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Chimpanzee Tracking In Nyungwe 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 group, but most visitors track 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 very hard to trek.
What Is Chimpanzee Tracking Like In Nyungwe National Park
- The adventure starts with a briefing at 5.00 am, during which you will learn a little about the great apes you are about to see, as well as being given some rules and regulations to follow while tracking.
- Some of the rule includes avoiding getting too close to chimpanzees. Not only for your own safety, but also for theirs as our colds, viruses and diseases can easily spread to them due to shared DNA.
- It is not good to imitate chimpanzee calls. It might see fun to mimic them, but if you are not careful you might accidentally end up recreating a battle cry and bring 100 angry chimpanzees down upon you.
- Once briefed, visitors are divided into groups of up to 10, each assigned to different park ranger guides that will guide them as they go for chimpanzee trekking in the forest. And then it’s time to head into the forest.
- Nyungwe Forest National Park terrain can be steep, slippery and muddy and passing through thick vegetation.
- Suitable footwear is essential, as well as a certain level of fitness, although less tiring than Rwanda gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
- As you push through the thick vegetation you will hike in the direction of where the animals were last seen, all the time listening for their cries in the trees above.
- With a bit of luck you will soon hear them: that harsh, high-pitched screeching that rises to a crescendo and then fades away again as the family members call to one another. It’s an eerie, thrilling sound, and one that you know means you’re about to meet the stars of the show.
- As you follow the direction of the cacophony, you should soon find one of the family’s sub-groups. They may be high up in the treetops, feasting on figs, grooming or playing. But if you’re lucky, some will have come down to the ground, and that’s when the real magic happens.
- The trek to see chimpanzees can last anything from 1 to 6 hours depending on where the chimps are. Visitors have to spend a maximum of 1 hour with chimps after encountering them.
- The gorillas may be Rwanda’s star attraction, but coming face-to-face with a wild chimpanzee is every bit as breathlessly exhilarating.
- You will be thrilled by how intelligent they are, with their poses, expressions and interactions that could be almost human.
- The way they look right at you with their bright eyes, and even pose for your camera, you may wonder if they’re enjoying the interaction even more than you are.
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, 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 National Park
- 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 trouser
- Sun glasses
- Walking stick
- Do not forget to move with a good camera and binoculars.
- A water proof backpack for your camera, binoculars and other items
- Porters are available at Cyamudongo (US$10).
Cost Of The Chimpanzee Tracking Permit
For any traveller interest in a chimpanzee safari in Rwanda, you must have a chimpanzee trekking permit which cost;
|Visitor category||Fees (per person)|
|· Foreign non-resident||· US$90|
|· Foreign resident||· US$60|
|· Rwanda citizens|
· East African Citizen
· East Africa Foreign Resident:
· US$ 60
Permits can be booked online, at an RDB office or via a tour operator.
When Is The Best Time To Track Chimpanzees In Nyungwe
A chimpanzee tour to Nyungwe National Park can be done at any time of the year. But in rainy season you have a good chance of successfully tracking the chimps on the coloured 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.