Activities Rwanda Nyungwe Forest Chimpanzees Canopy Walk-Birding, Nyungwe forest in Rwanda’s Leading chimpanzee tracking tour, the destination for primates and birding tours and safaris in Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park receives more than 2000mm a year of rain. Recently, Nyungwe Forest opened a canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. This is a wonderful vantage point to view the incredible biodiversity of this rare forest. The canopy walk opens at a time when Rwanda is being recognized as a top 10 global travel destination (Lonely Planet 2009).
Nyungwe Forest is a high-altitude, mountainous rain forest in southern Rwanda conserved in 2005, the Government of Rwanda declared Nyungwe Forest a national park, according to it the highest level of protection in Rwanda. The largest mountain rain forest in all of Africa hosts 13 species of primates in Rwanda including the Angola colobus found in groups of 300-400 animals that is an attribute unique to Nyungwe. It also hosts a large population of chimpanzees and two other threatened species of monkeys; the owl-faced monkey and reported but unverified sightings of the golden monkey.
Activities Rwanda Nyungwe Forest Chimpanzees Canopy Walk-Birding, Nyungwe Forest National Park is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Birdlife International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, butterflies, moths, and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination.
Nyungwe Forest has a network of walking and hiking trails. It has a number of camping sites and the development of cultural tourism near the edge of the Park is underway. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the development project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park.
Nyungwe Forest is one of the most important bird watching national park in Rwanda with over 280 bird species recorded and the majority are forest specialists and 26 are regional endemics whose range is restricted to a few forests along the Albertine Rift. Bird watching in Nyungwe can be rather tiring since the vegetation is thick and many birds tend to stick to the canopy.
You don’t have to be an ardent birdwatcher to appreciate some of Nyungwe’s birds. Most people double when they first spot a great blue turaco, a chicken-sized bird with garish blue, green, and yellow feathers, often seen gliding between the trees along the main road. Another real gem is the paradise flycatcher, long-tailed blue, orange, and the sometimes white bird often seen around the rest house. Other birds impress with their bizarre appearance the gigantic forest hornbills, for instance, whose wailing vocalizations are almost as comical as their ungainly bills and heavy winged flight.
And when tracking through the forest undergrowth, you should watch out for the red-throated lathe, a much-localized bird with a distinctive blue-white eyebrow. The lathe habitually follows colobus troops to eat the insects they disturb, and based on our experience it seems humans are merely another large mammal, often perching within a few inches.
The chimpanzee population in Rwanda is about 500 individuals and thought to be confined to Nyungwe forest national park including a small community in the Cyamudongo Forest. During the rainy season, a troop of chimpanzees often moves into Uwinka and the colored trail as well, and it is up to the tourist to decide whether to pay extra to track them. You may be able to hear chimpanzees before you see them; from somewhere deep in the forest, an exciting hooting, just one voice at first, then several, rising in volume before stopping abruptly or fading away.
Unlike most other primates, chimpanzees don’t live in troops, but instead form extended communities of up to a hundred individuals, which move around the forest in small mobile subgroups that often revolve around a few close family members like brothers, mothers, and daughters. Male chimps normally spend their entire life within the community in which they were born, whereas females are likely to migrate into a neighboring community at some point after reaching adolescence.
The main entrance is at Uwinka on the main Cyangugu – Butare road. It’s about 55 km from Cyangugu and 90 km from Butare. The road is mostly in good condition. There are regular buses along the route and hitching is also an option. Buses are often full when they reach here so if you’re getting a bus out it may be best to try and book your ticket in advance.
If traveling from Cyangugu ignore the sign in town that says it’s 20km and further ignore the sign 15km from Cyangugu directing you right up a dirt track. These refer to a small offshoot of the park, not the park proper.