NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
Established as a national park in 2004, Nyungwe forest national park lies in the south-western part of Rwanda Rusizi district in the western arm of the Albertine Rift valley bording with Burundi south of Lake Kivu and Democratic Republic of Congo in the west. Nyungwe forest dates back to the last ice age and is the largest well conserved Afro montane forest in the whole of central Africa. It covers about 970sq km in total area size.
Nyungwe plays a bit in the enivornmental impact and climatic conditions of Rwanda since it’s a water catchment area which supplies about 75% of the country’s water. The park consists of many rivers some of which flow to the East pouring in the Nile river and some to the west to the Congo river forming the Congo Nile divide. Due to this, Nyungwe is believed to house the source of the longest river Nile at a spring on the slopes of Mt. Bigugu.
History and facts of Nyungwe forest National park
Nyungwe recent history dates back in 1903 when it was named a forest reserve by the German colonial government since it was under colonial land. Between the 1950s and 1970s the forest reduced by 150sq.km due to animal poaching, tree cutting, fires by the people and the last of buffaloes where killed in this period. Latter in 1984, Wildlife conservation society conducted studies which found vast number of colobus monkeys mounting to 400 individuals. Uwinka was then set up as a tourist center but later destroyed in the 1994 Rwanda civil war.
Effort was put in restoration in the following year and it went on till Nyungwe was declared a national park recently in 2004 due to Rwanda being named among the top 10 list tourist destination by the Lonely Planet rating.
Nyungwe forest bio-diversity
Nyungwe forest national park is composed on a beautiful mountainous landscape comprising of also swamps, bamboo thickets, rivers, open woodland, marshes, montane rainforest, microhabitats bogs, heath which form spectacular scenery rich in biodiversity. The park habours 1000 species of flora and fauna with 25% of Africa’s primate species. The 13 species of primates can be found in Nyungwe with our closest relatives the chimpanzees, the largest troop of colobus monkeys in East Africa, L’Hoest’s monkeys endemic to the region, vervet monkeys and more to find on your Rwanda safari.
The 300 birds species make Nyungwe their home with 27 endemic to the region, it hosts about 1000 plant species, 200 tree species, 121 forest species, 140 orchids at least 120 species of butterflies, there are also 75 mammals species including mongoose, cerval cat and more, 32 amphibian species, 38 reptiles species all add to Nyungwe’s bio diversity. Adding onto that are 2 habituated gorilla groups in Nyungwe.
Attractions, what to do in Nyungwe forest National park?
Nyungwe Forest national park has 3 receptions where most of the activities start and things to do while in the park which include Uwinka in the middle of Nyungwe, Gisakura and kitabi reception centers. Activities commence from these areas and thes include;
Chimpanzee tracking: The park boosts 13 primate species including the chimps which can be tracked on a day trek. The chimps are habituated and with a larger group of 60 chimpanzees and a smaller group of about 30 can be tracked in Cyamudongo forest in the park. The trek starts in the morning with 8 trekkers per group.
Monkey tracking: After chimpanzee trekking, you can also track other 12 primate species including about a large troop of 400 colobus monkeys, track the L’Hoest’s monkey, blue monkeys and more.
Canopy walk: Nyungwe features the only canopy walk in the whole of East Africa and third in Africa. The walk is 50m above the ground and 90m long. You walk above Nyungwe forest tree tops, see monkeys jumping from tree to tree, birds flying, and the beauty Nyungwe forest beholds. It’s an amazing sight ans activity not to be missed on a Rwanda safari.
Hiking in Nyungwe: The park offers a number of trails to hikers which enablr you explore the park one foot on your Uganda Rwanda safari. Trails include the Igishigishigi trail 2.1km with wonderful views of wild flowers and the canopy way, Isumo trail to see large tea fields and more.
Birding in Nyungwe: The park is home to 300 bird species with 27 endemics and a birder’s paradise, birds include Ruwenzori Batis, Batis diops, Regal sunbird, Ruwenzori Turacos, large blue turaco, purple breasted and blue headed sun birds and much more. A bird watching safari to Nyungwe shouldn’t be missed out for bird lovers.
Getting to Nyungwe forest National park
Nyungwe is about 230km from the capital of Rwanda Kigali which takes about 5hrs drive southwest to the park. It can be accessed by road or by air with chattered flights by RwandAir.