Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the southwest of Rwanda, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the town Cyangugu, and 90 kilometers (55 miles) from Huye. It covers a vast area of approximately 970 km² (378 miles²), and is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest, reaching an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level. Nyungwe lies in the Albertine Rift, a mountainous section of East Africa, which is home to many endemic animal and plant species that probably found refuge here during the last Ice Age. Mount Bigugu is the park’s highest point, and offers great vistas of the surrounding areas. From some parts of the park you can view the majestic Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s great lakes. Surrounded by rivers Kongo to the west, and Nile to the east, Nyungwe holds two thirds of Rwanda’s water, and creates colorful ecosystems inside its grasslands, bogs and swamps.
Sadly, poachers killed the area’s last elephant in 1999. The park now enjoys the country’s highest level of protection, which will hopefully help preserve this incredibly rich natural habitat. Nyungwe is most famous for its numerous primate species, which represent a quarter of all of Africa’s primates. Chimpanzee families can be easily spotted with the help of a guide, and Ruwenzori colobus and L’hoest’s monkeys also live in this ancient forest, as well as 10 other monkey species.
Nyungwe is a paradise for bird watchers, with 310 species recorded in the park, 26 of them endemic. As in every rainforest, bird sighting will require some effort and patience, which can be rewarded with sights of giant hornbills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrowhawks, to name a few.
Living alongside mammals, birds, amphibians and lizards, is a great variety of butterflies, moths, and a vibrant array of orchids, which will make your visit an unforgettable experience.
The main entrance to the park is at Uwinka. The park is designed for activities on foot, and you can choose from a number of walking and hiking trails. In 2010, a canopy walk was opened, which is the only of its kind in East Africa. The hanging platforms offer breathtaking views of the scenery, and make animal species easier to spot.
July to October are the drier months, and are best suited for walking and trekking activities. If you are an avid bird watcher, it is best to visit between December and March.