Overview – Nyungwe Forest NP
The remarkably accessible Nyungwe Forest National Park was first protected in 1933. Today it contains the largest remaining tract of montane (mountain) rainforest anywhere in East Africa. Montane rainforests are a rare and unique ecosystem, found only in mountainous areas above 1,000m/3,281ft within the tropical belt. At Nyungwe Forest NP, the main attraction is primates – 13 species, including chimpanzees, are here. Another highlight is the suspended canopy walk, offering a bird’s eye view into the dense forest.
Pros & Cons
- Important montane rainforest with rich biodiversity
- Very accessible with a main road through the park
- 130km network of hiking trails
- Habituated chimpanzees
- 13 primate species recorded
- Has the region’s only canopy walk
- Birders’ paradise with several Albertine Rift endemics
- The main road detracts from its wilderness appeal
- Relatively high fees for every activity
- Chimpanzee tracking isn’t as easy as in Tanzania or Uganda
Although not a classic safari destination, Nyungwe Forest National Park has a good variety of animals. Forest wildlife is often difficult to spot, but primates are the exception. Thirteen species are present, including chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys which can both be tracked on separate activities. Another highlight is the terrestrial l'Hoest's monkey which can often be found along the main road and in the campsite.
The scenery of Nyungwe Forest National Park is nothing less than spectacular. Even a drive on the main road will offer incredible views of the pristine rainforest canopy stretching over endless hills towards the Burundi border. A hike to a forest waterfall or to the vast open swamp area offer different glimpses into the stunning range of habitats.
Weather & Climate
Nyungwe is a true rainforest, located at high altitude, which results in a wet, cool climate. It can rain at any time, but June to September is considered the Dry season as rainfall is a bit lower during these months. Due to the proximity to the equator, temperatures don’t change much throughout the year, but nighttime temperatures are about 10°C/50°F less than daytime temperatures.
Best Time to Visit
Nyungwe can be visited throughout the year but waterproof clothing is necessary. General hiking and monkey watching is usually most enjoyable during the drier months, from June to September. However, if your main interest is chimp tracking, the wet months, from October to May, are the most productive. Specialist birders might also have to brave the wettest months to get the best results.
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Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.
A fairytale forest
Nyungwe only became a national park in 2004, established to protect its lush rainforest that is home to a staggering 13 species of primates. These include huge troops of colobus monkeys that look like aging hippies with long white beards,...