Extending for nearly one thousand square kilometres over the mountains of southwest Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park protects the largest remaining single tract of Afro-montane evergreen forest in Africa.
It is a remarkably rich centre of biodiversity with 86 mammal species, 280 birds, 120 butterflies and about 100 varieties of orchid.
The main attractions in Nyungwe are the large troops of Ruwenzori colobus monkeys and Chimp tracking. Guides lead you through the forest in search of these elusive creatures; and you should also encounter the striking l’Hoest’s monkey and Grey-cheeked mangabey.
Nyungwe National Park was gazetted in time to save this remarkable forest from the depredations of agriculture. Fields of maize, beans and bananas are intensively cultivated right up to the forest edge. There is also an abundance of tea plantations.
Nyungwe Forest is bisected by the winding tarmac road linking Butare to Cyangugu and the reserve’s terrain includes many steep slopes. Accommodation used to be provided only by the simple Gisakura ORTPN Resthouse, but now One&Only has the elegant Nyungwe House for discerning travellers. If you have a strong interest in birds and/or primates and other smaller forest wildlife, you could happily spend three days here.
Nyungwe’s primates include wild Chimpanzees which are slowly being habituated – the chances of seeing them are approximately 60% - and 8 species of monkey. Resident monkeys include large troops of the Albertine Rift endemic Rwenzori colobus (arboreal), the terrestrial L’Hoest’s monkey, the rare and elusive Albertine Rift endemic Owl-faced monkey, Silver monkey, Grey-cheeked mangabey, Dent’s mona monkey, very cheeky Vervet monkeys and Olive baboon. Three species of Galago (bushbaby) and the peculiar Potto constitute Nyungwe’s nocturnal primates. Other resident mammals include Leopard, Bushbuck, three species of forest-dwelling Duiker, Bushpig, Giant forest hog, Congo clawless otter, various forest-dwelling squirrels and Tree Hyrax. Reptiles include at least 12 snakes and the lizard fauna includes at least 5 chameleon species.
Along the road, birders can seek many of the sought-after Albertine Rift Endemics, including the Handsome francolin, the remarkable, 'painted' Rwenzori turaco, Mountain black boubou, Rwenzori batis, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Archer's robin-chat, Rwenzori hill babbler, Red-faced woodland warbler, the rare Grauer's rush warbler, Neumann's warbler, Mountain masked apalis, the near-endemic Kungwe apalis and a cluster of colourful Sunbirds including Ruwenzori double-collared, Purple-throated, Blue-headed and the stunning Regal Sunbird. It is the only place where birders can seek the Red-collared Mountain Babbler in safe conditions.
There is an extensive system of forest trails around the Gisakura Resthouse, including the enjoyable ‘Waterfall Trail’. Around the Uwinka Campsite, there are the seven ‘Coloured Trails’, each marked with a different colour and leading downhill from the campsite. Take note that the reserve’s trails are for the most part quite challenging and can be slippery, so require a reasonable level of fitness.
The park holds at least 100 species of Butterfly of which over 40 are regionally endemic. The forest’s flora includes around 200 species of hardwood trees such as African Mahogany and Smooth-barked Albizia; stands of Bamboo; impressive Giant Tree ferns and about 200 species of Orchid.
The canopy walkway is a must see, for all who visit this beautiful park.