Nyungwe National Park, located in Rwanda’s southwest corner, is one of the world’s most majestic rainforests. Covering approximately 1000 square kilometres and home to thirteen primate and 300 bird species, Nyungwe is a naturalist’s dream.
Although Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda gets all the gorilla-related attention, Nyungwe National Park is a spot to contend with. With plentiful activities and misty rainforest views, tourists would be remiss to skip this gem. Established in 2004, Nyungwe sits right next to Rwanda’s Burundian border and includes an array of rainforest, grassland, swamps, and bamboo forests.
This diverse park is home to hundreds of unique animal species that light up any Nyungwe visit. Chimpanzee trekking is one of the most popular offerings, and much more affordable than gorilla trekking at $95 U.S.D. Chimpanzee trekking is by no means easy, and guests often have to be ready to go by 5am in order to keep up with these active creatures. Other primates in Nyungwe include L’Hoest’s monkeys, owl faced monkeys, Golden monkeys, Vervet monkeys, and more. Birders visiting Nyungwe will also be delighted, as of the 300 bird species in the park, 27 are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Bird watching tours and hikes are also available, and the park guides are incredibly knowledgeable about Nyungwe’s avian population.
In addition to the bird watching trips and primate treks, waterfall hikes, tea plantation visits, a canopy walk, and other activities are also available. The 200 metre canopy walk is particularly memorable, featuring a two hour hike through the forest often including glimpses of primates and colorful birds.
These activities can be arranged through the Nyungwe National Park Headquarters or an independent guide company. Most activities can be booked just a few days in advance either at the park office or through the Rwandan Development Board in Kigali. In addition to separate prices for the varying activities, park entrance fees are $20 U.S.D. per person.
Nyungwe National Park, while gorgeous, can be a little challenging to get to as compared to the rest of Rwanda. It’s much easier for those with their own rented cars or transport, but travellers relying on public transit can make it happen as well. There are several entrances to Nyungwe National Park, and the Eastern entrance can be reached by travellers coming straight from Kigali, and those stopping at Kibuye or Cyangugu on Lake Kivu along the way can head to the Western entrance. It takes about an hour to cross the park by car, driving from the East to the West.
Accommodation options in Nyungwe National Park are slightly limited, but plans to expand offerings are underway. For now, budget and midrange travellers should check out Gisakura Guest Hosue and Kitabi EcoCenter. Though located on the opposite ends of the park, both Kitabi and Gisakura are located just a few kilometres from the Eastern and Western entrances to the park. Kitabi’s panoramic views and camping options are as gorgeous as they are reasonably priced, and both options have good meal options and are incredibly helpful when it comes to activity planning. For the more luxurious crowd, Nyungwe House, the recently renovated property by One&Only Resorts, is a fantastic choice. Tucked away in tea fields and outfitted with an infinity pool that peers out into the expansive rainforest, Nyungwe House itself is often considered the destination.