Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda
Chimpanzee trekking is one of the popular primate safari activities in Rwanda – the land of a thousand hills, this adventurous activity is done in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a famous national park in Rwanda for chimpanzee trekking, this montane forest is the largest forest in Africa at a size of 394 square miles (1,020 square kilometers) and is located in Southwestern Rwanda.
The forest is nested in East Africa’s Albertine biodiversity – rich area and is a key water catchment area in Rwanda producing rains that feed river like River Nile the longest River in the world and others in Congo.
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom sharing 98.7% of our DNA, the chimpanzees are much like humans. They live in complex societies, make use of tools and engage in elaborate interactions and communicate through a range of sounds and gestures.
Chimpanzees are very raucous animals with a tendence of announcing their arrival with a cacophony of whooping and hollering as they swing through the treetops. However, they can also be elusive when they want to.
Chimpanzee Families in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to over 500 chimpanzees with a 90 habituated chimpanzee community which is open for tourism, these chimpanzees are found in different locations within the park that is Nyungwe Forest with 60 habituated chimpanzees and Cyamudongo forest with 30 habituated chimpanzee communities.
Cyamudongo Chimpanzee Group
The Cyamudongo group of chimpanzees lives in the Cyamudongo forest – a small patch of forest located to the east of Nyungwe Forest, the forest is part of Nyungwe Forest though it is physically detached from the larger and main forest.
Historically, Cyamudongo forest was a continuous forest to the park and it hosts 30 chimpanzees. Due to its small size, the forest will be covered even if the chimpanzees move further.
Uwinka Chimpanzee Group
This is the second habituated chimpanzee group in Nyungwe Forest National Park found in the main Nyungwe forest around Uwinka Area – park headquarter, this group has 60 chimpanzees. Due to the magnitude of the forest and terrain, the forest offers lesser chances of seeing the chimpanzees.
This is the newest habituated chimpanzee group in Nyungwe Forest National Park found in the main Nyungwe Forest and more remotely located in Gisovu, an area to the north of the park near Kibuye town.
Being a newly habituated chimpanzee group, Gisovu is not yet used to strangers.
Chimpanzee Trekking Experience
Chimpanzee trekking experience in Nyungwe Forest National Park starts as early 05:00 am with briefing at the park’s headquarters, in the briefing all the trekkers are taken through the rules and regulations to follow during the trek and how to behave while in the presence of the chimpanzees.
After the briefing and registration, visitors are group in 8 people and then be assigned a chimpanzee trekking section to do the trekking.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has three sections where the chimpanzee trekking is done, these are Kitabi section, Gisakura section and Uwinka section.
Head into the forests of Nyungwe looking for chimpanzees, these primates are very mobile and to find them takes 2-6 hours and as you hike through the forests, you will spot other primates such as olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, silver monkeys, golden monkeys, grey checked mangabey and different bird species such as Rwenzori bats, purple breasted sun bird among others.
When you find the chimpanzees, you are allowed to stay one hour in the presence of the chimpanzees. In this period of time, you are allowed to take photos of the chimpanzees, watch them breast feed the babies, jump from one branch to another among others. The chimpanzees you will encounter are habituated and they are so friendly, calm, playful and used to human presence.
Chimpanzee trekking permits
Chimpanzee trekking permits in Nyungwe Forest National Park are issued by Rwanda Development Board and one can get them either directly from RBD or through a trusted local operator.
Note: it is recommended you book your chimpanzee trekking permit months a head of your Rwanda Safari trip to avoid any inconveniences or missing out on the permits.
Important Tips on Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
- The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park is 15 years
- Any visitors planning to go chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park should purchase their permit months before the day of the experience
- Wear long – sleeved shorts and trousers to protect your skin form bites and scratches in the forest
- Carry a jacket or a raincoat since rain can pour at any time of the day
- Water proof boots or hiking shoes are must have to protect your feet from bruises
- Carry insect repellent to protect you from insect bites
When to Go to Nyungwe forest national park
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park can be done any time of the year, however the best time to go is late June through early September which is a dry season. This period is also a high tourist season in Nyungwe Forest National Park as well as Rwanda.
The rain season running from March to May is also a good time to go chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda, the period is characterized afternoon rain showers. The advantage going chimpanzee trekking in this season is that visitors enjoy discounted rates on some of the hotels and lodges and there is also less competition.
Getting There and Around Nyungwe
Nyungwe National Park is located 225 kilometers, 4 hours drive from Kigali City of Rwanda. The park can easily be accessed by road transport from Kigali City to Uwinka, there is an alternative of flying from Kigali
Where to stay in Nyungwe Forest National Park
There are many accommodation facilities and around Nyungwe Forest National Park where you can stay during Rwanda chimpanzee trekking safari, these accommodations range from budget, midrange and luxury.
- One and Only Nyungwe House
- Gisakura Guest House
- Nyungwe Nziza Eco Lodge
- Nyungwe Top View Hotel
- Kitabi Eco – Center
- Nyungwe Forest Lodge
- Gisakura Family Hostel
- Uwinka Campsite
- Emeraude Kivu Resort