Nyungwe National Park is a Rwanda Safari Destination located in the Rusizi district, South western part of Rwanda and is a park that has contributed to the development of the tourism sector. The park has earned millions annually for Rwanda since it’s home to over 1000 animal and bird species this has attracted many nature lovers to it not leaving botanists behind, the park has over 1000 plant species and 120 butterfly species that have encouraged different types of tourists with different desires.
The park is a habitant to 85 different animal species 13 of which being primates including the chimpanzees which are the major tourist attractions in the park, these include the silver monkey, Lhotse monkey, the golden monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, red-tailed monkey, Ruwenzori colobus chimpanzee, the Park is also a home to a large number of chimpanzees which are over 500 however there are 2 chimpanzee groups that are habituated in it the small one has 30 chimpanzees and 60 for the larger group that are trekked in Cyamudongo Forest area of the Park.
How to access Nyungwe National park
There are many ways of accessing Nyungwe National Park which is located near Cyangugu town. From Kigali city, Nyungwe National Park is about 5hrs long and here different ways and means of transport can be used to reach the park.
Road transport: Tourists will either use private cars or public buses to reach the park but each of the different means influences the time you can reach the park, for instance, it takes a shorter time for a person using a private car than a public bus. From Kigali city to Nyungwe National park the distance is around 190 kilometers which take about four hours to five hours if the car is in good condition. For tourists that are coming from outside countries, they can land at Kigali International Airport which is a distance of 5 kilometers to Kigali city, from the city to Nyungwe national park it takes 190km which takes about five hours to reach the park.
Air transport: For tourists that are able to afford using air transport means, after landing at Kigali international airport, they can also take domestic flights from Rwandair from Kigali international airport to Kamembe international airport which is near the park and from there the tourists can access the park. However, Kamembe airport also offers helicopter pickups for the tourists to the park.
Attractions in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe national park is home to a number of attractions which have attracted tourists from different parts of the world to take park in tourism which include the following;
Wildlife: Nyungwe national park has a rich diversity of flora and fauna which continues attracting tourists from all over the world. It should be noted that the park has 13 primate species, 275 bird species over 1000plant species, 32 amphibian species and 38 reptile species.
Primate species: Nyungwe National Park has a number of primate species that are spread out throughout the park species, for instance, the chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas.
Chimpanzees: Nyungwe National park is a home to over 500 chimpanzees and these animals have led to the development of tourism in the area as tourists have come to the park to find out their different habits like the eating patterns, how they look after the young ones and many more this has enabled the park to put activities like chimpanzee trekking which enables the tourists to spend an hour with the chimpanzees and learning their different habits and ways of living.
Monkeys: There are different monkey species in Nyungwe national park, for instance, the grey-cheeked Mangabey, the white colobus, the Angola colobus, the red tailed monkey, Mona monkey and recently there have been sights of the golden monkey which have attracted tourists with interests in monkey tracking.
Bird species: Nyungwe National park is a home to over 200 bird species some of which are endemic birds from the Albertine rift valley, another case to note is that the other bird species are also from the Guinea Congo biome these birds are normally seen in different spots like at the canopy walkway, Kamiranzovu trail, karamba birding trail and many more. With the help of a tour guide, the different bird species can be identified to the tourists that are interested in knowing them.
These bird species include the blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, coqui Francolin, long-tailed cisticola, bubbling cisticola, Miombo wren warbler, Chubb’s cisticola and many more.
Cultural groups: There are different cultural groups in Nyungwe national park namely the Kitabi and Banda village each of the cultural villages have promoted cultural tourism in the Nyungwe National Park in different ways, for example, cultural performances like traditional dances and many more.
Tea plantations: There are two tea plantations in Nyungwe national park that have also improved tourism within the park area. The tea plantations namely the Gisakura found in the northern edge of the park and the Gisovu tea plantation found in the western edge of the park. These tea plantations have also led to the growth of tourism in the area because the tourists are able to know how tea is planted where they can also participate in tea harvest and afterward have a cup of tea after it being manufactured which has improved on the experience.
Trails: There are 15 different trails which are also known as the hiking trails in Nyungwe National Park and each of the trails leads to fascinating attractions.
- Bigugu trail: The trails leads to the Bigugu peak which is the highest point of the park, it is one of the most difficult trails but once hiked it can be rewarding. The trail starts from the Uwinka reception center by climbing the steps which when climbed gives a raise of 150 metres to the steep side of the mountain which is mostly covered by moss the old roadbed is also seen which continues to the long shoulder of the mountain. At this point the area is flat and hikers are expected to rest after hiking the steep area of the mountain. The trail then leaves the flat area to the more broad part of the summit and at this point, a radio station that monitors and keeps track of the activities in the area is seen this is staffed by individuals from Rwanda Development Board. Its main purpose is tracking activities and monitoring the area to avoid activities like poaching which is a threat to wildlife in the area. The board works hand in hand with park rangers and other park staff to avoid such cases. At the peak of Mountain Bigugu, there is a general view of the park, lake kivu can also be seen, far from lake kivu, the Banda village which is mainly occupied by cultivators with the evidence of cultivated lands, Kigogo mountain can also be seen. On the lower slopes of Mountain Bigugu, chimpanzees are seen clearly because of the thin vegetation cover and these can be seen jumping from one tree branch to another.
- Kamiranzovu trail: The word ‘’kamiranzovu’’ which means swallowing the elephants which the trail was named came about as a result of the many elephants that were trapped and the killed in the marsh hence the name. Characterized by forested mountains, on the western side of the trail the entire marsh and its outlets are clearly seen at the point by tourists and between the two peaks of the mountain. There is a 3-kilometer flow of water to the waterfalls which later connects to la0ke kivu. Kamiranzovu trail from the main road has two trailheads which are 0.7 kilometers apart the trailhead one offers a shorter route to the marsh whereas trailhead two offers a long but exciting trip to the marsh so it’s the choice of the tourist on which trail to use. To reach the marsh wooden wa0lk ways are put in place to connect to the marsh but it is advised for the tourists to be careful since they are slimy and hard to walk on to the marsh. There are different plant and animal species that can also be seen on the trail which may include the chimpanzees, monkeys.
- Karamba birding trail: This is one of the easiest trails to hike in Nyungwe National park as a result of the area being relatively flat which gives ease to the tourists during hikes. The area is also open as compared to other trails in the park because of the impact of human activities in the recent years the trees in the areas were cut down, and most of the vegetation cover destroyed in order to carry out activities like gold mining, it was also used as a quarry for construction materials and not forgetting that it was used as an army camp during. These open areas and short trees have enabled birding to be easy since the birds nest in the short trees that are recovering after human activities that destroyed it. The hike on the trail begins from the army camp which from whom the tourist climbs a knoll from which an abandoned road is followed and moving straight the trail more than 100 meters, there is evidence of forest regeneration with a number of trees that grow. On continuing with the trail, a deep hole is seen in the ground with different layers of shrubs, ferns and saplings as the hike continues, there is an inactive quarry which has now attracted climbing plants over it and some of the plants like the white-flowered genus satiryum which is a source of nectar to the number of butterfly species in the area. From there the hike continues through big tree ferns and later on at 1.9km the area is rocky as compared to other points as it continues to the summit and at the summit, there is a viewing bench where the rain forest can be seen.
- Isumo waterfall trail: The trail starts from Nyungwe forest lodge through the tea plantations which have been undisturbed by animals at 2.3 kilometers the train then leads into the forest at this point of the forest. The vegetation is thick and the rainforest ravines are steep with ferns, mosses, lichens, and butterflies are seen in this area. As hikers continue with the trail they come across the three forest benches which are surrounded by different species of plants like the first bench with pink jewelweed the second bench with the white begonia the third bench with white flowers. The trail then leads to the Isumo waterfalls here, several primate species are found some of which come to as well as bird species and also snakes can be found. The falls can be seen at two different points that are at the end of the short spur where the falls overlook at a distance of 50 metres can be seen at leading to the picnic table. The falls can also be seen by sloping downwards to the wild river below and then climbing over the wet rocks to the large boulder where it will be easy to see the falls. And here the water rushes as it flows to Lake Kivu which when clearly seen has a tea tinted color.
- Igishigishigi trail: Like other trails, the igishigishigi trail starts from the north end of the Uwinka reception area, the tourist walks through to the Uwinka ridge. A number of stairs are climbed then the tourists move from on-road to another until they connect to the flat area of the Buhoro trail. From which the tourists together with their guide take right to the junction where the igishigishigi trail is found. This point is best for birding because it provides good viewing points and also a number of monkeys are seen at this point. Hikers will then come across the first bench tourists are able to see different plant species and view the park-like the scented begonias and along the trail, the stretch of the trail red flowers can also be seen and 100 metres beyond the first bench, the first bridge of the canopy walkway is seen. Igishigishigi trail was chosen as the trail that would lead to the canopy walkway in Nyungwe National Park because of the big tree ferns and its ease for one to reach the walkway in the shortest time. The walk ay is an important attraction that has promoted tourism in the park. On the trail lichens, mosses, ferns, and other plant species are seen.
- Ngabwe trail: The trail starts from the park entrance at Kitabi gate from a road which is 3 kilometers from the entrance. The trail then continues and tourists climb up at a ridge where there are different forest covers like the strangler figs and many more. The trail then passes through shrubs and exposed bedrocks, and at one side of the ridge, the tourists are able to see the peak of the mountain. There are two different benches at the peak facing the left side., this bench gives an extraordinary view of the eastern side of the park and here tourists are able to see the tea, eucalyptus, and pine plantations and the second bench that faces downhill this gives tourists the view over the regenerating forest that was destroyed by the fires in 1997. There is a trail that leads at the Kitabi tea plantation along the eastern route that takes the tourists back the route to the plantation takes about 8 hours but it is an interesting one. For the tourists who are tired, they can branch off from the trail that leads to the headquarters to the park which ends their hike. The different animal species seen are the white colobus monkey, Angolan colobus monkey, grey-cheeked mangabeys, Black-fronted duiker and so on. It is important to note that the trail is difficult to hike but once hiked there are no regrets because it offers spectacular views.
- Irebero trail: The trail offers the best views of the park as compared to other trails in the park, the trail goes around one of the highest peaks at the Uwinka Ridge and here there are spectacular views that are seen from either side of the ridge different attraction will be seen for instance the Burundi ride is seen on the southern side. On the north-western side of the ridge, Lake Kivu will be seen different tree species are seen, bird species like the francolins are normally seen. Hiking can start at Irebero trail head number one and also end at the same trailhead. Here the tourists connect to Imbaraga trail this is because some of the trails in Nyungwe national park go interconnect and then at a later stage they are able to find their own roads. Through the Imbaraga trail; tourists will be on the trail for 2kilometres in the north side of Uwinka ridge continuing with the trail different tree vegetation is seen and the blue turaco is seen as the common bird along the trail. On the left, the trail turns from the Imbaraga trail and it continues through the southern side of the Uwinka ridge continuing with the trail, tourists are able to see the southern parts of the park, and on the higher sections, white flowers, lake kivu is also seen after soaking in the beautiful views, the tourist is able to turn right to go back to Uwinka reception area which is 1 and a half kilometers.
- Muzimu trail: The trail is reached after going through the eucalyptus and pine plantations from Gisakura entrance and just like Umuyove trail the trail is relatively short and easy to climb. Through the eucalyptus and tea plantations, hikers are able to go into open space because most of the trail is not filled with rainforests like other trails. This trail gives hikers to experience and have a spectacular view. Hikers reach the two peaks at 1.6km on the trail and different attractions at this point are seen for instance in the south, mountain Bigugu has seen the Congo-Nile divide and lake kivu is also seen. Different flower species are seen along the trail, for instance, the morning glory, yellow Senecio epiphytic orchids are also seen. The trail is also a great spot for birding due to most of it being open which gives clear sights. Some of the bird species were seen blue turaco, Ruwenzori turaco are seen.
- Umugote trail: The trail is quite different from other trails because it doesn’t start from the Uwinka reception center. The Umugote has two trails that are on the upper and lower Umugote trails which slope downwards the southeastern side of the Uwinka ridge on the trail Syzygium trees are seen in many numbers which offer beautiful scenery. The lower Umugote trail goes down 70 metres in elevation and at this part, there are different forest levels that are at the canopy different ridges can also be seen, Kibira national park can also be seen from a distance, Busozo Mountain can also be seen in the foreground Bukamba Mountain and Rugazi Mountain. The trail has got different trailheads but from a trailhead one, which is easy to hike will give tourists a chance to see hagenia abyssinica tree in the foreground continuing with the trail the pristine rainforest is entered and tree species like the strangler figs are seen which are a source of food to the chimpanzees and monkeys which can be seen in the area. At the trail, different bird species are seen like the blue turaco, handsome francolins, crowned eagles, mountain buzzard and many more. Primate species are also seen for instance the chimpanzees, the black and white colobus monkeys are seen, other animals like the bush pigs, and the duikers are seen.
- Umuyove trail: Most of the trails at the Uwinka trail system interconnect, Umuyove trail connects 800 metres from the Imbaraga trail from the right hikers continue with the trail the ground is covered by flowers from the canopy, and begonias are also seen. The trail continues to the steep-sided side a valley with giant tree ferns continuing with the trail, waterfalls are seen which are over a vertical wall. Hikers will then go to the other side of the narrow shaped valley. At 0.35km Umuyove trail continues on the right to the side of the ridge as Imbaraga trail branches off to the left. the walk through the ridge is easy due to the flat sections and as the hike continues, there are resting benches here hikers are able to experience the cool breezes begonias, impatiens and other flowers are also seen. Animal species can also be seen hanging from the big mahogany trees, for instance, the Angolan colobus, grey-cheeked mangabeys and so on. As compared to other trails, the Umuyove trail is the shortest trail in the entire park and this can be hiked in the shortest time.
- The source of the Nile trail: The hike through the trail is relatively easy and short. It is believed that the source of the River Nile is the Rukarara river in Rwanda as discovered by the Ascend Nile Expedition in 2006. The hike can take about one and a half hours which is effortless and here the hikers are able to see the Rukarara river.
- The Congo- Nile divide trail: This is one of the hardest trails to hike on the Uwinka trail system. The trail passes through rolling hills it is 42kilometres long and it usually takes about 4 Days for tourists to finish the hike. The trail goes through the ridge that separates the two river basins of the Nile and the Congo. The different animal species that can be seen along the trail are the monkeys.
- Rukuzi trail: The trail is 9kilometres long and it takes about 5 hours to be completed the trail is difficult to be hiked usually chimpanzees are found along the trail but there is a possibility of not seeing any though but with or without them the trail is spectacular with the green vegetation cover and the cool breezes which offer relaxation.
Activities in Nyungwe national park
In Nyungwe National park, tourists can engage in different park activities which can satisfy different groups of tourists. Some of the activities that the tourists can engage in include;
There is a high number of chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park and these are habituated which makes them easy and safe to be trekked. There are two groups of the habituated groups the larger group having 60 chimpanzees that are trekked in and the smaller group of 30 chimpanzees in Cyamudongo forest.
Chimpanzees are always on the move looking for food and by this, before trekking is carried out, pre- tracking is done by guides who are able to locate where the primates were before and after locating the area they are able to know where the chimpanzees would move and are able to take tourists to the spot.
Chimpanzee trekking starts as early 5:00 am and during the trekking other primate species can be seen for instance the white, Angola colobus monkeys and many more.
Before reaching the groups, the chimpanzees can be heard from a distance making noise clapping, hooting and making other sounds. On reaching the groups of habituated chimpanzees, only one hour is spent with the primates. And it is only a maximum of eight people to trek the chimpanzees
The canopy walkway in East Africa can only be found in Nyungwe National park along the igishigishigi trail. The activity is adventurous which offers to have a wide view of the park on an Ariel view. One is able to explore the canopy from 60 meters off the ground on a suspended walkway.
At different points of the canopy walkway, different attractions can be seen for instance lake kivu can be seen, primates like the white colobus, Angola colobus, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, owl-faced monkeys other animal species like the golden cats, duikers, giraffes, buffalos, and chimpanzees jumping from tree to tree.
Nyungwe National Park is also referred to as a ‘‘bird paradise’’ due to the numerous bird species found in the park. With over 300 species it is an important destination to birders because it offers a variety of birds to see and thus offering the utmost birding experience for them.
Through the Kamiranzovu trail within Nyungwe Forest, you can find both the Ruwenzori Turaco and the large blue Turaco, sunbirds of many types like the purple breasted and the blue-headed sunbird which can be found in flowering trees. One is also able to see many other attractions from the orchids to the primates during your birding walks within Nyungwe Forest National park.
Other trails where birding can be carried out in Nyungwe include karamba birding trail,
Hiking in Nyungwe
Hiking can also be carried out along the 15 different trails in Nyungwe National Park which may include; Bigugu trail which takes about 6 hours to be completed leads to the highest point of the park which is Bigugu peak, here different bird species like the red collared babbler can be seen.
- Muzimu trail this trail takes about 3 and a half hours for hiking to be completed and on this trail bird species and plant species like the wildflowers can be seen along the trail and also the trail can give a chance to tourists to see Lake Kivu
- Igishigishigi trail, hiking on the trail takes about one and a half hour and along the trail, many attractions like the canopy walkway, butterfly species and primates like chimpanzees, monkeys jumping from one tree branch to another are seen.
- Karamba trail: tourists on this trail hike for four kilometers and they are able to see the giant tree ferns, wild plant species and so many more.
- Ngabwe trail: takes about three hours to be hiked and it is 4.7 kilometer in length here different monkey species can be seen for instance the L’hoste monkey, silver monkey, white colobus, and the Angola colobus can also be seen since it is a short trail, the time for the hiking can be extended to several hours and visitors can be taken to Katabi tea plantations. Other trails as explained in the attractions found at Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe National Park is a home to different species of monkeys and like the chimpanzees, the monkeys can also be tracked, these can be seen in the tree branches jumping from one branch to the other. With the sightings of over 300 white colobus monkeys monkey tracking is a fun experience for the tourists because it offers a variety of species to be seen other monkey species include; the L’hoste monkey, grey-cheeked Mangabey, Mona monkey, Owl faced monkey, blue monkeys and so on these monkeys can also be found along the different trails like the igishigishigi trail around the canopy area.
Cultural encounters can also be carried out which may involve the tourists engaging with the local communities around the park. There has been the formation of different community-based initiatives in a bid to preserve their culture by avoiding cultural erosion whereby the local people can adopt the cultures of the tourists this has been done through different projects that is the Banda village and the Kitabi cultural village.
In the Banda village, the village is accessible after sloping downhill from the canopy walk way in the heart of the park. The village is promoting cultural preservation by telling stories about the history of Rwanda, cultural dances to the overnight visitors and so many more.
In Kitabi cultural village which is located in the eastern part of the park, the village offers a campsite to its visitors, cultural dances are also performed to enhance visitor satisfaction, local brew making, local cuisines at the restaurant found in the village. Other services offered are accommodation to visitors which involved visitors paying 40USD to sleep in a grass-thatched hut. This has led to the preservation of culture in the area because by portraying their cultures to the tourists they are able to generate income hence continuity.
Tea plantation visits
In Nyungwe National Park the fertile soils are climatic conditions have led to the establishment of tea plantations in the area, the tea is mainly grown on the slopes of the hills. Visits a limited to a different group of people but once on the plantation, the tourists are taught how tea is grown, harvested the type of manpower that is used the uses of tea and so many more.
Tea in Nyungwe can be found in Gisakura tea estate is found in the western part of the park and here day trips around the tea plantations are carried out and for the tea lovers who would like to stay within the estate it’s unfortunate that there are no accommodation facilities within the estate but there are accommodation units outside the tea estate which makes it easy to access the estate because they are just walkable distances.
Gisovu tea plantation which is found in the northern part of the park from Monday to Sunday farmers are seen busy in the plantations, tours around the plantations are possible and also those that want overnight stays at the plantation there are accommodation facilities present within the tea estate.
Other activities at the tea estates may include tourists involving in the harvesting where they are taught how to harvest tea, making of cups of tea which the tea harvested then manufactured from the estate which can be a wild adventure.
Accommodation in Nyungwe National Park
Accommodation in Nyungwe can cater for different classes of people that is the budget, mid-range and the luxurious tourists and below are some of the accommodation facilities they can stay in while at Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe house: This caters for the different interests of tourists from dining, swimming to overnight stays the house offers top-notch services, for instance, dining services different and a variety of dishes are offered from local to international dishes, there is also a bed and breakfast available for the tourists. Room service is also available at any time of the day the rooms are self-contained with a bathroom and a toilet. Nyungwe House is also a great spot for breathtaking views that can lead to tourist satisfaction. The distance from one and only Nyungwe house to Nyungwe national park is22.4km and it takes about 37 minutes.
Kitabi eco-centre: This caters for the mid-range tourists it offers dining services, entertainment from the cultural troupes, for instance, cultural dances are performed to entertain the guests, also skits are performed as a way to entertain the guests. Kitabi eco-centre offers camping where a tourist can either come with their own tent or rent a tent and those that do not opt for tents they can sleep in the grass thatched huts which kings and princes used to live in.
Nyungwe forest camping site: Uwinka campsite offers camping to the tourists this campsite is located at the Uwinka reception area and this gives ease to the tourists to participate in the tourism activities in the park-like the canopy walks, hiking at the different trails and so on. The campsite has a cafe that offers dining services like meals and drinks. A tent can be rented at a cost of 10,000 RFRNCS
Nyungwe top view hill hotel: The hotel is located on top a hill within which gives an opportunity to have great views of the park some of the attractions that can be seen are the forest that are thick and green, the different hills like Bigugu Mountain can be seen and many more. The hotel offers dining services, bar services, and overnight stays it is located5.1kmfrom Nyungwe national park in Luhonge
Nyungwe Nziza eco-lodge: Located in Kitabi, the lodge is 14.2 km from Nyungwe national park and it offers dining services, accommodation. Services with properly functioning restrooms to ensure that the tourists are able to enjoy their stay.
Other accommodation facilities may include Rwiza village, Macheo ecolodge- camping, Rebero kivu resort and many others.
Fees for activities in Nyungwe
- Park entry fees for each person are 40USD
- Guided nature walks are 40USD for foreign non-residents 30USD for foreign residents
- Chimpanzee trekking is 90USD for foreign non-residents 60USD for foreign residents
- Guided Birding Walk is 50USD for foreign non-residents 40USD for foreign residents
- Canopy Adventure Guided Walks are 60USD for foreign non-residents 50USD for foreign residents
- Congo Nile Guided Hike for is 100 USD for foreign non-residents 70USD for foreign residents
- Other Primates Treks with Guides are 60 for foreign non-residents 40 for foreign residents.
- Camping is 30USD for foreign non-residents 20 USD for foreign residents.
- Filming of chimpanzees for a day is 1000USD whereas filming other activities is 600 USD.
All the above prices apart from the canopy adventure guided walks which are for 3 days per person and the camping which is for one tent per night. Other tourism activities are for a day and only one person
Things to consider while at Nyungwe National park.
- Children under the age of 16 are not allowed to trek primates in the park.
- Discounts on the park fees are given to a group of 10 or more people.
- The canopy walk is not allowed for people under the age of 6 years.
- Children aged 7 years do not pay for any activity in the park.
“Nyungwe national park is one of the best parks for tourists to tour because it will quench their thirst of the wild while they have fun.”