Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

Nyungwe National Park is situated in the southwestern region of Rwanda, it is popularly known for Chimpanzee tracking and other primate species. However, there is a lot to see and do while in this park such as the impressive flora and fauna with amazing hiking trails. A journey through the park is very rewarding and gives tourists opportunity to spot tree species which are over 100years old, bird species and spectacular waterfalls.

Nyungwe is very bio diversified, protecting around 300 species of birds, nearly over 1,000 types of plants and 75 kinds of mammals. The hiking trails have their way through the bamboo thickets, swamps and canopy forest. Visitors to this forest are warned about the weather since it’s a rainforest, rain can fall oat any time of the day. Over 2,000mm of rainfall are annually received in the park.

So chimpanzees are the highlight of this National Park however, there are other primates such as the black and white colobus monkeys, Velvet monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, olive baboons, Golden monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, Grey-cheeked mangabeys, Angolan colobus monkeys, Owl-faced monkeys, Dent’s Mona monkeys and Crowned monkeys that can be spotted in the Park.

In case your interest isn’t the primates, still Nyungwe will offer you the best experience. There are around 13 trails with a lot to offer such as the Mount Bigugu trail that takes you to the highest point of the park, there is also the Isumo trail which takes tourists to watch spectacular waterfalls. Then the Karamba trail which gives visitors the best birding experience and in case you have more time in the Park, you could go for the Congo Nile Trail and spend there around 3 days while camping.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe

The park hosts over 500 habituated chimpanzees and in order to track them, one needs a chimpanzee tracking permit. This permit costs $90 per person for the foreign non-residents. Tourists can purchase their permits through Rwanda Development Board or a trusted tour operator.

Chimpanzee tracking begins early in the morning from Uwinka reception where briefing is carried and after trekkers are divided into groups and then head into the forest to look for the chimpanzees escorted by a skilled guide. Trekking can take two hours or even half a day, so the total time to spend while trekking cannot be anticipated since it is determined by the location of the Chimpanzees. When the trekkers meet the Chimps, they are given only one hour to spend and enjoy with these creatures.

Chimp permits in Nyungwe are not limited like the gorilla trekking permits but we still advise you purchase yours earlier before the tracking date. There is also an alternative of paying $40 for a guided nature hike through the park.

The Nyungwe Canopy Walkway

Most tourists also participate in this activity. The Canopy walkway is among the newest adventure activities in Nyungwe, and was established in 2010 with the aim of boosting both international and domestic tourism. The canopy walk is done on a suspended bridge set 70metres above Nyungwe forest, it is 100metres long and it takes almost 2hours to walk from the start of the bridge to the end. As long as a person is 6 years and above they can go for this walk, also this experience costs $60 for foreign non-residents and $50 for foreign residents in Rwanda.

Remember to wear hiking boots, carry a rain gear and a hiking stick, it being a rainforest the trails to this walkway maybe muddy. Carry mineral water for drinking, a camera and packed snacks.

When to visit Nyungwe

Nyungwe has two wet and two dry seasons; usually the best season to visit the park is during the dry season from June-September (known as the long season) or between mid-December and mid-February (known as the short season). Visiting in the short season means that you could expect a few drops of rain or not. Also note that during the dry season chimpanzees and other primates tend to move further into the jungle in search for food so tracking them may also take a long time, but once you meet them it is very rewarding.  

However, you shouldn’t be only limited to visiting in the dry season. You could travel also in the wet seasons which starts from February-May (long season) or between October and mid-December (short season). The good thing about these seasons is that the chimpanzee are easily accessed, but the challenge with these seasons is that the trails are very muddy and slippery, but all in all the experience is worth it all.

Getting to Nyungwe

Nyungwe is about 226km away from Kigali city, this is like a 5hours drive while using road transport. If the visitor is using a tour operator that’s easy because the company caters everything for him/her. But other visitors opt for car hiring and those on budget use the public bus from Kigali. Another option would be flying to Kamembe Airport and then use a vehicle to get to the Park or your lodge of choice near the Park.

Where to Stay While in Nyungwe

Nyungwe Top view Hill Hotel

This is among the oldest remaining rustic accommodation options with attentive staff. It sits at the park edge and its location gives guests great views of the volcanoes, tea plantations, the forest and Lake Kivu. It is a moderate and affordable with comfortable rooms and good food. While staying here, it’s possible for you to engage in every activity in and near Nyungwe National Park. The cost per person per night ranges from $220.

One & Only Nyungwe House

It is situated in Southwestern Rwanda at the edge of Nyungwe NP, it is surrounded with stunning tea plantations. It is a luxurious lodge with amazing features, spacious rooms, amazing staff and a good menu and gives stunning views to guests. The cost per night per person ranges from $900.

Other accommodation options you can stay in while in Nyungwe include; Nyungwe forest lodge and Nyungwe Nziza Eco Lodge among others.