If you come to this part of Africa looking for something special you must visit Nyungwe Forest National Park. The forest it preserves is maybe the best example of mountain rain forest still existing in the world, and Rwanda has the privilege of having a large part of it in its state territory. Surrounded by the national borders with Burundi and – through Lake Kivu – with the Democratic Republic of Congo, this green “island” is the main attraction of south-western Rwanda.
As a national park Nyungwe has a recent history. In fact, it was created in 2004 with the aim of protecting plants, mainly. Of course the animals living there are also protected. Monkeys is the largest animal population of this region and the forest is their favourite shelter. A safari at Nuyngwe will give you the chance to approach these communities very close, into their natural habitat. But animal watching is not the only activity you can do.
What to see at Nyungwe Forest
Nyungwe Forest is a very dense wood of typical African mountain vegetation. Over its 970 sq km surface you will admire bamboo forests, rain forests, swamps and grasslands. There are also bogs – particular swamps consisting of old material from dead plants. Water is the main element of the place, since the forest is set between the rivers Congo and Nile, which causes the constant climatic humidity that provokes heavy rains.
Among the many trees of the forest live mainly monkeys. This is the home to chimpanzees, Rwenzori colobus, Silver Monkey, Golden Monkey, red-tails, baboons and others. If you are lucky you will probably meet the very rare Angola colobus, which used to live in Angola but now is extinct almost everywhere… but here. Over 270 species of birds are also part of the park together with 85 species of mammals and 38 kinds of reptiles.
Safari and other activities at Nyungwe
Safari is the main activity for tourists, at Nyungwe. Monkey safaris, monkey trekking are the typical things to do, if you come to visit the park. But you are also allowed to just go trekking in the wood, or go fishing, do birdwatching or boat sailing on the near lake. Tourists can sleep inside the territory of the park.
There are many different accomodations – luxury lodges, medium lodges or hotels, campsites – within the area of the national reserve. Not far from the park you could also go visit the “King’s Palace” at Nyabisindu, seat of the interesting National Museum. Or visit, on your way, the Genocide Memorial Center at Gikongoro and Bisesero Memorial.
How to get to Nyungwe
The capital of Rwanda, Kigali, is only 230 km away from the national park, but because of the bad conditions of the Rwandese roads it takes 5 or 6 hours to get there, by car.
A much faster way to get there is by small airplanes that leave from Kigali Airport and land at local airstrips (Kamembe Airport). Of course we suggest to always hire a local guide and travel with local tour operators’ 4×4 jeep cars. Do not try to go on your own with a normal rented car.