Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe National Park

Rwanda has positioned herself as a great primate tracking destination in Africa. Tucked within a thousand hills, Rwanda is an ultimate tour destination for chimpanzee trekking and gorilla tours. Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda at Nyungwe National Park (Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests) is arguably one of the most attractive Rwanda tour activities. Nyungwe forest stretch of montane rain forest is the largest in Africa which makes it home to several flora and fauna species. These include over 400 chimpanzees and 13 primate species.

Chimpanzees are very intelligent apes with attractive characters to watch. They are man’s closest relatives after Bonobos and share a lot of traits with about 98.7% DNA with humans. Chimpanzee lifespan is estimated to be up to 60 years in captivity.

For the purposes of chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe, two chimpanzee communities (groups) have been habituated (made familiar to human presence). These two groups live in both Nyungwe and cyamudongo forests, about 60 individuals and 30 chimpanzees respectively to each.

Tips for Chimpanzee trekking

  • The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking is 15 years
  • To trek chimps an individual must have purchased a permit
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and trousers
  • It is recommended to carry a jacket or rain coat
  • Wear water proof boots or hiking shoes
  • Carry insect repellent

Chimpanzee Trekking Experience in Nyungwe

Nyungwe Chimpanzee trekking starts very early in the morning and you will be informed of your guide of what time you are required to wake up, this could be as early as 5:00am. The experience starts with briefing at one of the starting points which are Uwinka, Gisakura or Kitabi. Chimps move so much through the forest and therefore to reach them, trekkers have to go out early before they leave their sleeping nests and head out for the day. It is always easy for the tourists to find the chimps because a group of trackers go earlier to the forest and identify where the chimps are then communicate to the guides.

Chimpanzee trekking is a completely amazing experience unique from gorilla trekking in that chimpanzees are much more playful, stubborn, noisy and very mobile. This is basically because they are lighter than the gorillas and that’s why spend most of their time leaping on trees. After following or trekking the chimpanzees for some time, they may settle down and allow you to observe them more closely and take photos. Take this time to observe and learn more about the chimpanzee behavior, how they groom each other, mate, play, socialize, start fights and breast feed.

Individuals may require to be physically fit to trek chimpanzees since they move very fast both on the ground and on the trees. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest may take between 2 to 6 hours or longer.

Note: Nyungwe forest is larger and chimpanzees tend to move deep into the forest which makes trekking harder unlike cyamudongo forest that is smaller and easy to cover in a short time on foot.

Best Time for Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe

Though chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe is open all year round, the best time for chimpanzee trekking is during the rainy or wet season. Unlike other activities that are best done in the dry season, for chimpanzee trekking it is during the rainy season when there is plenty of food in the forest for the chimps which limits their movements. In the dry season, chimps go deep into the forest which makes trekking more difficult to track.

Within the Nyungwe forest are also over 310 bird species including the spot flycatchers, Chapin’s flycatcher, purple-breasted sunbirds, red-collared mountain babblers, Ruwenzori turacos and many more. Other activities that can be done in Nyungwe forest include the canopy walk and primate tracking especially monkeys.

For more of primate tracking experiences, take Rwanda gorilla tours to Volcanoes National Park and have chance to trek the elusive mountain gorillas. Primate tracking offers memorable experiences especially in Rwanda and also during Uganda gorilla safaris or chimpanzee tracking tours. However, the thousands of wildlife leave Tanzania safaris and Kenya wildlife safaris incomparable and can easily be combined on a single trip.