Rwanda Safaris To Nyungwe Forest National Park

These pre-planned Rwanda safaris in Nyungwe Forest national park are all-inclusive and can be customized to meet any traveler’s demands.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee Trekking, Nature Walks, Birding, Community, Holidays

Nyungwe forest national park is one of the few remaining tropical mountainous rain forests in Africa located in south western part of Rwanda. The Nyungwe forest is a home to about 13 primate species which include habituated ChimpanzeesRare Angolan colobus monkey, l’hoest monkey, owl faced, baboons, red tailed monkeys among others which are always visited on foot. Some of them being rare this range. Besides primates the forest is rich in terms of bird life with excellent opportunities to see variety of fascinating bird species some of them being endemic to the Albertine rift region hosting around 310 bird species. Besides these visitors are open to nature walks to see waterfalls, Forest canopy walk, as well as enjoying culture of people who stay adjacent to this forest

Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in the South Western part of Rwanda. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park.

It covers an area about 1020 and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level. This vast unspoilt rain forest receives an annual 2000mm of rain.

Wildlife in Nyungwe Forest

Wildlife is the main reason most people make trips to national parks and Nyungwe definitely satisfies that qualification. The park is home to about 85 mammals, 13 primate species, over 280 bird species, some of them endemic to the region, over 1060 plant species, 32 amphibians, 38 reptiles and various species of butterflies. This nature hub is quite rich with all things natural and colorful.

The most sought after primate in the park is the chimpanzee, but there are several monkeys including the rare and elusive golden monkey. Other primates include the olive baboon, red-tailed monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L’hoest’s monkey, the Angola Colobus and a few more. Other animals in he park include; golden cats, the fronted duiker, golden cats and others.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Birds in Nyungwe Forest national park

Nyungwe forest has quite the variety of bird life. With more than 280 different bird species, 27 of these birds are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. It is a worthwhile place to visit for any bird watcher. Bird life International declared the the park “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda”. Some of the birds you might catch sight of in Nyungwe include: Giant horn bills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrow hawks. The blue Turaco is the birding highlight here.

Birds, chimpanzees, monkeys, butterflies, exotic plants and trees, an exciting canopy walk high up in the air, breathtaking scenery. What’s not to like? Nyungwe Forest National Park is found on Rwanda’s border with Tanzania at a somewhat lower altitude although it is more hilly compared to the majority of national parks in countries neighboring Rwanda. This park is innovatively carved with a maze of swamps which flow into River Nyungwe Forest. It park is mainly dominated by a savannah landscape, open grassland plus acacia woodland.

The park is found 2 hours from Kigali in the Eastern Rwanda province. Most of the road is paved until approximately thirty minutes drive to the park gate when it becomes a bit dusty and bumpy. Some of the wildlife you will find within Nyungwe Forest includes elephants, buffaloes, giraffes as well as zebras, plus over twelve different species of antelopes, plus the hard to find lions plus leopards. In case you have take game drives in countries such as South Africa and Kenya then you may not be really impressed with the small national parks of Rwanda. Here the animals are not as many as in other parks such as Serengeti, although a trip to this park will offer a unique one day adventure during your stay in Kigali.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is a wonderful place for bird watching with a diversity of species of nearly 525 bird Species (4 of which are endemic), plus a great profusion of migrant birds. The hard to find Shoebill Stork may be seen here as well together with the beautiful Papyrus Gonolek in danger of extinction.

Nyungwe National Park was in fact named after the beautiful river Nyungwe Forest which flows down the eastern boundary of the park. Nyungwe Forest Park is Rwanda’s most prominent reserve. In comparison to other areas within Rwanda, this place is somewhat warm and is found at a lower altitude and its terrain is mainly blanketed with dense, woodland characterized by broad leaves, and a transparent acacia woodland in addition to patches of rolling grasslands that are dotted with vivid stands of the cactus such as the Euphorbia candelabra shrub.

Moving to the western part of these plains you will find a string of low altitude beautiful mountains that reach heights between 1,600 meters and 1,800 meters. However, the eastern part of the park you will find a large wetland, and then the amazing River Nyungwe Forest directly pours into a complex of a number of lakes that are connected by extensive papyrus swamps plus zigzag water streams. Unfortunately, the total wildlife population within this area has significantly been reduced by poaching in the recent years, and currently what was once the northern part of the park is today a human settlement for refugees that returned in the country. The other lakes found inside this national park are often used as water as sources of water for their cattle especially the long horned Ankole cows; these are the commonly seen large mammals in this area. You will be amazed the large number of wild animals you will find inside the park for example: giraffes, hippos, buffaloes, zebras, antelopes plus elephants. The lakes are home to some of the largest hippo populations you will find across the whole of Africa, as well as an overwhelmingly big number of giant crocodiles, in addition to leopards, lions plus black rhinos which unfortunately are less in numbers. Also, the birdlife here in Nyungwe Forest is amazing with close to 550 bird species that include all species of scarcity plus some huge flocks of water birds. .

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the wildlife reserves across Africa in which you may have a drive for several hours without coming across any another safari vehicle, and not being able to guess the wild animal you are going to encounter in the following couple of minutes. Furthermore, Nyungwe Forest is among the most charming savanna reserves, having its impressive lakes that are surrounded by continuously varying vegetation, forests plus high beautiful mountains.


Activities in Nyungwe Forest

Chimpanzee Tracking

Nyungwe has a large population of chimpanzees. And many who visit the park often go on a chimpanzee tracking adventure. There is no one season for chimpanzee tracking. It can be done all year round.

The chimpanzees are not habituated like the gorillas so there is no guarantee of a sighting at particular places. But more often than not you will find the chimpanzees because they are quite common in the forest. The chimps are not as settled and orderly as the habituated gorillas are, which makes for an exciting tracking experience. With well trained and experienced guides, you will of course find the chimpanzees.

Monkey tracking

Monkey tracking might not be talked about as much as gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking usually are, but it is a fun and exciting activity as well. In Nyungwe forest there is quite the variety of monkey species. Including the rare and elusive golden monkey.

Monkey tracking trails in the park include:

  • The Waterfall Trail: this trail runs from Gisakura guest house to the Tea Estate where the colobus monkeys live.
  • The Bigugu Trail: as its name suggests, it leads up to Mt Bigugu. The trail runs up to the highest peak of the 2950m high mountain.
  • The Kamiranzovu Trail: this is a complete nature walk. It leads you to explore an entirely separate eco-system full of marshes and orchids.
  • The Unwika Campsite Trails: these are two trails. The Grey Trail which is 1 km long and the Red Trail which is 10 km long. They both lead to habituated group of about 400 Colobus monkeys.


Nyungwe forest national park boasts of over 285 bird species.27 of these species are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. Lots of colourful and interesting birds to see, the most notable being the Blue turaco. Ruwenzori Nightjar Caprimulgus ruwenzorii, Kungwe Apalis Apalis argentea, Ruwenzori Apalis Apalis ruwenzorii, Stripe-breasted Tit Parus fasciiventer, Archer’s Robin-chat Cossypha archeri, Dusky Crimson Wing Cryptospiza jacksoni, Ruwenzori Batis Batis diops, Shelley’s Crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi , Handsome Francolin Francolinus nobilis and Neumann’s Warbler Hemitesia neumanni are some of the birds that you might see in the park.

Canopy walk

The canopy walk above Nyungwe forest is the only one of its kind in Africa. Built at an impressive 50m above the forest the Nyungwe canopy walk is not for the faint hearted. If you are afraid of heights you might want to get rid of the phobia before you travel because such a splendid sight should be seen by everyone.

Hiking and Biking

One of the best ways to explore and enjoy the beauty of Nyungwe forest is by taking a hike through the forest. There are numerous trails in the forest. More than 130km of hiking trails for you to enjoy, as you walk through nature, view beautiful scenery and keep fit as and healthy as well. After all safaris are supposed to be good for your health. The Igishigishigi Trail and the bigugu trail are two of the most popular trail. One leads to the canopy walk, and the other leads to mount Bigugu.

Mount Bigugu

Mount Bigugu found inside the park, and rising to a height of about 2950km above seas level is an attraction by itself as well. Here you can enjoy some mountain climbing, and beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

Community and culture

Just like most African communities, the Rwandan people in the Nyungwe have very rich and interesting culture. Discover Rwandan food, be entertained by cultural performers in song and dance, learn more about the history of the area and the country, and enjoy interaction with the locals. There are centers such as the Banda Community Village, Kitabi cultural village, and entertainment groups such as the friends of Nyungwe and the Cyamundongo cultural troupe, that bring the culture of the Rwandese people to life in different ways.

There is much much more to see and enjoy in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Let us help you plan your safari to Nyungwe Forest.

Accommodation in Nyungwe Forest National Park

So you have decided to go on safari to Rwanda, and on your agenda is a visit to Nyungwe forest. Question is where do you stay for the night, or if you’re spending more than one day, then for the duration of your safari.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge (One & Only Nyungwe House) Offers an exclusive window to Africa’s fascinating wildlife and culture curating immersive tailored experiences. It was set up in 2010 and has fast become a favorite with tourists in the area. It is situated in a tea plantation close to the Nyungwe forest. This lodge was the first ever 5 star accommodation establishment in the region. It has some of the best facilities in Rwanda and very good service.

Gisakura Guest House is comfortable accommodation for people working within smaller budgets. This guest house is found about 2 km from the park. It is located close to the Gisakura tea estate along the road to Rusizi. Gisakura offers opportunities to visit chimpanzees, the canopy walkway, bird watching, and hikes along different trails.

Nyungwe Top Hill View Hotel might not be a five star hotel but it offers pretty good accommodation close to the park. This hotel which opened in 2011, is only a five minutes drive Nyungwe forest national park and a 4-5 hour drive from Kigali and has some very amazing views of Nyungwe forest. Accommodation here is in red brick cottages furnished with only necessary furniture. There is a dining area and a lounge.

If you are travelling to Rwanda for a safari in Nyungwe, consult our travel experts on what place of accommodation would best suit your needs.

Best time to visit Rwanda

Visiting Rwanda for gorilla tracking can be done all year round. The best time to travel to Rwanda is during the drier seasons, periods between December to early March and June to SeptemberDecember to March is a long dry season for Rwanda, with temperatures going up to 29 degrees Celsius for some days while the months of March – Mid MayJuly to September, on the other hand, are regarded as the rainy in the country.

Overall Rwanda has a good weather throughout the year but the dry season is more preferable. The weather is generally good in addition wildlife viewing is also more common during this time. For tourists interested in visiting gorillas – this is also the best time for gorilla tours since there is a minimal chance of rain during the trek and a good hiking terrain in the rainforest. We still suggest your waterproof clothing even during these drier months, as this Equatorial climate is very unpredictable. This period is also a peak season; hence the prices can be higher on things like accommodation and car hire