If you are looking for adventure, fun, risk, breathe-taking action, then Nyungwe National Park of southwest Rwanda is the best location having vast area of mountain rainforest. It is home to many species of chimpanzees, owl-faced, colobus monkeys, and the Canopy Walkway. This article seeks to highlight some basic things one should expect to see and hope for when taking a trip to the Rwanda’s star park.
The Super Duper Forest
First, let’s journey through the train of history. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a National Park in 2004. Prior to this, in 1903, during the colonial era, Nyungwe which was Colonial crown land was declared a forest reserve by the German colonial government. Then, during 1958 and 1973 fires, woodcutting and poaching of animals reduced the coverage of the land mass. In 1974, Buffaloes became somewhat extinct but Elephants were still very much available. Fast forward to 1984, reliable sources tells of “some biodiversity studies” conducted in the area by the Wildlife conservation society which revealed a vast population of Colobus living in groups of up to 400 members. Tourist and research facilities were later set up in Uwinka, but most of these were destroyed during the genocide in 1994.
The forest contains many natural resources. It also houses other animals, rivers and activities. It is a vantage point for picturesque views of the Virungas and the Congo. Nyungwe’s breathtaking view displays the cooling mists in the early mornings and late evening.
The area covers about 1000 sq kilometers and extends into Burundi where the Kibira National park resides. The forest also feeds both the river Congo and the River Nile with water. It should be noted these are the two of Africa’s great rivers.
Remember, the national park is the largest tropical Afro Montane rainforest which feeds two great rivers. It receives over 2000mm of rain each year. Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in the South Western part of Rwanda. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the west side of the park. It covers an area about 1020 sq.km and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level. By and large, it is the central water catchment area of about two-third of all Rwanda’s water. Coming through the tea fields, the amazing trails leads towards its endless swamp named Kamiranzovu swamp.
On arrival to the park, the roads through the large field, straight through the swamps, leads to the chances for birding, primate tracking and viewing and taking in the flowers like the orchids that are found here and the many butterflies that they attract.
You can also find over 300 different bird species, many butterflies, orchids, 75 mammal species including the 13 primates, and there have also been the sightings of the golden monkeys. Among the 300 birds, 27 of them are endemics and are part of the species that are found in the forests of the albertine rift.
There is the Grauer’s Warbler which is an albertine rift endemics that can be found within the mountain swamps like the Kamiranzovou within Nyungwe Forest. You can also find both the Rwenzori Turaco and the large blue Turaco. The sun birds of many types like the purple breasted and the blue headed sun bird and can be found in flowering trees.
Nyungwe is regarded as a birder’s paradise. On the birding experience, you will see many other things from the orchids to the primates.
With about thirteen recorded species, the park is home to East Africa’s most diverse primate population of chimpazees. Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning and it is best to carry a day pack where you have a couple of liters of water, have long trousers, the long sleeved shirt, rain jacket, the hiking boots and the hat. The process involves a maximum of over 8 people in a group then they set out to track the chimpanzees. These chimpanzee have been habituated and are thus, human conscious.
The monkeys can also be seen in large groups of up to 300 colobus monkeys. Also there includes; L’Hoest’s monkey, the Owl faced monkeys, Mona monkey and the blue monkeys. The presence of monkey is as ancient as the forest.
The Rwanda canopy walk is the first tree top forest canopy walk in East Africa and the third in all Africa. This canopy walk is also 50 meters above the ground and this can also be scary!! Trust me, if you are acrophobic then do not, I repeat ‘do not’ venture, you will see the monkeys move around in the tree tops, the birds that are flying above you and below a beautiful view of the huge Nyungwe forest. This canopy walk is also 90m long which is not a long distance.
On hiking, there are about 13 hiking trails with over 130 kilometers of the trails through the forest. Interestingly, visitors can spend week as they hike the many trails, exploring the ancient rainforest and discovering many habitants found in the forest.
The private hikes are also from one to eight hours in length and most can also be completed if you are strong or energy filled. Hiking in Nyungwe Forest is amazing , introducing its wildlife, birds, primates, plants, flowers, butterflies and the trees.
The park closes by 4pm and is the perfect stop for tourism view!
P.S: Pictures are not ours unless stated.