Nyungwe National Park is a top tourism destination with a growing network of hiking trails that offer visitors great opportunities for world class bird watching, chimp tracking, monkey watching, orchid ogling and community ecotourism in cultural villages . Camping is also possible at a few sites in the Park. And, of course, the Park also offers the only Canopy Walk in East Africa!
Birds: Whether you are an ardent bird watcher or an amateur, Nyungwe National Park offers enthusiasts a fantastic variety of species including the great blue turaco, the paradise monarch and the bizarre appearance of the gigantic forest hornbills. The priority of serious enthusiast will depend to a certain degree on their experiences elsewhere in Africa. For instance at least half of the species will be new to visitors from southern Africa, whereas the 24 species endemic to the Albertine Rift will be the most appealing for those who have already experienced east Africa.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe
In Nyungwe forest, Rwanda has one of the oldest afro-montane forests in Africa. This forest is found in the South Western part of the country and is home to 13 species of primates including chimpanzees. Nyungwe forest is also one of the last strongholds of the Angola Colobus and Golden Monkeys. While exploring the forest, visitors have over 15 trails to choose from for a nature walk. If nature walks are not your things, you can choose to go for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest or the very popular canopy walk. Regardless of which particular activity you register for, you will be rewarded with amazing sites of birds (310 species), primates (13 species), butterflies (120 species), plants (over 1,000 species), amphibians (32 species), reptiles (38 species) and ancient trees.
Canopy Walk in Nyungwe Forest
Apart from chimpanzee trekking and nature walks, one of the best canopy walk trails are organized in Nyungwe Forest. This activity was introduced in 2010 in an effort to diversify tourism activities in the country. The canopy walkway is 50 meters high hence offering an aerial view of the forest and the creatures therein. The walkway sways left and right as one moves from one point to another hence requiring some confidence to complete the walk. You need to be warned in advance if you have a fear for heights.
Walks and Excursions
Nyungwe forest boasts a good selection of walking possibilities and other excursions throughout the park and visitors with their own private vehicle and sufficient interest could easily keep themselves occupied for up to four days without even retracing their steps. The options for those without private transport are more limited and dependent on where they base themselves within Nyungwe National Park. Be warned however that many forest walks are steep and often slippery so caution should be exercised and suitable footwear should be worn.
The Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile trail is a new addition by the government of Rwanda as it diversifies the tourism attractions in the country. The Congo Nile trail is 140 miles long and can be traversed by a motorcycle, bike or on foot. If one decided to walk, it may take 10 days to cover the entire trail. The Congo Nile Trail is one of the best biking trails in East Africa. The trail rewards bikers with amazing scenery and all that is good about the Rwanda countryside – beautiful rolling hills, tea plantations, rural villages, lake Kivu and Nyungwe National Park. By the time one completes the trail, they would have got an understanding of how the locals go about with their lives. Accommodation is not a problem along the way as there are many campsites and hotels to choose from. You could even move with your own tent and set it up outside churches or schools. You can hire a bike and someone to accompany you from a tour operator.
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.
Nyungwe is home to 154 species of orchids, eight of which are endemic to Rwanda. The Park hosts 68% of the orchid flora of Rwanda. It is one of the world’s greatest concentrations of orchids.