Nyungwe Forest National Park

Those especially looking for primates or birds will want to be sure to spend time in Nyungwe National Park. The forest is teaming with a vast array of flora and fauna throughout the park’s 1,000 square kilometres.

Nyungwe’s primates are just one reward for a walk through the forest with its viewing points and waterfalls. There are 13 species, including the chimpanzee, L’Hoest’s monkey and Angola colobus.

Bird enthusiasts can imagine the delight of seeing the great blue turaco, as well as many of the other almost 300 bird species found in the park. Nyungwe forest is an Albertine rift montane rainforest. The Albertine rift forms the epicentre of Africa’s montane rainforest circle. It is dominated by a series of mountain chains, originating on the Lendu Plateau in northern Uganda and Congo, running south through the Rwenzori mountains, western Rwanda and Burundi, to some isolated massifs on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Albertine rift eco-region is one of Africa’s most endemic rich regions.

Nyungwe forest is the largest protected high-altitude rainforest of East Africa. It was particularly important to protect the forest reserve when you know that the highest population pressures in Africa are to be found within the Albertine rift and that the forest is the biggest water reservoir for the country. The highland forest covers 970 km² and has a unique habitat. It’s the only place where we have seen troops of more than 300 colobus monkeys travelling in the trees. The park has 25 % of the primates of Africa with its 13 recorded primate species. It’s a primate nirvana!

The forest has 300 species of birds with 27 Albertine rift endemics and 121 forest species. The flora is particularly rich with 200 species of trees and more than 100 species of orchids! The park has an extensive network of walking trails that leads you through various waterfalls and viewing points. Nyungwe offers scenic views over the forest, Lake Kivu and sometimes also the Virunga.

The primate fauna includes: chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Rwenzori colobus (colobus angolensis), l’Hoest’s monkey (C.l’hoesti), silver monkey (c.mitis doggetti), golden monkey (C.mitis kandti), owl-faced monkey (C.hamlyni), red-tailed monkey (C.ascanius), Den’t mona monkey (C.mona denti), vervet monkey (C.aetiops), olive baboon (papio anubis), grey-cheeked mangabey (Cercocebus albigena) and three species of bushbaby.

The Park, extending for almost 1, 000km2 across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, is the largest ‘island’ of montane forest remaining in East or Central Africa: a rich and ancient centre of unparalleled bio diversity and natural wonders. Transected by the surfaced road between Butare and Lake Kivu, Nyungwe and its array of forest inhabitants are also uniquely accessible to casual visitors.

Nyungwe is rightly celebrated for the rich variety of its flora and fauna.At least 200 different types of tree are found in the forest, along with hundreds of different flowering plants, including wild begonia, more than 100 species of orchid, and sensational giant Lobelias. Of the large mammals, primates are the most visible, with 13 recorded species, including humankind’s closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey, silver monkey, velvet monkey, olive baboon, grey-cheeked mangabey, and red-tailed monkey and hundred-strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe harbours almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift.

The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue turaco – an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
An extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points. A comfortably rustic rest house and perfectly situated campsite lie alongside the main road, and the reserve can readily be visited as a day trip from the towns of Butare and Cyangugu. Nyungwe does, however deserve more time: anybody who wants to track chimps and see several varieties of smaller primate will need two days there – and dedicated birdwatchers might never want to leave!