Gishwati and Mukura forest
Gishwati and Mukura forests are located in the Albertine Rift in the western part of Rwanda comprising of montane forest type of vegetation. These forests were large extending to the Lake Kivu, Nyungwe forest, and forests of DR Congo. The forest decreased in the 1990s when survivors of Rwanda genocide move to the area and cleared land for settlement and crop growing.
The coming of the refugees destroyed everything because the land was used for agriculture, cattle keeping, and since most of the vegetation was cut down, there was soil erosion and landslides which resulted in the degradation of land.
In 2007, the government of Rwanda collaborated with Great Ape Trust to form a Gishwati Area Conservation Program which led to the idea of creating a national park in the country that would help to protect the forest and the animals that were finding their home in this forest. From the time Gishwati and Mukura forest were gazetted, the population of chimpanzees increases each and every time.
As of today Gishwati and Mukura forests have about 58 species of trees and shrubs among which include bamboo, indigenous hardwoods, giant tree ferns, and blue lichen. The forest is not only home to chimpanzees but also golden monkeys, Angolan colobus monkeys, l’hoest’s monkeys, and blue monkeys.
Giswhati and Mukura forest also host bird species among which include grey crowned cranes, red-throated alethe, martial eagle, Rwenzori batis, stripe-breasted tit, white-headed woodhoopoe, mountain yellow warbler, and oldworld warblers among others.
As of today Gishwati and Mukura forest are managed by the Rwanda development board which are in charge of the al national parks in the country, Forest of Hope that manages the reforestation and conservation of Gishwati and Mukura forest, and then Wilderness Safaris who manage all tourism activities in the national park. The main activity done in these forests is chimpanzee trekking but there are other activities done here such as golden monkey trekking, birding, hiking and nature walks, and community visits.
Things that can be done in Gishwati and Mukura forests
Chimpanzee trekking is the main activity done in Gishwati and Mukura forests in Rwanda. The forests do harbor endangered chimpanzees of which some have been habituated for tourism purposes. To trek chimpanzees in Gishwati and Mukura forest, you need a valid chimpanzee trekking permit which is sold to persons above the age of 15 years old.
The chimpanzee trekking activity in Gishwati and Mukura forest starts at the offices of Gishwati-Mukura national park where trekkers gather for a briefing from the park wardens. After the briefing, the trekkers are led by armed ranger guides through different trekking trails searching for the apes. During the search, they are able to meet other park animals such as monkeys, mammals, birds, and different plant species but the moment they spot the chimpanzees they are given 1 hour to be around them, learn about their habits, take photos, and watch them do daily activities.
Golden monkeys trekking
Golden monkey trekking is another activity that can be done in Gishwati and Mukura forest. The forest is home to a few population of golden monkeys that have been habituated for tourism purposes. Like chimpanzee trekking, golden monkey trekking starts with a briefing early in the morning at the national park offices where trekkers are taught about the rules and regulations of the activity and then given armed ranger guides to lead them into the forest.
While in the forest searching for golden monkeys, the trekkers are able to meet chimpanzees, different monkeys, olive baboons, duikers, civets, serval cats, mongoose, and different plant species. When the golden monkeys are found, trekkers are given 1 hour to be around them, watch them do daily activities, learn about their habits, and take photos.
Birding is another activity that is mostly done in Gishwati and Mukura forest because the forest is home to more than 230 bird species which makes it listed among the best birding spots in the country. Birding activities in this park are guided and during activity some of the birds you are likely to encounter include booted eagle, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Regal Sunbird, cardinal woodpecker, grasshopper buzzard, Ruwenzori Batis, purple-breasted sunbird, Abyssinian ground-thrush, Woodhoopoe, black-faced apalis, Strange weave, short-tailed warbler, red-faced barbet, Martial Eagle, handsome francolin, Dusky Crimsonwing, Ruwenzori Turaco, Mountain Yellow Warblers, yellow ramped tinker bird, slaty flycatcher, Red-throated Alethe, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, strange weaver, grey crowned crane, and great blue turaco among others.
Best time to go to Gishwati and Mukura forest
Gishwati and Mukura forest can be visited at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest. The drier months are the best for a visit to Gishwati and Mukura forests since they are characterized by little or no rainfall which makes the trails in int forest dry, the vegetation is always short giving clear views of animals that live in the forest and the roads leading to the forest are passable.
Tourists can still Gishwati and Mukura forest in the rainy season of March to May and October to November to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities. Travelers need to know that during these months there is plenty of rainfall, the trails in the park are muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall giving unclear views of the animals and the roads leading to the park are impassable.
Where to stay on a safari to Gishwati and Mukura forest?
There are several accommodation facilities where travelers on a safari to Gishwati and Mukura forest can stay and these are located outside the forest. These accommodation facilities do range from budget to mid-range to luxury options and they include Gishwati Lodge, Emeraude Kivu resort, Golden monkey hotels, INZU Lodge, peace guest hotel, KCCCEM guest house, The Uwinka campsite, Gisakura family hostel, Muhabura Mountain Lodge, and Comoran Lodge among others.
Can I get to Gishwati and Mukura forest in one day?
Yes, tourists can get to Gishwati and Mukura forest in one day using road transport or air transport. By air transport, Akegera aviation can transfer you from Kigali international airport to Gisenyi airport in just 45 minutes. From the airstrip, your driver can connect you to the forest or to the lodge in a few minutes.
Tourists can also get to Gishwati and Mukura forest using road transport in 2-3 hours from Kigali to Rubavu to Kivu to Rusizi to Gishwati and Mukura forest. Travelers from Mgahinga national park and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park can also access the park using Katuna border and Cyanika border in a single day.