Extending for 970 square kilometers across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age.
A uniquely rich center of floral diversity, Nyungwe forest has more than 200 different types of tree, and a myriad of flowering plants including the otherworldly giant lobelia and a host of colorful orchids.
An extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads through Nyungwe forest to various waterfalls and viewing points. A comfortably rustic rest house and perfectly situated campsite lies alongside the main road, and the reserve can readily be visited as a day trip from the towns of Butare and Cyangugu.
Nyungwe National Park does, however, deserve more time: anybody who wants to track chimps and see several varieties of smaller primate will need two days there – and dedicated bird watchers might never want to leave!
Nyungwe forest is most alluring for its primates:
13 species in all, including humankinds closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome LHoests monkey and hundred strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola Colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe forest harbors almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift.
The avian highlight of Nyungwe National Park is the great blue turaco – an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
About Nyungwe National Park
An Ancient Forest Nyungwe forest has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and is one of Africa’s oldest. Thus, there is a possibility that climate change will not affect Nyungwe as much as other forests, as long as it is protected from threats like fires and tree cutting.
Why is Nyungwe So Diverse?
Scientists think that Nyungwe was one of the few places in Africa to remain green during the last Ice Age. Species took shelter in Nyungwe and never left!
What’s Special about a Mountain Rainforest?
It is home to a variety of plants, animals, and habitats found almost nowhere else.
Nyungwe: Part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley This forest is in the Albertine Rift, a mountainous section of East Africa that, as a whole, harbors more endemic birds, mammals, and amphibians than any other region in Africa. For example: over 1000 species of birds, about 52% of all of Africa’s birds, have been recorded in the Albertine Rift. Nyungwe is the largest protected area within the Albertine Rift, and contains 25 of these endemics, more than any other site in east Africa.
Things to See in Nyungwe Forest
With about 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic, Nyungwe is one of the most important — and still undiscovered — birdwatching destinations in Africa. Reaching to almost 3000 meters above sea level with Mount Bigugu the highest point in the Park, Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa.
Nyungwe is also home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of chimpanzees and a sometimes noisy, acrobatic combination of other primates such as Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys.
A variety of hiking and walking trails criss-cross the Park leading to a canopy walk, primate tracking adventures, the southernmost source of the Nile and ecotourism attractions. The park includes a colorful array of orchids, butterflies, moths and other insects.
The forest has a growing network of walking and hiking trails and a number of camping sites near the Uwinka Visitor Center. Cultural tourism activities are being developed near the edge of the Park. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the USAID-sponsored Nyungwe Nziza Project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park.
Things t Do
Thirteen species of primates are known to inhabit Nyungwe Forest, including chimpanzees, owl-faced guenons and Angolan black and white colobus monkeys. In a 2002 report by the Wildlife Conservation Society, they found the latter living in groups of more than 300 individuals.
World Class Bird Watching
Nyungwe is home to at least 278 bird species, 26 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley. It is one of the best bird watching destinations in Africa. Some of the birds that can be seen here include the Great Blu Turaco, the Crowned Hornbill and the Blue-Headed Sunbird.
Nyungwe offers 13 hiking trails, some with tongue-twisting names. Try pronouncing “Igishigishigi” quickly, which is the name of an easy 1.7 km trail that begins near the Uwinka Reception Centre. By the way, Igishigishigi means tree fern. The trails range from easy to difficult and from 1.7 kms to 10.6 kms in length.
Community based Ecotourism
Nyungwe currently has 4 Cultural villages that provide tourists experiences beyond wildlife viewing, where people, culture and nature come together with the aim of protecting nature in and around Nyungwe forest; and enhance the community’s ecotourism activities in so doing seeking to improve the lives of the people.