Kabaffulo Safaris

Nyungwe Forest National ark

Nyungwe National Park is a beautiful Protected Area, protecting one of the oldest montane rainforests on the African Continent, and boasts of rich biodiversity, than ever witnessed in any other safari destination in Rwanda. Kibale Forest sprawls over 386 square miles (about 100,000 hectares), Nyungwe Forest National Park is popular for protecting the largest surviving tract of lush and raw montane rainforest in the East and Central African region. Nyungwe National Park sits within the southwestern side of Rwanda, where it forms a contiguous Forest Block with Burundi’s Kibira National Park.


Nyungwe forest was declared a Forest Reserve in 1933 by the German Colonial Government but the rise in population coupled with the encroachment on the Reserve’s borders greatly threatened its existence. For this reason, the Protected Area’s size reduced from the original 440 square miles to 393 square miles between 1958 and 1973. This was also the time Rwanda was undergoing political instability due to Civil Wars. However, research studies were started between the 1970s and 1980s and this also led to the establishment of buffer zones to mark-off boundaries with local communities. Serious reconstruction initiatives started in 1995 to develop a number of infrastructures and in 2004, Nyungwe Forest was declared a National Park making it the third National Park in the country at the time.


Nyungwe National Park is made up of beautiful forest cover but with varying vegetation types. The change in altitude has a great effect on the varying vegetation zones whereby between 1900 and 2250 meters above sea level, the tallest tree species such as Newtonia, Carapa, and Cyathea Manniana are found. Between 2250 and 2500 meters above sea level, species such as Symphonia, Polycscias, and some Newtonia are found, and beyond 2500 meters above sea level are the Alpine vegetation like Shrubs and Bamboo.

Attractions of Nyungwe National Park


A total of over 1100 plant species are found in Nyungwe Forest National Park and of these, there are over 200 species of trees and about 140 orchids. Interestingly, 24 of these plant species are endemic to the Albertine Rift region and they include the rare Begonia pulcherrima among others.


Nyungwe Forest National Park has over 96 mammal species which include 63 different species of rodents and bats, and 13 species of primates (that include chimpanzees, L’Hoests monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys, blue monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, the Rwenzori Colobus monkeys, and Olive baboons among others). It will interest you to know that over 16 mammals here are endemic, 5 are categorized as threatened by IUCN. Also present in this Park are over 30 Amphibian and reptile species.


Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best Birding Areas in the African Continent, especially for birders interested in sighting the Albertine Rift endemics and forest species. Of the 300 species of birds in Nyungwe, 26 species are Albertine Rift endemics. Some of the must-see species are Mountain masked Apalis, Red-collared mountain babbler, handsome francolin, black and white hornbills, Collared Apalis, Chapin’s flycatcher, Regal sunbirds, Strange weavers, Rwenzori batis, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Rwenzori Turaco, to mention but a few.

Other natural features such as waterfalls (such as the Isumo waterfalls), and wetlands (Kamiranzovu) add to the beauty of Nyungwe Forest National Park, hence must-see during guided walks.

Tourist Activities in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee tracking

Chimpanzee tracking is the main tourist activity offered in Nyungwe Forest National Park, and this has been made possible by the presence of over 500 chimpanzees and research studies- habituation, where two chimpanzee communities are open. Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe is done in two sessions- Morning and afternoon and only visitors aged 12 years and above are allowed to trek a particular community and spend one hour.

Monkey tracking

Another primate tracking adventure offered in Nyungwe Forest National Park is the tracking of different monkey species. This Park is a haven for Rwenzori colobus monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, blue monkeys, and owl-faced monkeys among others which can be tracked during your visit to this Park. Just like most activities in the Park, you will meet at the visitor center for a briefing before joining the trailhead to track the monkeys.

The Nyungwe Canopy walk

Few places in Africa offer the canopy walk and Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of them. Visitors are given the chance to explore the 200-meter-long walkway which is suspended between the higher slopes and tall trees (about 1 kilometer from Uwinka) and over 40 meters above the ground. This adventure is a wonderful opportunity to watch different tree species, primates, birds, and other attractions of the Park.

Bird watching

It’s no brainer that Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the best birding spots in Rwanda. While on your birding adventure, expect to sight at least one of the 26 Albertine Rift endemics, 11 Guinea-Congo forest species, 71 Afro-tropical highland Biome species and so much more. The unmissable birding trails to try for the best sightings are Gisakura, Karamba, and Bigugu where the Rockefellers’ sunbirds, Kivu ground thrush, Grauer’s swamp warblers, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Rwenzori Turaco, handsome francolin, Purple-breasted sunbirds, and Rwenzori batis are common.

Guided Forest walks/ Hiking

There are so far 15 renowned and well-maintained hiking trails in Nyungwe Forest National Park and these lead visitors through the forest to sight different species of wildlife, birds, waterfalls, and outstanding tree species. The trails are Bigugu, Karamba, Buhoro, Rukuzi, the Congo-Nile Divide, Kamiranzovu, Umuyove, Uwinka Trail, Irebero, Umugote, Muzimu, Isumo waterfall trail, Imbaraga, Igishigishigi, Ngabwe, and others.

Community tours

Community walks around Nyungwe Forest National Park involve visiting the Banda Community Village, Cyamundo Culture Group, Kitabi Cultural Village, or the Friends of Nyungwe Troops whereby travelers get an insight into how traditional meals are prepared, locals tend to their gardens or rear cattle among others.

When to visit Nyungwe National Park

When to visit Nyungwe National Park depends on your personal interest, budget, and time factor but one thing for sure is that this Park is open all year round. However, certain months are considered ideal and these are January, February, May, June, July, August, September, and December because they are the drier months, marked by reduced precipitation levels. For this reason, forest trails and Park roads are drier, less muddy or slippery, and the vegetation cover is sparser. This makes them peak months for chimpanzee treks, primate walks and hiking.

On the other hand, certain months like March, April, October and November are avoided because they are wet months marked by heavier rainfall, denser vegetation, and muddier or slippery trails/Park roads hence making them “unfavorable” for certain activities. However, this doesn’t mean that the activities aren’t possible. All activities can be undertaken and also given the effects of climate change and the nature of Nyungwe’s vegetation (predominantly rainforest), it becomes difficult to predict the weather.


For a comfortable and unforgettable stay when discovering Nyungwe Forest National Park, travelers are recommended to stay at One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel and Gisakura Guesthouse among others.

Getting to Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is in the southwest of Rwanda, approximately 217 kilometers from Kigali City and can be accessed by air or road transport. For the latter, a good 4WD Vehicle is recommended. You can use private means (Car rental, or personal car), but if you opt for public means, it is advisable to use an early morning bus from Nyabugogo Bus station (Kigali) to Rusizi and this takes about 7-8 hours.

For Car Rentals, there are a number of reputable Car hire Companies or tour operators that you can use within Kigali.

For air, a helicopter charter can be arranged from Kigali International Airport to Nyungwe Forest National Park and this lasts about 40 minutes.




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