Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in south western Rwanda and it boarders Democratic Republic of Congo in the west while in the south it boarders with Burundi. The Nyungwe rain forest is one of the pre historic forests that are known to have survived the last ice age and s apparently the most well conserved forest in the highlands of central Africa. Located in the water shed divide of River Congo and River Nile, Nyungwe forest shelters some of the remote sources of the Nile River. Nyungwe National Park was established in 2004 covering an area of 970km2 of the rain forest, grassland, bamboo, bogs and swamps.
The nearest town is Cyangungu and it lies in the west 54 kilometers from the Park while the highest point in the Park is Mount Bigugu which entirely lies within the park boundaries. Nyungwe forest is counted as one of the geographical hot spots with a position in African conservation priorities. The range of biodiversity concentration stems from availability of bio-geographical zones that forms various terrestrial biomes resulting into long span of microhabitats. Nyungwe Forest National park comprises of 13 primate species, 1068 plant species, 275 bird species, 85 mammal species, 38 reptile species and 32 amphibian species.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is considered as an Important Bird Area by the Bird life International justifying its worth regarding bird population conservation. The forest park has numerous counts of montane forest birds. It has 278 species of birds of which 26 of these are restricted to the Albertine rift. Birds of Nyungwe include among the following; Turacos such as the Rwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Apalis argentea, Kungwe Apalis Purple-breasted and Blue-headed, Ruwenzori Apalis, Alehe poliophrys, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Stripe-breasted Tit Parus fasciiventer, Ruwenzori Batis, Batis diops, Caprimulgus ruwenzorii, Ruwenzori Nightjar Archer’s Robin-chat Cossypha archeri, Dusky Crimson Wing, Shelley’s Crimsonwing Handsome Francolin, Francolinus nobilis, Cryptospiza jacksoni, Cryptospiza shelleyi, Hemitesia neumanni, Red-collared Babbler, Kupeornis rufocinctus, Melaenornis ardesiacus, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Regal Sunbird Cinnyris regius and Neumann’s Warbler.
Nyungwe Forest National Park rises to 3000 meters in altitude above sea level forming varying ecosystem that in turn supports a range of wildlife. Nyungwe forest contains good counts of Chimpanzees and Angola colobus. The forest has other primate species including; Silver Monkey (Cercopithecus doggetti), L’Hoest’s Monkey (Cercopithecus l’hoesti), Adolf Friedrich’s Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti), Angola Colobus (Colobus angolensis ruwenzori), Red-tailed Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius), Dent’s Mona Monkey (Cercopithecus denti), Hamlyn’s Monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni), Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), Grey-cheeked Mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) and Olive Baboon (Papio anubis).
Nyungwe forest is one of the prehistoric forests in East Africa and is known to have survived the last ice age. With this background, Nyungwe has great concentration of flora with 200 species of trees, flowering plants, giant lobelia and counts of beautiful orchids. The forest has various vegetation zones as per the altitude. The sub alpine vegetation marked by bamboo, shrubs like Podocarpus, Phillipia, bamboo, Erica johnstonii thrive at 2950m while upland species of trees like Podocarpus, Syzygium, Macaranga, Balthacaria, Hagenia thrive at 2500m. Tall tree species and fern species like Carapa, Entandophragma, Newtonia, Polycscias, Symphonia, Cyathea manniana thrive at 2250m while taller species of trees like Carapa, Newtonia, Engtandophragma, Prinaria exelsium, Cyathea manniana thrive at 1900m. Epiphytes like mosses, ferns, orchids and other plants exist high in the trees which demonstrating the traits of moist mountain rainforests. Entandrophragma excelsum or African mahogany is one of the largest trees in the forest.
The diverse attractions that thrive in Nyungwe Forest National Park pose a rich ground for various activities that Rwanda safari undertakers can participate in.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has 13 primate species of which common chimpanzee is among. These Chimpanzees have been habituated and are well set for chimpanzee trekking experience. The chimpanzee trekking encounter in Nyungwe involves traversing this prehistoric jungle full of amazing flora, birds and amazing landscapes before approaching the thrilling chimps as they swing through tree branches, gather fruit, play around with one another and make pant hooting calls. This activity tends to take 2 – 6 hours including 1 full hour of direct encounter with them where you are free to take pictures to keep memories of your encounter with man’s closest relative.
Colobus Monkey tracking:
Nyungwe Forest National Park contains the largest grouping of colobus monkeys in Africa. It is such amazing encounter when you come across a forest tract full of these monkeys dressed in their black and white attire playing hide and seek tactics that will lure you into a thrilling mood. The activity tends to last 2 – 5 hours including 1 hour of direct encounter with them.
Nyungwe Canopy walk is the first of its kind in East Africa and the third in Africa which was established in October 2010. The canopy walk is established on a firm platform that is 50m from the ground and 90m long providing an opportunity to explore a range of bio-diversity which thrive in the higher tree branches and in the canopy. Its raised height offers impressive views of the entire forest landscape and the canopy. The canopy walk is arranged at Uwinka visitor and is best done in te morning and in the afternoon taking 1 – 2 hours.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has 278 species of birds of which 26 are restricted to the Albertine rift thus providing firm ground for birding safaris in Rwanda. The birding encounter can be arranged for a full day commencing early in the morning or can have a brief evening bird walk.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has 13 forest trails that are designed to enable Rwanda safari undertakers to explore the offerings of this prehistoric forest. These trails include among others; Bugufi, Igishigishi, Mount Bigugu, Umugote, Umuyove, Kamiranzovu swamp, Imbaraga, Rukuzi, Uwinka via swamp, Karamba, Congo Nile divide, Isumo, Rukungu, Irebero, Mwumba, Rutovu and Ngabwe. Some can be highlighted below;
The colored trails.
The colored trails are 7 in number and are marked by different colors. They are designed to explore different parts of the forest with encounters of primates, birds and scenery. They range from the 1km short grey colored trail to 10km red trail.
The waterfall trail.
The Water fall trail takes 3 – 6 hours to traverse with provision for stops en route. The falls are popular grounds for birds and primates like monkeys not forgetting the scenic beauty.
Kamiranzoru trail is 4km in length and goes for 3 hours traversing the boggy areas marked by swamp vegetation offering sights of swamp birds and beautiful orchids.
Mount Bigugu is the highest point in Nyungwe Forest National Park at 2,950m above sea level. This landscape can be explored by taking the Bigugu trail which gives impressive scenic views of the area after reaching the apex.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has 154 orchid species of which 8 of these are restricted to Rwanda. The orchids are very impressive and worth encountering on orchid ogling activity in the forest of Nyungwe.
Gisakura guesthouse is located at 2km outside the Nyungwe Forest National Park providing budget overnight stay for Rwanda safari undertakers. In its budget setting, it has not lost out on the touch of comfort and quality. Accommodation is provided in double, twin and triple rooms with en suite showers and warm water is provided upon request. Gisakura guesthouse has a good restaurant.
Nyungwe Forest Lodge
The Nyungwe Forest Lodge is an upmarket/luxury accommodation establishment adjacent to Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is surrounded by a tea plantation and the lodge features a range of luxury rooms and suites, fitness center, bar and lounge, conference facilities, internet, laundry, restaurant and swimming pool. The rooms feature air conditioner, fire place, in built washroom, private mini bar, international electric adapters, hair dryer, wireless internet, private deck, and digital TV and International dial telephones.
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel
Nyungwe Top View Hotel is positioned on the top hill an offers a comfortable midrange/standard accommodation in 12 units of which 4 are twins while 8 are apartments with queen sized beds. All units are self-contained while the lodge also has a bar, restaurant and a fire place.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has got provision for camping travellers undertaking safaris in Rwanda. Camps include;
Uwinka visitor center.
The Uwinka visitor center has two campsites. These campsites have toilet, shower and tents. The canteen is available at the site offering eats and drinks. The water and firewood is availed upon request.
The Wilderness campsites give you an opportunity to spend an overnight in the park’s wild. They are located along the trails and provide basic camping meaning that you have to carry own tent, sleeping bags, food and firewood. The night guide is necessary to protect you against wild animals.
Mt. Bigugu peak.
Mount Bigugu has a campsite at its top and has the capacity to accommodate four people. Campers are required to provide their own water.
Congo-Nile Divide Trail
The Congo – Nile Divide trail contain three campsites offering camping services to Rwanda safari undertakers.