Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park; Location, Wildlife, Activities & Lodges

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the biodiverse tropical forest protected areas in Africa. Located in the Southern province of Rwanda, 6 hours’ drive from Kigali capital, Nyungwe National Park is a must visit for chimpanzee tracking. The park is set close to the border with Burundi, South of Lake Kivu and the D.R. Congo to the Western side.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest

Nyungwe Forest National Park spreads to cover Rusizi district and it was founded in 2004. It covers an area of about 1000sq.kms and consists of two chimpanzee communities Uwinka and Cyamudongo. Nyungwe Forest National Park is largely afro-montane forest where a range of primates, birds and more.

Animals – wildlife in Nyungwe Forest Rwanda

Over 75 mammal species make Nyungwe National Park a special Rwanda safari destination. They include small, nocturnal and large mammals. These include 13 primate species: grey cheeked mangabeys, silver monkeys, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, Angolan colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, red tailed monkeys, owl faced monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, Dent’s Mona monkeys, L’hoest monkeys.

Other mammals include serval cats, Congo clawless otters, mongoose, leopards. In addition, there are over 1068 plant species, 140 orchids.

Flora in Nyungwe National Park

Within Nyungwe Forest National Park, there exist more than 1068 species of plants which include over 68 endemic species like the Talenna Rwandensis. The orchids comprise of 160 species and these exist in Rwanda. The diverse plant life make Nyungwe National Park a remarkable destination worth visiting by botanists.

Birdlife – Nyungwe Forest

A total of 310 bird species resides in Nyungwe Forest National Park, making it an important birding destination. They include 27 Albertine rift endemic species, 121 forest species -including archer’s robin chat, collared apalis, white tailed blue flycatchers, red collared babblers, Neumann’s short tailed warblers, long tailed cuckoos, chestnut owlet, great blue turacos, olive woodpeckers, Rwenzori batis, regal sun birds, stripe breasted tit, white headed hoopoe, Rwenzori turacos and black faced flycatchers, white tailed blue flycatcher.

Activities in Nyungwe National Park – Rwanda

Chimpanzee tracking

Chimpanzee tracking is the main highlight of all visits to Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda. Tracking chimpanzees in Nyungwe is possible in any of the two habituated chimpanzee communities- Uwinka and Cyamudongo. About 500 chimpanzees live in Nyungwe and you can embark on the morning or afternoon session.

Bird watching

Birding in Nyungwe is one of the best experiences you should be part on Rwanda safaris. Set at elevation of 1600 to 2950m, the birds to expect to identify on birding expedition in Nyungwe National Park include Rwenzori turacos, Kivu ground thrush, dwarf honeyguide, red throated alethe, Rwenzori nightjars, montane double collared, archer’s robin chat, chestnut owlet, regal sunbird, white tailed blue flycatchers, handsome francolins, black faced flycatchers, long tailed cuckoos, white headed wood hoopoe, Neumann’s short tailed, red collared babblers, purple breasted sunbirds, stripe tit.

Nature walks or hiking

Hiking/nature walks introduce you to Nyungwe Forest National Park hidden habitats each with unique creatures worth keeping an eye on. Nature walking in Nyungwe is possible in any of the following trails -Congo Nile divide trail 227kms walk experience but comes with sightings of birds, primates and rural setting.

Igishigishigi trail 2kms, Umoyove trail, Karamba trail, Umugote, Uwinka, Ngabwe, Rukuzi, Bigugu, Izumo trail, Muzimu trail, Imbaraga trail, Irebero and Kamiranzovu trail.

The Ngabwe trail: This trail is 4.7km and takes about 3 hours for nature enthusiasts to have a round walk/hike. The Ngabwe trail offers moderate hiking experiences, and while exploring it, there are higher chance to encounter special species such as silver monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, chimpanzees, mangabeys as well as birds.

Bigugu trail: The Bigugu trail is ideal for visitors interested in a bit challenging hikes. It takes you on elevation range of 2367m, and about 13.2 long. A complete hike on this trail takes about 6 hours. Bigugu is also ideal for bird watching and enriches birders with encounters such as white-headed wood-hoopoe, olive & Elliot’s wood peckers, Rwenzori turacos, white bellied robin chat, and red-collared mountain babblers. Other birds to expect to come across on this trail include the red collared babblers, barred long-tailed cuckoos, archer’s robin chats, and others.

Kamiranzovu marsh trail: This trail is popular for its moderate kind of experiences. It is a 3-hour round trek and as you walk, it ushers you through the swamps, wetlands and waterfalls. It is also a significant birding trail and the likely birds to encounter include the Grauer’s warblers.

Umugote trail: This is 3.6km long walking trail, and is an ideal trail for you to find some of the interesting primates in Nyungwe. It also allows visitors to enjoy view of the surrounding areas including the Burundi Mountains but on a clear day.

The Congo Nile divide trail: This is the longest of all the trails in and around Nyungwe Forest. It is 42km long trail and takes visitors through the ridges of the park’s lush forest and a complete exploration lasts for 3-4 days.

Uwinka trail: This trail is 17.8km, about 8 hours’ round hiking adventure. Visitors begin their adventure from the Irebero trailhead till Kamiranzovu marsh trailhead.

Irebero trail: This is the 3 hour walk (3.4km) and offers moderate walk via the country’s borders, Lake Kivu and the highest point of Nyungwe Forest.

Imbaraga trail –The 6 hour walk trail and takes its name from Kinyarwanda word which is translated as strength. On actual trek, you can testify on what this.

Muzimu hiking trail: A 5.2km trail through the challenging elevation. This trail introduces you via the lush vegetation with pine forest, heaths, shrubs, eucalyptus and other features.

Rukuzi walking trail: This is a 9km (5hours) round walking trail. It leads visitors to areas where chimpanzee communities can also be spotted.

Canopy walk

Canopy walk in East Africa is currently done only in Nyungwe. This takes you through a suspended trail of 60m from the ground floor and is 200m long. Walking for two hours on suspended canopy walk comes with astonishing sights of primates, birds and forest canopy of Nyungwe. Experiencing the best of the canopy walk is possible in the morning or afternoon.

Cultural encounters

Adjacent to Nyungwe National Park, there are local communities worth visiting on Rwanda safaris to experience the unique cultures, dances, music performance of the Rwandese. Learn more on how wildlife conservation and local communities have co-existed.

Best time to visit- Nyungwe National Park

Rwanda safaris in Nyungwe can be arranged at any time of the year. But, the most favorite time is during the dry season -from June to September or December to February every year. Wet season often comes with heavy rains and it is challenging to go chimpanzee tracking when the ground is slippery or muddy. The wet months of the year here run from April to May and October to November.


For all overnight stay in Nyungwe National Park, there are budget, midrange and luxury accommodation to book. These include One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Top View Lodge, Gisakura Guesthouse and Emeraude Kivu Resort.

Getting to Nyungwe National Park – Rwanda safaris

From Kigali to Nyungwe National Park, drive a 4×4 safari vehicle for 6 hours. You can also take a flight up to Kamembe Airport and drive up to Nyungwe Lodge, 40kms.