Nyungwe National Park
Whereas Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills, is undoubtedly gifted by nature as a whole, Nyungwe National Park is an iconic adventure park where landscapes from storybooks come alive. Located in the great western rift valley, in the southwestern region of Rwanda, the park is home to over 400 hundred chimpanzees. The chimpanzees roam much of the 1,019 square meter forest, grazing through the grasslands, bamboo forest, rainforest, and swamps.
The park is found at an altitude between 1600m to 2950 m above sea level. It is believed to be the southern source of the mighty river Nile that flows through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt. The park was gazette in 2005 in an effort to protect its rich biodiversity of 13 primates, 300 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species and so much more.
Uniqueness and attractions of the Nyungwe National Park
The park is a unique birders paradise where tourists can quietly watch over 300 bird species like the Rwenzori Turaco, the Nubian woodpecker, papyrus gonolet, hairy- breasted barlet, and grey crowned crane among others. The birds singing on the tree canopies while others wade through swamps and the forest floor make for great photographic moments and a remarkable sight.
Chimpanzee trekking in the park is by far the most popular activity carried out in Nyungwe National Park, attracting at more than 25,000 visitors annually. The mountainous rainforest is home to more than 500 chimpanzee individuals however only two troops have been habituated and available for the trekking experience. One is located in the Nyungwe main rain forest while the other is found in Cyamudongo in the eastern part of the national park.
The chimpanzee excursion begins as early as 4:30 am with assembly and briefing at the three reception centers of Gisakura, Kitabi and Uwinka. The guides move a head of the trekkers to find the nesting places where the chimpanzees spent the night such that they can alert the team of Trekkers who set off at 5:00, on the current location of the chimpanzees.
Tourists are allowed an hour in the realm of the chimpanzee, observed quietly at a safe distance of at least 10 meters. The realm of the chimpanzees is such a fascinating place to be, where tourists observe how chimpanzees use tools, their likeness with humans, courtship and family dynasties. Chimpanzees are territorial mammals therefore males fiercely protect their feeding grounds and do not take kindly to invasions.
Amazingly, when adult females reach maturity are ready to mate, they abandon their pack to join a new troop, to the excitement of the males found there while the females found there are many times un impressed due to the increased competition for males. Their diet heavily consists of shrubs, shoots, stems, leaves, among others. A trail of the rugged terrain in such of the chimpanzees, especially in the Nyungwe main forest is truly rewarding as the experience is phenomenal.
A chimpanzee trekking permit costs USD 90 for foreign non-residents while East African citizens pay USD 60, for the experience of a lifetime. Trekkers should wear appropriate hiking shoes and should be 16 years or above and free from any ailments like flu, which could easily get transmitted to the chimpanzees since they are highly susceptible to human diseases.
The canopy walkway.
The 160m long and 70 m high suspension bridge is Rwanda’s iconic wonder through the park, giving the tourist a bird’s eye’s view of the treetops. The views are an impressive display of raising and falling landscapes. The bridge is accessible is accessible from the Igishigishi trail as part of a guided tour. This bridge is the third such longest on the African continent after the Lekki conservation center walkway in Nigeria and Kakum’s walkway in Ghana. This walkway is the first and only one in East Africa.
How to get to Nyungwe Forest National Park?
The most convenient and efficient way to get to Nyungwe is by air from Kigali International Airport to Kamembe International airport from where it is a 40km distance to the park entrance.
The next alternative is by road from Kigali city through Muhanga, Nyanza, Huye town, towards Nyamagabe to Nyungwe, which is 226 km and 5 hours by a private car. Buses to are equally available from the Nyabugogo bus park to Rusizi bus park where after one takes a private taxi to the park.
The road gives a remarkable countryside adventure on its own lined with numerous historical landmarks.
When to visit Nyungwe National Park?
The best time to visit the park is during drier season, which starts from June to September and from December to February. The forest terrain is dry and less slippery thus making it easier to trek as compared to the rainy season when the trails are slippery, wet and the weather so dump.
Overall, Nyungwe National Park presents remarkable wildlife adventure that it worthwhile.