Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe is a true rain forest, typically receiving in excess of 2, 000 mm of precipitation annuary. It is also one of the oldest forests in Africa, which is one of the reason it boasts such a high level of diversity. Scientific opinion is that Nyungwe, along with other forests of the Albertine Rift, was largely unaffected by the drying up of the lowland areas during the last ice age, and thus become a refuge for forest plants and animals which have subsequently recolonised areas such as the Congo Basin.
One of the central planks in ORTPN’s tourism – diversification programme is Nyungwe National Park, 980 square kilometers of hilly jungle cloaked terrain in the country’s South – West, o the boarder with Burundi and the DRC, and surely one of the undiscovered gems of African environmental tourism.
Ranging between 1,600 and 2,950 meters in altitude, the park is contiguous with Kibira National Park in Burundi, together with the two protected areas form the largest block of forest in East Africa. Nyungwe was originally set aside as a reserve in 1933, which although relatively effective, still saw it lose about 20 per cent as its area by 1984, when a coordinated forest-protection plan was implemented. It was elevated to national park status in March 2004.
Nyungwe is probably one of the most important bird watching destination in Rwanda with more than 280 bird species recorded of which the majority are forest specialists and 26 are regional endemics whose range is restricted to a few forests along the Albertine Rift. Bird watching in Nyungwe can be rather frustrating, since the vegetation is thick and many birds tend to stick to the canopy, but almost everything you see ranks as a good sighting.
The priorities of more serious birdwatchers will depend to some extent on their experience elsewhere in Africa. It is difficult to imagine, for instance, that a first – time visitor to the continent will get as excited about a drab chubb’s cisticola as they will when they first see a paradise flycatcher or green pigeon. For somebody coming from southern Africa, at least half of what they will see will be new to them, with a total of about 60 relatively wide spread east African forest specials headed by the likes of great blue turaco. Ross’s turaco, red – breasted sparrow hawk and white – headed wood hoopoe.
Nyungwe forest is home to 75 different species of mammals with most of these being small and or nocturnal making it difficult for sighting except the primates. Chimpanzees are the main attraction in nyungwe forest with chimp trekking happening daily early morning. The forest is home to troops of 300 colobus monkeys or more roaming in the trees, giving visitors to the forest another engaging activity.
The Rwandan chimp population of at least 500 individuals is now thought to be confined to Nyungwe national park (including a small community in the Cyamudongo Forest), but it remains faintly possible that a small population recorded in the early 1990’s in the more northerly and badly degraded Gishwati forest still persists.
During the rainy season, a troop of chimpanzees often moves into Uwinka and the coloured trail as well, and it is up to you to decide whether to pay extra to track chimpanzees.
Unlike most other primates, chimpanzees don’t live in troops, but instead form extended communities of up to a hundred individuals, which roam the forest in small socially mobile sub groups that often revolve around a few close family members such as brothers or a mother and daughter. Male chimps normally spend their entire life within the community into which they were born, whereas females are likely to migrate into a neighbouring community at some point after reaching adolescence.
Nature and hiking walks in Nyungwe forest
Nyungwe forest has steep landscape and extensive network of hiking trails making it a perfect destination for hikers. The trails are different in length, ease of hiking and features, you are therefore advised to ask the ranger guides for advice on which trail to take according to the attractions you are seeking. The trails are through a diverse landscape and represent the most scenic way of exploring the forest. Below are some of the trails you can choose to take on while hiking in the forest.
Canopy Walk in Nyungwe forest
The canopy walk in nyungwe forest is along the Igishigishigi trail. The walkway is accessible as part of a specialized guided tour along the trail. The canopy walk hangs 60 meters above the forest floor between giant trees and towers, which provides a stunning view of the park.
Cultural tours in Nyungwe national park
To complete your experience of Nyungwe forest, add on your itinerary a visit to the community to engage in the rich Rwandan culture. The communities along the boundaries of this forest have co-existed with it and helped to some extent in its preservation after understanding its importance to the Rwanda’s eco system. There has been efforts to launch community-based experiences to preserve the culture of Rwanda and offer the visitors a rich experience. Once at the village you can be part of activities such as a dance ceremony, banana beer production, and bow-and-target shooting, traditional medicine making and maize-grinding etc.
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Uganda is generally a very safe destination today, Kampala is known as one of the safest capital cities in Africa. However, as a traveler always be careful to your belongings.