Planning your Group Safaris to Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest is split north–south by a stretch of mountains that reach 2,600–2,900m above sea level, creating part of the Congo–Nile watershed. As a result, Nyungwe is comprised of two areas differing in vegetation, soils, rainfall patterns and biodiversity. The schist soils in the western part support growth of dense forests at an altitude of 1,700–2,000m above sea level. The eastern granitic soils which are higher, about 2,200–2,500 m support growth of secondary forests but with many clearings.
Nyungwe forest is made up of over 250 tree species, with dominant ones being Chrysophyllum, Newtonia, and Entandophragma found in lower altitudes, while Carapa grandiflora, Beilschmiedia, Parinari excelsa, Symphonia, Strombosia, Syzygium guineense and Ocotea usambarensis appear in mature forest. Harungana, Maesa, Macaranga, and Neoboutonia inhabit the secondary areas, and Hagenia is situated along roads and around the eastern valley. On the mountain slopes and rocks the forest is dominated by Erica kingaensis and Philippia benguellensis, while extensive plantations of bamboo Arundinaria alpina occupy the south-east region.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe
Other than gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park; Nyungwe is another best option to have a famed experience of trekking chimpanzees without necessarily travelling long distances to Uganda to search for them. A chimp trek in Nyungwe begins at the break of dawn, led by an expert guide who will lead you into the heart of Nyungwe forest along the trail of chimpanzees. A rustle of leaves, and then through the free-falling branches, you’ll finally sight a chimpanzee staring down from the tall trees. Or maybe you’ll spot a community of tree-dwelling chimps running around through the canopy.
Every trek is unique, and Nyungwe forest’s acrobatic chimpanzees are full of surprises and completely fun. On a chimp trek to Nyungwe forest, endeavor to pack enough drinking water at least 1.5 liters, packed lunch / snacks, put on long sleeved shirts, long tough trouser/pants, rain coat, strong water proof hiking boots, a hat, and most importantly a water-proof camera without flash.
Canopy walk in Nyungwe forest
Nyungwe Forest National Park contains East Africa’s tallest and the only forest canopy walk, that is continuous with Igishigishi trail. Nyungwe canopy is the third in Africa, and undertaking it is a great way of exploring even the most elusive inhabitants of Nyungwe forest. The walk way is raised 50m above the ground and for those with height fobia, this might be a dizzying height but nevertheless undertaking it will never leave you the same. This canopy walk is 90m long and begins from Uwinka center, and during the 2 hours of typical adventure, you get exposed to numerous monkeys catapulting between trees, birds hiding between branches, butterflies and a great scenery.
Hikes and Nature Walks
Nyungwe forest national park offers breathtaking opportunities of hiking and nature walks through the well-constructed trails. There are about 13 different hiking trails all traversing lush ever green forests filled with primates, trees, butterflies, flowers and abundant bird species.
Birding in Nyungwe
With over 300 bird species, birdlife in Nyungwe Forest National Park is spectacular. Comprising of up to 27 Albertine endemics, the bird list of Nyungwe forest is endless including Rwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Hornbills, Blue Turaco, as well as Sunbirds such as Blue-headed and Purple-breasted sunbirds. Nyungwe forest is indeed a birder’s paradise and forever will be.
With over 13 primate species, Nyungwe forest other than chimpanzee trekking offers exclusive chances of trekking monkeys too. Special species of monkeys tracked include Rwenzori colobus monkeys and Grey cheeked mangabeys. Nyungwe park has one of the highest population of colobus monkeys, numbering to 300, but also has other monkey species such as L’Hoest’s monkeys, Mona, Blue, and Owl faced monkeys which can also be spotted during the trek. Colobus monkey tracking permit goes for US$70 per person and prospective travelers are advised to make advance bookings. Nyungwe forest has a myriad of other interesting tourist activities that can be undertaken, and these include; cultural encounters, visiting nearby tea plantations, as well as mountain climbing on Mt. Bigugu and so much more.
Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest
Are you on an adventure trip to Rwanda and among your places to visit is Nyungwe Forest National park? You shouldn’t worry about where to slumber or eat because accommodation options here are countless; ranging from guest houses, campsites, homestays, lodges and hotels. Fortunately, lodging options in Nyungwe National Park span across a range of budgets. Some of the iconic accommodation facilities include some of Rwanda’s best lodges; such as Nyungwe House which is a luxury facility containing an infinity pool and gym, beautiful views overlooking the forest canopy from a ridge to one side and a tea-plantation on the other.
At the other end of the scale, the mid-budget Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is perched, as depicted in its name on a raised ridge looking out towards the spectacular Volcanoes, containing simple but cosy rooms with friendly and helpful staff. On the extreme lower end of the budget is famous Gisakura Guesthouse. This guest house is tucked away in a completely green scenery amidst vast plantations of tea. It has camping grounds where big groups of backpackers can pitch their tents.
When to visit Nyungwe
Since this is a rainforest; evaporation levels are too high thus unpredictable rainfall happens in most cases. Therefore, trekkers are advised to always take into consideration travelling in seasons with less rainfall when trails are not so wet and all other activities in the park to have convenient tours in this forest. Understanding the season also helps one to better plan which equipment and essential materials to bring along; such as cameras, clothes, backpacks, insect repellants and more.
Joining group tours to Nyungwe Forest NP
A group tour to Nyungwe forest is possible and since there are endless options of experiences that can be done by groups, a trip to this forest is completely relaxing and mind blowing. Activities that can be done in groups include chimpanzee and colobus monkey trekking, cycling, nature walks, birding expeditions, tea plantations tour and forest hikes or even the adventurous canopy walk.