Gishwati-Mukura national park
Gishwati-Mukura national park is located in the western part of Rwanda, and home to some of the endangered chimpanzees. The national park was gazetted in 2015 which makes it the newest national park in the country. Not visited by so many, the national park is slowly attracting tourists because of the attractions that are within the forest that covers a total area of 36 sq. km.
Gishwati-Mukura national park is made up of 2 forests which are Gishwati and Mukura which were so big connecting to the areas of Lake Kivu and birders of DR Congo. The forest reduced after the 1994 Rwanda genocide when the victims moved to this area and cleared land for settlement. Gishwati Mukura forest as of today is under the management of Gishwati Area Conservation Program together with the Great Ape Trust.
Gishwati-Mukura national park is the smallest national park in the country but it protects endangered animals like chimpanzees, golden monkeys, and other animals such as vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, jackals, civets, olive baboons, birds such as Ruwenzori Turaco, grey crowned cranes, Ruwenzori Batis, black-faced apalis, Abyssinian ground-thrush, and red-faced barbet among others.
Things to do in Gishwati-Mukura national park
The park is home to endangered chimpanzee species of which some are habituated for tourism purposes. Chimpanzee trekking is the most done activity in this park and the activity is done by those that are above the age of 15 years with valid chimpanzee trekking permits. The chimpanzee trekking activity in Gishwati-Mukura national park starts with a briefing at the park offices where trekkers are taught about the dos and don’ts of the chimpanzee trekking activity before armed ranger guides lead them into the jungle.
During the search for chimpanzees, the trekkers get an opportunity to meet park animals such as golden monkeys, duikers, civets, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, l’hoests monkeys, birds, water sources, and different plants. Once you locate the chimpanzees, you will be given one hour to be around them as you learn about their habits, take photos and watch them do day to day activities like hunting, nesting, playing, breastfeeding, and much more.
Golden monkey trekking
This is another primate trekking activity that can be done in Gishwati-Mukura national park. Just like chimpanzee trekking, the trekking activity starts with a briefing where participants are taught about the rules and regulations of the activity before armed ranger guides lead them into the jungle. While in the jungle searching for these apes, the trekkers are able to meet other park primates, mammals, birds, and different bird species. When the golden monkeys are located, the trekkers are given 1 hour to be around these apes, watch them do daily activities, take photos and learn about their habits.
Birding is another activity that is carried out in Gishwati-Mukura national park, the park is among the best birding sites in Rwanda because it harbors over 230 bird species among which 20 are endemic to the Albertine region. Birding activities in Gishwati-Mukura national park are guided and it’s the armed ranger guides that do take you to different birding spots to look out for birds.
Some of the birds you can encounter in Gishwati-Mukura national park include Regal Sunbird, strange weaver, cardinal woodpecker, booted eagle, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Ruwenzori Turaco, purple-breasted sunbird, Abyssinian ground-thrush, Ruwenzori Batis, black-faced apalis, red-faced barbet, Strange weave, short-tailed warbler, Dusky Crimsonwing, yellow ramped tinker bird, Martial Eagle, handsome francolin, slaty flycatcher, Mountain Yellow Warblers, Red-throated Alethe, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Woodhoopoe, great blue turaco, grasshopper buzzard, and grey crowned crane among others.
Best time to go to Gishwati-Mukura national park
Gishwati-Mukura national park is open at all times of the year but there are months that have been proved to be the best. The drier months are the best for a visit to this park and they occur from June to September and December to February. These months are characterized by little or no rainfall which leaves the trekking and hiking trails less slippery, the vegetation is short giving clear views of the animals and the roads leading to the park are passable. Tourists intending to visit Gishwati-Mukura national park in the dry season and want to trek chimpanzees are advised to book their chimpanzee permits in advance.
Budget travelers can visit Gishwati-Mukura national park in the rainy season to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities. The rainy season occurs from March to May and October to November and is characterized by little or no rainfall which makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation tall giving unclear views of the animals, and the roads leading to the park impassable.
Where to stay while on a safari in Gishwati-Mukura national park?
Gishwati-Lodge is the only lodge in Gishwati-Mukura national park and it’s located inside the park. Tourists though don’t have to worry about where they will stay because there are several accommodation facilities that are built around the park. These range from budget to mid-range to luxury and they include Emeraude Kivu Resort, Hakuna Matata, Golden Monkey Hotels, INZU Lodge, Peace Guest Hotel, KCCCEM Guest House, Musanto Hotel, The Uwinka Campsite, Gisakura Family Hostel, Muhabura Mountain Lodge, Hotel Paradise Malahide, and Comoran Lodge among others.