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Attractions in Nyungwe National Park- Things To See in Nyungwe Forest

What to see in Nyungwe National Park

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

  • 86 mammal species
  • Habituated chimpanzee 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

Below is a detailed description of all attractions to see in Nyungwe National Park on your Rwanda tour.

Animals in Nyungwe National Park

A total of 86 mammal species have been recorded in N yungwe National Park, most are very secretive and very difficult to see. Several antelope species inhabit the park include 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

Below is a description of primate species you will see Nyungwe Forest National Park on you Rwanda wildlife safaris.

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, bonobos (also known pygmy chimpanzees) are more closely related to each other than to any other living creature, including gorillas.

A few superficial differences notwithstanding, the similarities between humans and chimps are consistently striking, not only with regard to their skeletal and skull structure, but also the nervous system, the immune system, and many of their behaviour such as complex social intelligence and communication skills and their ability to fashion and use tools.

Social behaviours of chimpanzees

  • Unlike most other primates, chimpanzees don’t live troops but in extended communities of up 150 individuals, which roam the forest in small, temporary groups, a behaviour that has been dubbed fission-fusion by anthropologists.
  • These small, socially mobile groups may include groups of four types: all-male, adult females and offspring, both sexes, or one female and her offspring.
  • The fission-fusion society emerges in a variety of types, for a variety of purposes. For example, an all-male troop may be organised to hunt for meat, while a group consisting of lactating females serves to act as a “nursery group” for the young.
  • Within the chimpanzee communities, males form the core of the social structure. They are responsible for patrolling the territory, protecting the group members, and searching for food.
  • Among males in the chimpanzee community, one alpha male is normally recognised. Alpha males tend to be aggressive even during dominance stability. This is probably due to the chimp’s fission-fusion society, with male chimps leaving groups and returning after extended periods of time.
  • With this, a dominant male is unsure if any “political maneuvering” has occurred and must re-establish his dominance. Thus, a large amount of aggression occurs 5–15 minutes after a reunion. During aggressive encounters, displays are preferred to attacks.

Size of chimpanzees

  • Adult chimpanzees have an average standing height of 4 feet.
  • Wild adult male chimpanzees weigh up to 60 kilograms and female weigh up 47 kilograms.

Ruwenzori Colobus In Nyungwe National 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 colour, 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 monkey is restricted to the Albertine Rift.

Blue Monkeys In Nyungwe National Park

Despite its name, the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) is not noticeably blue. The real colors of a blue monkey are light grey and an 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 in the tree-tops.

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 National Park

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

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

The Owl-Faced Monkey  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 East Africa, including in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest. They can be found around the Gisakura Guesthouse.

Vervet monkeys have light grey coat, black face, 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 Anubis baboon, it is predominantly a terrestrial primate which lives in large troops.

Olive baboons are among the largest and stockiest forest primates, with uniform dark olive coat and the dog-like muzzle and large teeth, characteristic of all baboons. The olive baboon is very aggressive and like vervet monkeys, it frequently raid crops.

Grey-cheeked Mangabeys In Nyungwe National Park

Intermediate in size between olive baboon and the various guenons, the grey-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena) 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 altitude.

Golden Monkeys In Nyungwe National 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 a subspecies of the 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.

Other Primates In Nyungwe National Park

In addition to chimpanzees and monkeys, Nyungwe National Park is home to three types of prosimian, small nocturnal primates more closely related to lemurs of Madagascar than any other primate of the African mainland.

These are three species of bush baby/galago (a family of tiny, hyperactive wide-eyed insectivores). All are not easily encountered in Nyungwe.

Birds In Nyungwe 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 are 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 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 feather, 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 as almost as comical as their ungainly bills and heavy-winged flights.

And while tracking through the forest undergrowth, watch out for red-throated alethe, a very localised bird with distinctive blue eyebrow. The alethe habitually follows troops to eat the insects they disturb.

From East African perspective, however, it is the Albertine Rift Endemics that are the most alluring. Of the 29 Albertine Rift Endemics, the following are reasonably common:

  • Handsome francolins
  • Rwenzori turacos
  • Red-faced woodland warbler
  • Collared apalis
  • Mountain masked apalis
  • Yellow-eyed black flycatcher
  • Rwenzori batis
  • Stripe-breasted tit
  • Regal sunbird
  • Blue-headed sunbird
  • Purple-breasted sunbird
  • Dusky crimsonwing
  • Strange weaver
  • Rwenzori nightjar
  • Short-tailed warbler
  • Shelly’s crimsoning wing
  • Red-throated Alethe
  • Archer’s robin chat
  • Kivu ground thrush
  • Dwarf honey guide
  • Albertine owlet
  • Rockefeller’s sunbird
  • Kungwe apalis
  • Grauer’s warbler

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

Plant Species In Nyungwe Forest National Park

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 travellers 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, are 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 allows and favour 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 for fruits.

Canopy Walkway In Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park also has the 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 walk way is 160 meters long and 70 meters high.

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

Cyamudongo Forest, Nyungwe National 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 habours 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 National Park

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 of 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 this monkeys occupy make the easy to locate and to see clearly.

Particularly in early morning, the forest patch is also an excellent bird watching site. Notable species to see here include;

  • Black-throated apalis,
  • White tailed crested flycatcher,
  • Chubb’s cisticola,
  • African golden oriole,
  • Green pigeon,
  • Olive-green cameroptera,
  • Three types of sun birds,
  • Two greenbuls,
  • Two crimson-wings,

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