Rwanda has had its own share of pain in the past during the 1994 genocide where more than 800,000 people lost their lives. The country has put the past behind and now it’s one of the top growing tourists destinations in Africa. This country known as “the land of a thousand hills” will never stop surprising tourists with its spectacular attractions. Besides the mountain gorillas that Rwanda is known for, the country is the only place in East Africa where you can participate in a Canopy walk. This activity is only possible in Nyungwe Forest National park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is situated in the South-western side of Rwanda, bordering Democratic Republic of Congo and Lake Kivu in the west and Burundi in the Southern part of the Park and is a National Park with extensive unblemished rainforest with towering and thick canopies.
This spectacular Park was gazetted into a National Park in 2004 with an aim of increasing on Rwanda’s tourism beyond Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, and indeed it is worth its status because of its breathtaking biodiversity. This park covers an area of 1020 square kilometers (more than 6 times larger than Volcanoes National Park). The heart of this forest is like a site from a fantasy. Imagine seeing its old giant mahoganies, ebonies and tall tree ferns high above you while orchids and other epiphytes clutch to every branch. Not only that, you are going to enjoy the scenic sighting of beautiful birds flit around, beautiful butterflies everywhere and you will walk quietly and if you are lucky you will encounter the huge forest residents like the Elephants, unique primates for which the Park is famous for.
Attractions and Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest is a haven to more than 75 species of mammals including over 13 species of primate that is approximately a quarter of Africa’s primate species. Also more than 310 species of birds can be sighted here, about 240 species of orchids and about 120 butterfly species are also native to this forest. There are also more than 1000 species of plants out of which 260 are tree species, 38 reptile species are common in Nyungwe Forest. With all these interesting attractions, Nyungwe is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
This Park is mainly popular for the Chimpanzees (there are around 500 habituated Chimpanzees).This makes chimpanzee tracking the key activity that takes place in this alluring Forest. While here, tourists are always amazed by the Chimpanzees as they jump from one tree branch to another as they make loud noise. When you see tree branches shaking and hear the hooting/screaming or grunting, you will know that these creatures are nearby. Three trail heads exist and they include Uwinka reception, Gisakura and Kitabi. Just like gorilla trekking, tourists venturing into the forest for chimpanzee tracking have to be briefed first.
Other primate species include over 300 colobus monkeys, Gray-cheeked Mangabeys, Owl Faced monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Hamlyn’s Monkeys Mona monkeys, Blue Monkeys, Golden Monkeys and Adolf Friedrich’s Angolan colobus among others, hence this Park is a perfect primate paradise for the Primate lovers. Some of the carnivores found in this Park include Mongooses, Leopards, and side striped Jackal among others.
As earlier mentioned, Nyungwe is the only place in East Africa where tourists can participate in Canopy walks. This walk is famously known as “Igishigishigi trail”. This 200 meters long walkway begins from Uwinka Visitor center and takes tourists through some of the most breathtaking views as they relish views of giant tree canopies, Uwinka ridge and you will luckily see several butterfly, primates and bird species.
The list of interesting tourist activities is incompletes without the invigorating forest hikes of Nyungwe forest. Tourists who visit this Park can hike using one of the 13 trails that include Karamba birding trail, Kamiranzoru marsh trail, Irebero trail, waterfall trail, Bigugu trail, Muzimu trail, Rukuzi trail, Imbaraga trail, Isumo trail and Umuyove trail coloured trail among others. These hikes lead tourists to see beautiful waterfalls, different bird species, trees, primates and butterflies.
Bird watching undoubtedly is an important tourist activity that tourists can engage in while at Nyungwe forest National Park. With over 310 species of birds in this Forest, it is a birdwatcher’s place to be.
Accommodation Facilities in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Several eco-lodges exist in Nyungwe forest to make tourists’ stay as comfortable as possible and they include Kitabi College of Conservation and Environment Management and camping, Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Inzozi Beach Hotel and Gisakura Guest House among others.
How to access the National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is about 158 miles/5-6 hours drive from Kigali city. Several routes can be used to enter this Park entrance/gate at Uwinka. Tourists can use Butare which is about 56 miles from the Park entrance or tourists can use Cyangugu-Butare road which is just 34 miles away from the Park entrance.
Nyungwe National Park is a new destination with many unexplored attractions. Based on the tourist attractions that are found in Nyungwe Forest National Park including 75 species of mammals and 310 bird species, tourists who visit Rwanda but go back without visiting it miss so many wonders.