Nyungwe National Park

Lying on a surface area of 1 000 km2 of imposing hills in the south-east of Rwanda, the Nyungwe National Park is the greatest reserve and one of the oldest high altitude forests in the Eastern Africa. It existed before the last glaciation. Being unique as a result of the diversity of its flora, the forest is a home to 200 different tree species and a myriad of flowers, including the giant lobelia and a number of colored orchids.

Nyungwe is especially renowned for its primates: 13 species on the whole, including the closest ancestors of the human being, chimpanzees, and the magnificent kingfishers as well as the Angolan colobus monkeys, which are agile acrobats. Being the most significant ornithological site of Rwanda, Nyungwe is home to 300 bird species, of which 24 are endemic in some high altitude forests of the Rift.

The most beautiful bird in Nyungwe Forest is the big blue turaco – a bird that has a strange blue color, with red and green feathers, which flutters from tree to tree in psychedelic processions. An important network of well maintained pedestrian tracks takes you through the forest to water falls and panoramic sights. A comfortable and rustic inn and a perfectly well-located camp are located on the main road. You can visit the reserve in one day from Butare or Cyangugu. Nonetheless, Nyungwe requires more time. Anyone wishing to see the chimpanzees or other smaller primate species on the spot will need at least two days – and lovers of ornithology may never want to leave.

Forest and Canopy walks: Visitors interested in taking walks in Nyungwe forest have two alternatives, a canopy or low ground forest walk. Nyungwe National Park is special because it is the only national park where nature lovers can go for a true canopy walk. The canopy walk in Nyungwe forest is the best in East Africa. The canopy walk starts at the Uwinka Visitors Center and goes through a hanging platform that is about 45 meters above the ground.  From these heights, visitors get spectacular views of the rain-forest, animals and birds.

There is no doubt that the canopy walk is amazing and adventurous, but it can be scary for those with a fear of heights. Those who fear heights should instead go for the Forest walks. There are several hiking trails which go up to the forest interior. The trails are painted in different colors allowing visitors to spot the forest animals and birds in the interior. Some of the trails require 8 hours to complete.

The Igishigishigi Trail is the shortest while the Bigugu Trail leading up to the mountain is the most difficult taking at least 5 hours to complete. The water fall trail is designed to lead visitors to the beautiful waterfalls of the forest. Nature lovers with time to spare usually take time to complete each trail at a time. By the end of their time in the forest, they would have discovered and explored everything there is to know about this old forest including the primates.