Nyungwe Forest National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Rwanda  

One of the oldest rainforests in Africa, Nyungwe is rich in biodiversity and spectacularly beautiful. The mountainous region is teaming with wildlife, including a small population of chimpanzees as well as 12 other species of primate, including the L’Hoest’s monkey endemic to the Albertine Rift.

With 15 trails, some of which are detailed here, along with various other activities, visitors can choose to sample the delights of the forest or indulge themselves for a week or more in one of Africa’s most stunning forests.

Primate tracking tops most visitor’s list, but it’s worth lingering a little longer for those with time to relax and take in the primal atmosphere.

Botanists will marvel at the 1,068 plant species and 140 orchids. The birdwatching is among the best in Africa with 322 birds species including Red-collared Babbler and 29 other Albertine Rift Endemic species. Butterflies are also a common sight, with at least 120 species.

There are 75 known mammals in Nyungwe, such as the cerval cat, mongoose, congo clawless otter and leopard to name but a few. Many tend to be shy so sightings are luck of the draw.

Memorable and photogenic moments include walking up to the Isumo waterfall or along the Canopy Walk suspension bridge. Tea plantations border the edges of the park, with a habituated troop of Ruwenzori colobus monkeys at Gisakura as well as forest fringe birds.

With plenty of rainfall, Nyungwe is also the major catchment area in Rwanda, and supplies water to 70% of the country.

A ridge running through the forest forms a watershed between the drainage systems of the Nile and the Congo. A spring on the slopes of Mt Bigugu is said to be the most remote source of the Nile, the world’s longest river.




Pros & Cons


Important montane rainforest with rich biodiversity
Very accessible with a main road through the park
130km network of hiking trails
Habituated chimpanzees
13 primate species recorded
Has the region’s only canopy walk
Birders’ paradise with several Albertine Rift endemics
The main road detracts from its wilderness appeal
Relatively high fees for every activity
Chimpanzee trekking isn’t as easy as in Tanzania or Uganda


Wildlife & Animals

A total of 86 mammal species have been recorded in Nyungwe Forest, though most are very secretive and rarely encountered. The primates, on the other hand, are Nyungwe’s main attraction, especially the charismatic chimpanzee. Another 12 primate species are present, including l'Hoest's monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and red-tailed monkey.

Wildlife Highlights


Tracking Nyungwe’s habituated chimpanzees is the prime activity in the park. Another highlight is the unusually large troops of Rwenzori colobus, counting up to 350 individuals. This unique race of black-and-white colobus monkey is restricted to the Albertine Rift. Several antelope species in the park include the secretive bushbuck, and the very rare endemic race of Weyns's duiker.


Birds

Nyungwe, recognized as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by Birdlife International, has over 300 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 (birds restricted to the Albertine Rift). Three birds unrecorded elsewhere on the eastern side of the Albertine Rift are Albertine owlet, red-collared babbler and Rockefeller’s sunbird.

Best Time to Visit

Nyungwe Forest is open for chimpanzee trekking and hiking throughout the year. The wet months, from October to May, are the best time for chimp trekking and forest birding, but general hiking and spotting other primates might be easier in the drier months, from June to September.

June to September – Dry Season


Drier trails make hiking easier and more pleasant
The sun is more likely to break through the clouds
Chimpanzee trekking is more hit-and-miss
Some of the special forest birds might be difficult to find


October to May – Wet Season


Chimpanzee trekking is best at this time as their food is plentiful
Forest birding is at its best and migratory birds are present
Rain can make forest trails challenging
It might rain for days at a time


Weather & Climate

Nyungwe typically receives more than 2,000mm of precipitation per year. This, combined with the high altitudes, means that the climate is very wet and cool. Due to the forest’s close proximity to the equator, temperatures stay constant year-round. During the day, temperatures are around 20°C/68°F and it cools off at night to about 10°C/50°F.

Dry Season – June to September


Throughout the year Nyungwe Forest receives rain, though there is a drier period from June to September. Bring waterproof clothing and shoes for hiking and warm clothing for the cold, damp evenings, regardless of when you visit.


June, July & August – These are the driest months of the year, but it can still rain anytime. This is an excellent time for hiking as the trails are drier. Daytime temperatures average 21°C/70°F, with an average of 10°C/50°F at night.
September – After drier weather, it will start raining more often at some point in September. Temperatures stay the same.


Wet Season – October to May


Bring waterproof clothing and shoes for hiking during the day, as well as clothes to keep you toasty warm in the cold, damp evenings.

October, November, December, January & February – It rains a lot and November is a peak month for rainfall. Temperatures will be around 20°C/68°F during the day, but will vary depending on altitude. Nights are cold, with an average of 10°C/50°F.
March, April & May – The rain picks up in March and peaks in April. Hiking can be difficult in March and April as the trails get very slippery. Temperatures stay the same.


Getting There

Kigali International Airport (KGL) will be your entry point into Rwanda. It is about 10km/6mi from the capital, Kigali.

Nyungwe Forest NP is in the south of the country 200km/124mi from Kigali, 87km/54mi from Huye and 55km/34mi from Rusizi. The drive takes about four to five hours from Kigali, two to three hours from Huye and about one hour from Rusizi.

Usually, Nyungwe Forest is visited as part of a 4x4 tour around the country with a driver-guide.

Akagera Aviation offers charter helicopter transfers to anywhere in the country, including Nyungwe Forest.