History / Background of Nyungwe forest national park
Nyungwe forest national park is one of the oldest national parks not only in Rwanda but also in the entire East African region. The park traces its origin as early as 1903 when the then colonial masters of the area (German government) declared it a national reserve and a colonial crown.
Between the years 1958 and 1973, Nyungwe forest national park tremendously reduced in size to about 150 square kilometers primarily due to continuous poaching and deforestation. This came with destruction of quite a number of elephants, buffaloes and other animal species.
On the other hand, the population of colobus monkeys grew to about four hundred individuals by the year 1984 and this was followed by setting up of research and tourism facilities at Uwinka much as the facilities were destroyed during the genocide era (1994). The facilities were re-established between 1995 and 2004,thereafter Nyungwe forest was officially declared a national park. This came with tremendous boost on the tourism sector of Rwanda as is still evident up to date.
Nyungwe forest national park is located in the spectacular western Great Rift Valley, southwest of Rwanda towards the border with Burundi, south of Lake Kivu and west of Democratic Republic of Congo. Nyungwe forest national park is near the districts ofRusizi, Nyamasheke and Nyamagabe in the south western wing of the countryon the eastern side of the great Congo-Nile trail and north of Burundi.
The park is not only dominated by the magical Nyungwe forest but alsoswamps, bamboo thickets, rolling hills and open woodlands.
Accessing Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest national park is a venture that can be made using two options- road and air transport.
By air, travelers to Nyungwe forest national park can land at Kamembe airportby Akagera Aviation Company helicopters which provide quick access to the park from Kigali International airport. Akagera Aviation Company helicopters offer services ranging from single passenger seater to five passenger seater hence making both single and group travels possible.
On the other hand, those opting for road transport to Nyungwe forest national park can embark on a five hour drive from the city of Kigali (about 225 kilometers). Nyungwe forest national park also lies 54 kilometers from the Rwanda – Congo border in Cyangugu and 90 kilometers from Rwanda – Burundi border near Butare. Thus the choice of how to access Nyungwe forest national park lies in the hands of travelers.
Nyungwe forest national park is a regional biodiversity hotspot, supporting 1,068 recorded plant species, 322 bird species, 75 known mammal species and 13 different primate species. The park is a home away from home since it offers a lot of tourism attractions and activities among which include but not limited to the following;
Nyungwe forest national park is home to quite a number of chimpanzees most common in the areas of Gisakura forest. The park currently has two habituated families of chimpanzees,one being at Uwinka and the other bigger group in Cyamudongo fragmented forest.
The nature of the forest and terrain of the park render chimpanzee trekking at Nyungwe forest one of the best tourism activities in the entire East African region. The activity comprises of spending hours in the forest of Nyungwe while searching for these human-like creatures. It is a moment turned into memory.
Nyungwe forest national park is home to a quarter of Africa’s primate species including colobus monkeys. Visiting the park introduces you to a wide range of monkey species, as you get to see them play, shout and climb from tree to tree searching for what to put in their stomachs.
One of the best and unique tourism attractions / activities found in Nyungwe forest national park is the spectacular canopy walks. You get to walk on top of trees on the artificially designated trails. The walk provides opportunities for great landscape and bird views.
The park is also home to several plant species some of which are unique to the area. Nyungwe forest is currently the largest forest expanse remaining in Rwanda.
Nyungwe forest is one of the best destinations for birding in Rwanda and East Africaas a whole. The park is a host to over 300 bird species and 29 of them are rift valley endemics.Some of the bird species in Nyungwe Forest National Park include; Rwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Kungwe Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Apalis argentea, Francolinus nobilis, Dusky Crimson Wing, Cryptospiza shelleyi, Cryptospiza jacksoni, Kupeornis rufocinctus, Melaenornis ardesiacus, Red-collared Babbler, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Neumann’s Warbler Regal Sunbird, to mention but a few.
Nyungwe forest also offers hiking opportunities to its visitors. You get to hike the Umuyove trail which is a famous hiking trail in Nyungwe forest national park. The trail is best for bird and primate watching, this trail covers a distance of 5.5 kilometers taking three to four hours to complete depending on your physical fitness and speed.
Where to stay in Nyungwe Forest National park (Accommodation)?
Accommodation in Nyungwe forest national park ranges from luxury to mid-range and alsobudget / campsites. Some of the accommodation points in Nyungwe forest include but not limited to the following; Nyungwe Nziza Ecolodge, One and Only house, Nyungwe top view hill hotel, Gisakura Guesthouse and so much more.
Nyungwe forest can be visited all through the year, however, depending on the activity of travelers’ interests. Since most of the activities are done within the forests, visitors usually find comfort in visiting the park during drier months where walking through is made easy. The best months to visit is June to September.