Size of Nyungwe forest national park
The size of Nyungwe forest national park as of today is 970 sq. km. The park comprises rainforest, bamboo, bogs, swamps, and grassland vegetation. Nyungwe forest is among the oldest rainforests in Africa and it receives an annual rainfall of over 2000m. Originally the national park covered over 1140 sq. km but due to human settlement, the vegetation was cleared by people who wanted to live around the area.
The people cleared land for settlement, agriculture, and firewood but later the government gazetted this land for tourism activities which meant that people were not allowed to clear land anymore. Nyungwe forest national park is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda on the borders of DR Congo and Burundi in Rusizi district.
With just 970 sq. km Nyungwe forest national park protects more than 500 chimpanzees, more than 12 primates, 85 mammals, 310 bird species, and 1086 plant species. Nyungwe forest national park is located 218km from Kigali city and it can be accessed by road transport in 4-5 hours or by air transport using Akagera Aviation.
Attractions in Nyungwe forest national park
After understanding the size of Nyungwe forest national park in Rwanda, you need to know the key attractions and activities done in the park;
Chimpanzees: Chimpanzees in this park have found their home in the tropical rainforests of Nyungwe. The chimpanzees have attracted a lot of people to this national park reason they share 98% DNA with human beings. There are over 500 chimpanzees in the whole national park of Nyungwe forest but two chimpanzee families can be trekked in Nyungwe forest national park and these are found in Nyungwe forest and Cyamudongo forest
Monkeys: The other attractions in Nyungwe forest national park are the monkeys and these are over 12 different species. Only one species of monkeys is habituated for tourism purposes and these are the black and white colobus monkeys. The other remaining money species in Nyungwe forest national park are vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, dent’s mona monkeys, crowned monkeys, golden monkeys, silver monkeys, grey checked mangabeys, blue monkeys, l’hoest’s monkeys, olive baboons, and owl-faced monkeys among others.
Mammals: There are over 85 mammals in Nyungwe forest national park but unfortunately, no game drives are done in the park to see these animals. The mammals are seen during some of the park activities such as nature walks, trekking, birding, and much more. Some of the mammals in Nyungwe forest national park include buffaloes, elephants, golden cats, klipspringers, otters, duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs among others.
Birds: There are over 310 bird species in Nyungwe forest national park that can be spotted with the help of a birder who takes you to different birding spots. Some of the birds in Nyungwe forest national park include Regal sunbird, dusky crimsonwing, Albertine owlet, handsome spurfowl, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Albertine owlet, blue-headed sunbird, archer’s robin-chat, buff-throated apalis, dusky crimsonwing, dwarf honeyguide, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, stripe breasted tit, strange weaver, shelley’s crimsonwing, Rwenzori turaco, rockefeller’s sunbird, red-throated alethe, and red-faced woodland warbler.
The canopy walk: The canopy walk attracts thousands of people each year in Nyungwe forest national park and it’s the only place where this activity can be done in Rwanda. The canopy walk is a long bridge 90m long that is raised 50m above the ground. This canopy walk in Nyungwe is used by tourists that want to have an aerial view of the national park.
Activities that can be done in Nyungwe forest national park
Chimpanzee trekking: Chimpanzee trekking is done among 2 chimpanzee families that are fully habituated in Nyungwe forest national park. Chimpanzee trekking is done to enable tourists to spend 1 hour with the chimpanzees of the park. chimpanzee trekking begins with a briefing where rules and regulations of the trekking activity are taught. Later the armed ranger guides lead the trekkers into the jungle to search for the apes but as the searching is going there are opportunities of meeting different park animals, birds, water sources, and plant species. When the chimpanzees are found, trekkers are given 1 hour to be around them, watch them do daily activities, take photos and learn about their habits.
Canopy walk: This was introduced in 2010 and it’s one of the best canopy walks in Africa. The canopy walk is done by people above the age of 6 years and it starts from Uwinka where participants first learn about the rules and regulations of the activity before using the Igishigishigi trial to connect to the starting point of the canopy. The canopy walk lasts 2 hours and the participants do move on a 90m long bridge that is raised 50m from the ground having an aerial view of the park animals, birds, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and lakes around the park.
Nature walks: The nature walks in Nyungwe forest national park are done inside the park using the well-designed walking trials. The nature walks in Nyungwe forest national park are led by the armed ranger guides who lead tourists through different walking trails with opportunities of meeting different waterfalls, rivers, plants, birds, mammals, and primates. Some of the walking trails in Nyungwe forest national park include Isumo trail, Congo Nile trail, Ngabwe trail, Muzimu trail, and Igishigishi trail among others.
Birding: Nyungwe forest national park is one of the best birding areas in Rwanda with over 310 bird species that have been so far recorded in the park. The birding activities are guided in Nyungwe forest national park and it’s the rangers that take you through different birding spots to see different bird species. Some of the bird species include Regal sunbird, Rwenzori turaco, dusky crimsonwing, Rockefeller’s sunbird, Albertine owlet, handsome spurfowl, strange weaver, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Albertine owlet, blue-headed sunbird, buff-throated apalis, dusky crimsonwing, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Shelley’s crimsonwing, stripe breasted tit, dwarf honeyguide, red-throated alethe, archer’s robin-chat, and red-faced woodland warbler.
When to visit Nyungwe forest national park
Nyungwe forest national park can be visited at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest and these are the drier months of June to October and December to February. During these months, there is little and sometimes no rainfall, the vegetation is short giving unclear views of park animals, trekking trails are dry, and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Tourists can still visit Nyungwe forest national park in March, May, October, and November which are the rainy seasons. These months favor the budget travelers because they get huge discounts on accommodation facilities however during such months, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, vegetation is tall giving unclear views of the animals and the roads leading to the park are impassable.
Accommodation in Nyungwe forest national park
Several accommodation facilities are built around Nyungwe forest national park to provide accommodation for tourists that visit that park. These accommodation facilities are categorized into the budget, mid-range, and luxury options with where to stay depending on your budget. The accommodations include One & Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Top View Hotel, Gisakura Guest House, Gisakura Family Hostel, E.R.A Gisakura Visitor Guesthouse, Emeraude Kivu Resort, Peace Guesthouse, Hotel du Lac, Rusizi Progress Hotel, Golden Monkey Hotels, Comoran Lodge, and Delta Resort Hotel among others.
In conclusion, besides knowing the size of Nyungwe forest national park, you need to know that any trip to the park can be extended to other travel destinations such as Akagera national park for wildlife viewing and Volcanoes national park for gorilla trekking safaris.