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Rwanda Chimpanzee Trekking Tours

4.3/5  –  13 Rwanda Reviews

Chimps are our closest relatives, and seeing these primates at close proximity is a real privilege. Although less publicized than gorilla trekking, chimp trekking experiences can be quite similar. The intelligence and social structure of these animals make them fascinating subjects for observation, and no two visits are ever the same. The main chimpanzee community visited in Rwanda consists of about 40 individuals. Like humans, they tend to have strong personalities, and their expressive faces make their identities easily recognizable to us. You might be able to hear their pant-hooting, a communal loud calling session that can be triggered by anything that excites them – even you.

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6 Questions About Rwanda Chimp Trekking Tours


6 Questions About Rwanda Chimp Trekking Tours

Answered by Ariadne van Zandbergen

Is it worth going chimp trekking in Rwanda compared to other countries?

“The most popular countries for chimpanzee trekking are Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. The place to track chimps in Rwanda is Nyungwe Forest National Park. This beautiful, high-altitude forest is remarkably accessible and is home to 13 primate species. The park is worth visiting for its natural beauty, forest hikes and biodiversity alone. The opportunity to track chimps is a bonus. The chimpanzee trekking is highly recommended, but as Rwanda is still an emerging destination, sightings are a bit more hit-and-miss than in Uganda and Tanzania. In Rwanda, only one group of up to eight visitors can track chimps a day. This makes it a very exclusive experience and visitor numbers in the park are generally low compared to the main chimp tracking sites in Uganda. Tanzania offers fantastic chimp trekking in Mahale Mountains and Gombe National Parks, but these remote parks on Lake Tanganyika are very inaccessible. Getting here is either very time-consuming or expensive. Kibale Forest, the main chimp trekking destination in Uganda, and Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda are both easy to visit. The drives from their respective capitals take about five hours. Virunga Mountains National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offers chimpanzee trekking as well, and the park is usually visited as an add-on trip from Rwanda.”


Can I add a chimp trek in Rwanda to a gorilla trek?

“It is easy to add a Rwanda chimp watching experience to a gorilla trek. In fact, when visiting Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, further exploration of this beautiful country is highly recommended. Rwanda is a compact country and you can combine gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park with chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest on a short road trip. Although you can drive between the parks in a day, an overnight stop on the shore of Lake Kivu in the Albertine Rift Valley adds interest to the tour. If you have a bit more time, you can extend the trip further to include a visit to Akagera National Park for a classic Big Five safari. Wildlife densities in Akagera are not comparable to the most famous reserves in East Africa, but this off-the-beaten-track destination is incredibly scenic and rewarding in its own right.”


What fitness level is required?

“Chimpanzee trekking requires a reasonable amount of fitness. However, this really depends on the day. Every day is different. You might find chimps after 15 minutes or after two hours. And then, they might be stationary, feeding in trees, or they might be on the move. The latter can create a very challenging trek as you try to keep up with them moving through the undergrowth at high speed. Whether or not you’re fit and capable, it is important to come prepared. You’ll need good hiking shoes and a lightweight rain jacket. Long trousers are recommended too. You’ll be offered a walking stick, but bring your own if you have one. It’s a great help on slippery slopes. You’ll have the opportunity to hire a porter to carry your backpack with water, snacks and a camera. They can also help you stay steady when navigating difficult terrain.”


Is chimp trekking in Rwanda safe?

“Chimpanzee trekking is very safe. Incidents with visitors are almost unheard of. The chimps you’ll visit are habituated and they know that humans are no threat to them. However, it is important to pay attention during the safety briefing before your trek. Also be sure to listen to the instructions given by your guide, and to keep at the recommended distance from the chimps. Rwanda as a country can be considered a safe destination. Unfortunately, the country is stained by the memory of the genocide, which resulted from an ongoing conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi people. The genocide in Rwanda occurred 24 years ago and there have been no recurring incidents since. Today, Rwanda feels like a well-run country and the people are very friendly. As in any large urban area in the world, there can be problems with petty crime in cities and urban areas, and visitors should take normal safety precautions. None of this should be a problem if you book a tour with a reputable operator.”

Read more about Safety & Security in Rwanda 4

How much will this tour cost?

“Chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest costs US$90 on top of the park entrance fee of US$40. This is a bargain in comparison to gorilla trekking at US$1,500 in Rwanda. While some visitors literally come to Rwanda only for a gorilla trek, a chimp trek is almost always part of a larger tour. Mid-range tours including a gorilla trek, chimp trek and an overnight stay on the shore of Lake Kivu start at around US$3,000. A 3-day combined package of a classic savannah safari in Akagera NP and chimp trekking in Nyungwe NP starts at about US$1,500. A 6-day tour combining all three parks including chimp and gorilla trekking starts at around US$3,500.”


Are chimp sightings guaranteed?

“Chimp sightings are never guaranteed. Although habituated, the chimpanzees are totally wild. They move daily in search of food and they end the day with making a nest for the night. Males also spend a fair amount of time patrolling their territory. However, trackers work hard to find the chimps daily and the success rate is quite high. If the chimps are on the move, the quality of the sighting can depend on your fitness level too, as keeping up with them can be challenging. Most visitors will at least catch a glimpse, and if you find them feeding or resting, you will probably get to spend a very rewarding hour with them. All in all, these nimble primates are less sedentary than gorillas and sightings are altogether more hit-and-miss.”


Rwanda Reviews

4.3/5 13 Reviews
Heather Richardson  –  
South Africa ZA

Heather is a British travel / conservation journalist, and has written for publications and broadcasters such as the BBC, Departures, the Telegraph and the Sunday Times.

More than gorillas

The way Rwanda has positioned itself as one of the most exciting tourism destinations in Africa is seriously admirable. Its controversial president, Paul Kagame, has invited some of the top tourism operators to develop properties in the...

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Philip Briggs  –  
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

East Africa’s Phoenix State

Once regarded to be among the most fractious of African countries, Rwanda suffered multiple outbreaks of civil war and ethnic violence during its first 30 years as an independent state, culminating in the Genocide against the Tutsi that...

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evimeyer  –  
United States US
Reviewed: May 4, 2020
Rwanda is a hidden gem for wildlife observation

Our group of three pretty active seniors (63 ,66, 72) were traveling to Rwanda to observe mountain gorillas and do a more traditional safari. Two of us were birders, so naturally we focused on avian creatures a lot, but saw plenty of other...

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Christophe Iradukunda  –  
Rwanda RW
Reviewed: Aug 28, 2019
I had an amazing experience about Rwanda

About wildlife in Rwanda is good as in National Parks there are animals that can't be found any where in world, like Mountain Gorillas in Virunga Park, Lions, Rhinos and other wild animals in Akagera National park. In Nyungwe national park...

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Dalonda  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Feb 3, 2017
A definite "bucket list" adventure and I would do it again!

The entire trip was a positive overwhelming experience. It is one of the cleanest countries I have visited. The people seemed to be happy and proud of the culture and their country. I was never concerned for my safety. It is about a 3...

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Gail McKay Reviewed: Apr 21, 2015
Life-changing, life-affirming!

Foremost, the individualized attention that I received was incredible - from personal pick-up and transportation to the orientation and assisted itinerary. It was almost fate to be taken to a local restaurant - the Ogopogo - how terrific...

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