Nyungwe Forest national park

Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest national park
Nyungwe forest national park was established in 2004 and covers an area of about 970 square kilometers. The park is made up of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs. The Nyungwe rainforest is probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. The parks altitude ranges between 1600-2950 meters above sea level. This vast tropical rain forest receives an annual 2000mm of rain.

The park is located in southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi, to the south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park borders.

Brief history: During the colonial era in 1903, Nyungwe which was Colonial crown land was declared a forest reserve the German colonial government. There was a period between 1958 and 1973, when the area reduced due to fires, woodcutting and poaching of animals, the sq. km coverage of the forest reduced a whole 150 sq. km. the forest was a home to a large number of elephants. In 1974, the last of the buffaloes was killed. Some biodiversity studies conducted in the area the Wildlife conservation society 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.

Then the restoration work began in 1995, in an environment that was still riddled with paranoia and uncertainty. But the work went on and in 2005 Nyungwe forest was declared a national park and officially a protected area. The designation of “National Park” is the highest protection level in Rwanda in terms of nature conservation.

Nyungwe is an important water catchment for Rwanda and contains many natural resources that are quite useful to the Rwandan people.

The beautiful green forest is also quite important to two of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo.

Wildlife
Nyungwe forest national park is a home to a variety of wildlife species, which makes it a conservation priority. The forest is situated in a region in which several large-scale biogeographical zones meet and the variety of terrestrial biomes provides a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.

The park contains 13 primate species, 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa. The forest, which reaches its maximum altitude of 3000 meters above sea level. The park is majorly known as a home to chimpanzees.

Some of the primates living in the forest include; Common chimpanzee, Ruwenzori colobus, L’Hoest’s monkey, Silver monkey, Golden monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, Red-tailed monkey, Dent’s mona monkey, Vervet monkey, Olive baboon, Grey-cheeked mangabey among many others.

Nyungwe forest is a great birding destination with over 250 bird species recorded. Forest birding is never easy, but the wide road running through the park offers a great vantage point into the canopy. Of specific interest are the many Albertine Rift endemics. From a total of 37 birds restricted to the range – all of which are recorded in the albertine rift, 27 can be spotted in Nyungwe. Of these 27 species, three are unrecorded elsewhere on the eastern side of the Albertine Rift, namely the Albertine owlet, red-collared babbler and Rockefeller’s sunbird. Some of the birds that call nyungwe forest a home are; Albertine owlet, Archer’s robin-chat, Blue-headed sunbird, Buff-throated apalis, Dusky crimsonwing, Dwarf honeyguide, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Handsome francolin, Kivu ground thrush, Mountain masked apalis, Neumann’s warbler, Purple-breasted sunbird, Red-collared babbler, Red-faced woodland warbler, Red-throated alethe, Regal sunbird, Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori apalis, Ruwenzori batis, Ruwenzori nightjar, Ruwenzori turaco, Shelley’s crimsonwing, Strange weaver, Stripe-breasted tit, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher among many more.

Things to do in Nyungwe national Park

Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest National park
The park is a home to a good number of chimpanzees with some habituated groups that are open for trekking tourists. Chimpanzee trekking is the major activity done around the park.

The chimpanzee is a species of great ape native to the forests and savannahs of tropical Africa. It has four confirmed subspecies and a fifth proposed subspecies. The chimpanzee is covered in coarse black hair, but has a bare face, fingers, toes, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It is larger and more robust than the bonobo, weighing 40–60 kg for males and 27–50 kg for females and standing 100-140 cm. Its gestation period is eight months.

Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning and its 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. There will also be a maximum of over 8 people in your group that sets out to track the chimpanzees. The activity takes between 1-6 hours depending on there the chimps will be that day. You will expect to see the chimps in trees, feeding and also hear some of the sounds.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest
The park is a home to a good number of chimpanzees with some habituated groups that are open for trekking tourists. Chimpanzee trekking is the major activity done around the park.

The chimpanzee is a species of great ape native to the forests and savannahs of tropical Africa. It has four confirmed subspecies and a fifth proposed subspecies. The chimpanzee is covered in coarse black hair, but has a bare face, fingers, toes, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It is larger and more robust than the bonobo, weighing 40–60 kg for males and 27–50 kg for females and standing 100-140 cm. Its gestation period is eight months.

Chimpanzee trekking starts in the morning and its 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. There will also be a maximum of over 8 people in your group that sets out to track the chimpanzees. The activity takes between 1-6 hours depending on there the chimps will be that day. You will expect to see the chimps in trees, feeding and also hear some of the sounds.

Monkey Tracking
The park is a home to over 13 primate species. Apart from chimpanzee trekking, you can also look for other primates like; the grey cheeked Mangabeys and Ruwenzori colobus Monkeys in Nyungwe Forest. These monkeys can also be seen in large groups of up to 300 colobus monkeys.

Also as you track any of the primate group, you will likely see some other monkeys along the trek. These might include; L’ Hoest’s monkey, the Owl faced monkeys, Mona monkey and the blue monkeys. The forest is also a primate country and you can also trek the chimps, the gray cheeked and the Colobus monkeys in the ancient forest.

Forest Canopy walk
The Nyungwe forest canopy walk is the first canopy walk in east Africa. This walk is one activity you should add to your tour while in Rwanda. This canopy walk is 50 meters above the ground and this can also be dizzying heights for some people. It has impressive sights being East Africa’s Oldest Afro Montane forest. The length of the walk is about 200 meters. Think of 200meters of breathtaking scenery in this misty forest.

This activity last close to 2 hours and you have the chance to see a lot of primates that Nyunge forest is known for like L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, Black-and-white Colobus, Red-tailed Monkeys, and lots birds flying above you and below you.

Birding
Nyungwe forest is a habor to over 300 species of birds of which 27 are endemic to the albertine rift. There are various trails with in the park that tourists follow as they look for birds. The activity is always done in the company of the park ranger guide. Some of them include; Grauer’s Warbler which is an albertine rift endemics hat can be found within the mountain swamps like the Kamiranzovou with in Nyungwe Forest. You can also expect to 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 also birder’s paradise and you will see many other things from the orchids to the primates during your birding walks with in Nyungwe Forest.