Nyungwe Forest: A Hidden Gem in Rwanda
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Be honest, have you ever heard of Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda?
I hadn’t, which in retrospect is rather surprising given it’s the largest high altitude montane forest in East and Central
Africa. Even more impressive to me, it’s also home to an incredible 13 species of primate – 25% of primate species
found in all of Africa! So it was rather surprising that I had never heard of Nyungwe Forest.
Not only that but four species of primate
are habituated (used to people). As a
result, the park offers guided tours to see
chimpanz ees, black and white colobus
monkeys, Blue monkeys and
Mangabeys. I did guided tours to see the
chimps and the colobus monkeys and
loved every single minute of both tours –
so much so that I’ll be writing in more
detail about them in a later post – with
some photos of the cutest baby monkey I
have ever seen!
Nyungwe Forest is not just for primate
lovers though. It’s also an exceptional
place for bird watching. It’s home to 275
species of birds and 25 endemic birds,
including the Turaco. You will hear its
loud call before you see it, making it
relatively easy to seek out. It’s a crested
bird, who when it spreads its wings
reveals beautifully colored red feathers!
I would also recommend one of the
guided hikes offered. No solo hiking is
allowed in the park, and there are
scheduled hikes (check with the park
office), or book your own in advance.
I was rather excited when David my guide
asked if I wanted to take a small detour to
see the source of the Congo River while
on one of the guided hikes. Of course I
did. But somehow it looked rather
different from I had anticipated:
There’s also a three day hike which is the
furthest source of the Nile. After seeing
my disappointment over the wee source
of the Congo River, David warned me that
while the hike is beautiful, the Nile source
was even smaller than the Congo source.
Still, I would love to come back and
B l a ck a n d wh i te co l o b u s m o n ke y i n Nyu n g we Fo r e s t
Still, I would love to come back and
spend more time in the
forest. There’s nothing like
hearing pant hoots from
wild chimps or with a little
bit of luck come across a
monkey or two!
Nyungwe is also home to
East Africa’s only canopy
walk. If you’re afraid of
heights forget it. David
said that about half of
visitors take the detour after
taking one look at the
bridge which towers over a
valley in the rainforest.
This includes the Prime
Minister of Rwanda! Of
course being a politician,
I’m sure he had a good
I wa tch e d th i s 30 ye a r o l d m a l e ch i m p fo r a fu l l h o u r .
Tu r a co , a b i r d e n d e m i c to Nyu n g we Fo r e s t i n Rwa n d a
Th e s o u r ce o f th e Co n g o Ri ve r i s m u ch s m a l l e r th a n I wa s e xp e cti n g .
Ea s t Afr i ca ’s o n l y ca n o p y wa l k i s i n Nyu n g we Fo r e s t.
I spent two days in Nyungwe but wish I could have spent three more. I would have loved to have done the Blue monkey
and Mangabey guided treks which are only done in the morning. I also would have liked to have done a full day hike or
perhaps even the three day hike to the source of the Congo.
The only downside to Nyungwe is that it’s not cheap. Guided hikes start from $40, a trek to see Colobus, Blue monkey
or Mangabeys is $70 and a visit to the chimps will set you back $150. Discounts are provided if you do the activities
over multiple days. accommodation is also not cheap. There are only three different options. I stayed in the cheapest,
which was VERY basic, with a shared bathroom. It cost $70 a night, which was a LOT for what it offered. I didn’t see the
other two hotels, but my guide Omar from Amahoro Tours told me that the one hotel had rates starting from $200 a night,
while the other was over $300.
Still, I felt my money was well spent to see the primates. Nyungwe is one of only a few places in the world where
travelers have the incredible opportunity to observe rare primates in their native habitat. In addition, a portion of the
money goes back into the local community and community members are given jobs in the park. As a result, poaching
is relatively rare in Rwanda, unlike in most other parts of the world. Conservation has a price.
Amahoro Tours, a locally owned Rwandan company can arrange your own personaliz ed trip to Nyungwe. Omar, my
driver guide was kind enough to even stop when we saw monkeys on the side of the road!
Thank you to Amahoro Tours for their support in my visit to Nyungwe Park. As always all opinions expressed are my