The olive baboon is very aggressive and like vervet monkeys, it frequently raids crops.

Grey-Cheeked mangabeys in Nyungwe National Park

Intermediate in size between an olive baboon and the various guenons, the grey-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albuginea) is an arboreal monkey of the forest interior.

Rather more spindly than other forest guenons, the grey-cheeked mangabey has a uniform dark-brown coat and grey-brown cape, and it is known for its loud gobbling call.

It lives in small troops, typically around ten animals, and is localized in Nyungwe National Park because of its preference for lower altitudes.

Golden Monkeys in the Park

Golden monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti) are known to exist in Nyungwe Forest National Park although they are not easy to see. In fact, the best place to see them in Rwanda is Volcanoes National Park.

Golden monkeys were formally treated as subspecies of blue monkeys. It is a bamboo-associated monkey species and endemic to the Albertine Rift. It is named for its orange-gold patch on its upper flanks and back.

Birds in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe National Park is probably the most important destination for bird-watching safaris in Rwanda, with over 322 bird species recorded, of which the majority are forest specialists and 29 are regional endemics whose range is restricted to a few forests along the Albertine Rift.

In fact, you don’t need to be an ardent bird watcher to appreciate some of the Nyungwe birds. Most people, for example, would do a double-take when they first spot a great blue turaco, a chicken-sized bird with garish blue, green, and yellow feathers, often seen gliding between the trees along the main road.

Another real avian gem is the paradise flycatcher, a long-tailed blue, orange, and sometimes white bird often seen around the guest house.

Other birds of Nyungwe National Park impress with their bizarre appearance, the gigantic forest hornbills, for instance, whose wailing vocalization is almost as comical as their ungainly bills and heavy-winged flights.

From the East African perspective, however, it is the Albertine Rift Endemics that are the most alluring.

Also common but more localized is Grauer’s rush warbler (common in Kamiranzovu Swamp) and Red-collared mountain babbler (common around Mount Bigugu).

Plant Species in Nyungwe Forest

Nyungwe Forest National Park is remarkably rich in biodiversity with more than 1,068 plant species.

The park has over 200 tree species and hundreds of flowering plants including giant lobelias and over 140 kinds of orchids which make it a great destination for travelers on Rwanda wildlife tours.

Nyungwe also contains a span of vegetation zones that are dispensed according to their different altitudes.

At 2500m above sea level is Alpine vegetation -characterized by bamboo and shrubs. At 2250m, are found a range of tall trees and fern species such as Polycscias, Newtonia, and Symphonia. At 1900m, found taller tree species like Carapa, Cyathea Manniana, and Newtonia.

The common tree species in the forest is Mahogany and one of the hiking trails in Nyungwe National Park was named Mahogany (Umuyove in Kinyarwanda) due to its dominance in that trail.

These plant species in Nyungwe allow and favor animals, birds, and other creatures that survive in there. If you’re good at plants, it is easy for you to know where animals like primates are or when they will be at a given place and time.

If you know when some flowers and plants are in blooming time, then you are sure that birds will be there and primates such as fruits.

Canopy Walkway in Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park also has East Africa’s only canopy walk. The canopy walkway also called treetop walk or treetop walkway−provide pedestrian access to a forest canopy.

In Nyungwe National Park, the canopy walkway was established in 2010 and up to now, it is one of the best in Africa. The walkway is 160 meters long and 70 meters high.

It is suspended above a ravine in the lush montane rainforest of Nyungwe Park and provides travelers on travel in Rwanda an exhilarating perspective on the ancient treetops and wildlife.

Cyamudongo Forest in The Park

Covering an area of about 6 square kilometers, this patch of montane forest, situated about 45 minutes’ drive south of Shagasha Tea Estate on the main road between Gisakura and Cyangugu, is now protected as an isolated annex to Nyungwe National Park.

Despite its small size, Cyamudongo still harbors a community of 30 habituated chimpanzees often easier to track than the chimps in the main forest block in the dry season (July, August, and December) , when chimps tend to range more widely in search of food.

Once located, chimps here are highly approachable. Other mammals present include L’Hoest’s Monkeys and Dent’s Mona monkey.

Gisura Tea Estate around Nyungwe

Gisakura Tea Estate is one of the most famous tea plantations in Rwanda, and certainly among the most beautiful. Tours and tastings can be arranged.

A relict forest patch in this tea estate, only 20 minutes walk from Gisura guest house supports a resident troop of around 50 Rwenzori colobus monkeys. The troop is very habituated, far more than larger troops in Uwinka, and the relatively small territory these monkeys occupy makes the easy to locate and to see clearly.

Particularly in the early morning, the forest patch is also an excellent bird-watching site.

What to do in Nyungwe National Park?

They are a number of activities to do in Nyungwe National Park. The top things to do in Nyungwe Forest National Park on your Rwanda safari include;

  1. Chimpanzee tracking
  2. Colobus Monkey Tracking
  3. Hiking and nature walks
  4. Bird watching
  5. Canopy Walk

All these activities in Nyungwe National Park are done after paying the park entry fee.

The park entrance fees for Nyunguwe vary according to the park activity you would like to engage in and the type of visitor you might be.

Visitor categories include foreign non-residents, foreign residents, Rwandan citizens, or East African community citizens.

Each visitor category has its National Park fees. Below are the details about all Nyungwe National Park activities and their fees.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is understandably heralded as one of the most exhilarating tourist activities in Rwanda but a Rwanda chimpanzee tour is definitely another unique and completely different safari experience.

Tracking our closest relative through the African jungle is, in fact, one of the most thrilling wildlife-watching experiences in the world.

Nyungwe National Park has two habituated chimpanzee groups, but most visitors track the Cyamudongo chimpanzee group in an isolated ‘island’ of forest surrounded by tea estates, about an hour’s drive from the park office at Gisakura. This group consists of over 43 chimpanzees.

Visitors can also be taken to see a second habituated group; the Uwinka group which is the largest with around 60 individuals. This chimpanzee group is usually found within 12km of the Uwinka Reception Centre and is very hard to trek.

Chimpanzee Tracking Rules in Nyungwe National Park

  • A group of not more than ten (10) people is permitted per chimpanzee group per day.
  • The minimum age for tracking is 15 years.
  • Visitors are allowed to spend only one hour with the chimpanzee community from the time they have met it.
  • Don’t go for chimpanzee trekking if you are sick, chimps can catch your diseases.
  • Do not leave any litter in the forest
  • Speak in a low voice when you are in the forest, and you will see more.
  • Keep a distance of at least 8 meters (25 feet) from the chimpanzees at all times.
  • Do not try to mimic Chimpanzees’ vocalization (you do not know what you might be saying!)
  • Do not eat near the Chimpanzees.
  • Do not chase the Chimpanzees
  • Do not use flash photography

What to pack for Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe

  • A Rwanda chimpanzee trekking permit
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Enough drinks and snacks
  • Insect repellent
  • Warm sweater
  • Good hiking shoes/boots and long shocks
  • Garden gloves
  • A longs sleeved shirt and trousers
  • Sunglasses
  • Walking stick
  • Do not forget to move with a good camera and binoculars.
  • A waterproof backpack for your camera, binoculars, and other items
  • Porters are available at Cyamudongo (US$10).

When is the Best Time to Track Chimpanzees in Nyungwe?

A chimpanzee tour of Nyungwe National Park can be done at any time of the year. But in the rainy season, you have a good chance of successfully tracking the chimps on the colored trails. During this time, the plenty of food in the forest limits the movement of the chimps.

During the dry season, chimps have a tendency to head for higher elevations hence making it more difficult to track them. The dry season is perfect for those who are interested in the canopy and nature walks.

Canopy Walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park

The construction of a 160m-long and at times 70m-high canopy walkway is a big draw for the traveler on adventure travel to Rwanda.

While on the metallic suspension bridge, you will enjoy the jungle anew from this unique monkey’s-eye perspective.

The dizzying platform is above a steep and deep valley across a massive forest. This exciting walkway with its 3 towers is the biggest in East Africa and the third in Africa.

Access to the canopy walkway, which is on the Igishigishigi Trail, involves a preliminary 20- to 30-minute hike from Uwinka.

Canopy tours in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park begin at set times (8 am, 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm), last about 2 hours and visitors must be accompanied by a guide.

Along the walk to the canopy, visitors see a variety of butterflies, orchids, and colorful birds such as the Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolins, Rwenzori batis, and others.

Thirteen species of primate live in Nyungwe, so a chance to encounter some is not out of the question, although those wishing to seek them out should opt for a dedicated Rwanda primate tour.

Bird Watching in Nyungwe Forest Park

With over 300 bird species, Nyungwe National Park is the heart and soul of birding in Rwanda.  It has something of a legendary status among twitches in East Africa and is by far the top destination for bird-watching tours in Rwanda.

But, the dense cover of this forest park implies that getting a good view of birds can often is frustratingly hard, which means that only serious bird watchers are likely to get feathered into excitement by many of the park’s birds.

There are specialist birding guides based in Nyungwe who can easily identify them by hearing their sounds.

Depending on what you want to see, the guide will choose a bird-watching trail that maximizes your chances of seeing a variety of Nyungwe National Park’s bird species.

Five years is the minimum age for birding in Nyungwe National Park.

Colobus Monkey Tracking in the Park

Another interesting Rwanda safari activity in Nyungwe is tracking the Rwenzori colobus monkeys.

While they may not be as charismatic as chimps, colobi monkeys are extremely social primates that form enormous group sizes.

Large troops of these delightful acrobatic monkeys, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, use tree branches as trampolines to spring up to 15 meters through towering forest openings providing one the most spectacular sights to the visitor on wildlife safaris in Rwanda.

There are two semi-habituated troops in the park. Curious animals by nature, Rwenzori colobus in Nyungwe seem to almost revel in their playful interactions with human visitors.

Trekkers can find the colobus monkey troop in an hour or more. There is a smaller, and often more accessible troop, of around 50 individuals near the tea plantation of Gisura.

Hiking and Nature Walks in Nyungwe Forest Park

Besides trekking primates, Nyungwe Park has a number of stunning hiking and walking trails that mostly begin at the Uwinka Reception Centre.

Visitors on a wildlife safari in Rwanda who is interested in nature walks and hikes in Nyungwe National Park must have a guide and one is included when you pay your trek fees.

Walks begin at set times; the first departures are around 9 am, with further departures around 11 am and 2 pm.

The different hiking trails in the Nyungwe forest were established in the late 1980s in an attempt to open up Nyungwe to tourists.

Hiking these trails offers visitors an opportunity to a variety of birds, different primate species, and different types of plants, plus several butterfly species.

Each trail is marked with a different color and includes the short trails, intermediate trails, and long hiking trails used by different travelers on Rwanda hiking safaris.  Below are some of the hiking trails in Nyungwe National Park.

Nyungwe Forest National Park Rules And Regulations

  1. You must present all the required papers at the entrance point of the park for the check-up.
  2. Firearms and ammunition are not allowed in the park
  3. Pets like dogs, cats, and birds among others are not allowed in the park.
  4. Only persons above the age of 15 years are allowed to trek Chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park
  5. Only a group of 8 visitors is allowed to track a habituated Chimpanzee community a day.
  6. Trekkers must wash their hands before going to the jungle to search for chimpanzees.
  7. Please, you’re forbidden from plucking leaves, and flowers, or uprooting any plants while in Nyungwe Forest.
  8. It is prohibited to litter the park
  9. Always listen to the ranger’s rules while on the Chimpanzee trail in Nyungwe forest national park.
  10. Trekkers must lower their voices while in the jungle searching for Chimpanzees.
  11. While searching for Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest, visitors must keep in their group.
  12. On meeting Chimpanzees, you are not allowed to point or run after them, they might end up charging at you.
  13. Trekkers must keep a 7m distance when Chimpanzees are located.
  14. Visitors who feel like sneezing and coughing when near Chimpanzees must turn their heads away and cover their mouths.
  15. Travelers with sunglasses that reflect light must put them off on encountering Chimpanzees.
  16. Visitors must not mimic the Chimpanzees’ vocalization.
  17. Eating, drinking, or smoking while near Chimpanzees is not allowed.
  18. You are only limited to one hour enjoying Chimpanzees in the jungle.
  19. Travelers on Chimpanzee safaris in Rwanda’s Nyungwe NP must avoid close eye contact when they meet chimpanzees.
  20. Don’t use flash photography while taking chimpanzee photos.
  21. Trekkers that are sick or showing some signs of sickness are not allowed to trek chimpanzees.
  22. If you feel like easing yourself along the trail, you should ask the ranger to help you dig over a 30cm deep hole.

Where to Stay in Nyungwe National Park?

For travelers planning their tour to Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park, there are several safari lodges and other places to stay.

Nyungwe is surrounded by five districts including Nyaruguru in the Southeast, Nyamagabe in the Northeast, Karongi in the north, Nyamasheke in the Northwest, and Rusizi in the Southwest.

All these contain good accommodation facilities ranging from;

  1. Budget safari lodges,
  2. Mid-range safari lodges to
  3. Luxury safari lodges.

The best Lodges in Nyungwe Park include:

  • One & Only Nyungwe House−Luxury
  • Nyungwe Nziza Eco-Lodge−Midrange
  • Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel−Midrange
  • Kitabi Eco-center (KEC)−Budget

How To Get to Nyungwe National Park

Kigali International Airport (KGL) is about 10km from the country’s capital, Kigali. This will be your entry point into Rwanda. Your local Rwanda tour operator will usually arrange for your pick-up from the airport or hotel and all further transportation as part of your Rwanda safari package.

Rwanda Road Trip to the Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park is in the southwestern region of the country about 218km from Kigali via the Nyamagabe-Ruhango-Huye-Rusizi road.

The park is about 87 kilometers from Huye and 55 kilometers from Rusizi.

The drive takes about four to five hours from Kigali, 2 to 3 hours from Huye, and about 1 hour from Rusizi.

Rwanda Domestic Flights to Nyungwe

Akagera Aviation offers travelers charter helicopter transfers to anywhere in the country, including Nyungwe National Park.

All domestic and charter flights are usually booked by your tour operator as part of your package.

RwandAir also operates a daily flight between Kigali and Kamembe/Rusizi, which is about one hour’s drive from the park.

When to Visit Nyungwe National Park?

Nyungwe National Park has a pleasant climate that makes it perfect for a hiking safari vacation in Rwanda during the dry season.

The best months to visit Nyungwe are during the long dry season that lasts from June to September or during the short dry season from mid-December to mid-February.

During the day, temperatures are around 20°C/68°F and it cools off at night to about 10°C/50°F. To ward off any evening chill, you’re advised to pack some warm clothing.

You can expect some showers during the short season, as it falls in between the two rainy seasons. If your travel plans fall within these months, we recommend you go on a chimpanzee trek tour.

You will find that the ground is dry underfoot and it is easier to follow the distinct trails through the undergrowth. The low possibility of rain also ensures that you are not likely to get wet.

Planning to visit during the wet seasons from February to May, when the long rains fall, or from October to mid-December, during the short rains, may make it easier to locate the primates; however, treks are often challenging due to wet mud and overgrowth.

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