Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe National Park
Rwanda has positioned itself as a great primate tracking destination in Africa. Chimpanzee trekking is one of the popular activities in Rwanda besides gorilla trekking. Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is done at Nyungwe National Park (Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests) and is one of the most attractive Rwanda tour activities. Nyungwe forest is found in the Southern part of Rwanda and it is the largest protected mountain forest in Africa. It is home to several flora and fauna species including chimpanzees and other primate species like vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.
Chimpanzees are man’s closest relatives after Bonobos and share a lot of traits and 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 groups have been habituated. These two groups live in both Nyungwe and Cyamudongo forests. The group in Nyungwe is hard to see since the landscape is rugged. The smaller group in Cyamudongo offers the most successful sightings.
Tips for Chimpanzee trekking
- The minimum age for chimpanzee trekking is 16 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 raincoat
- Wear waterproof boots or hiking shoes
- Carry insect repellent
- Fitness is required
Chimpanzee Trekking Experience in Nyungwe
Nyungwe Chimpanzee trekking starts very early in the morning and visitors are expected to be at the centers as early as 5:00 AM to start the trek. The experience starts with a briefing at one of the starting points which are Uwinka (the main center), Gisakura, or Kitabi. Trekkers have to go out early so that they watch the chimps 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-ahead to identify the exact location of the chimps in the forest then communicate to the guides.
Chimpanzee trekking is a completely amazing experience unique from gorilla trekking. 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 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 their behavior, how they groom each other, mate, play, socialize, start fights and breastfeed.
Individuals may require to be physically fit trek chimpanzees since they move very fast both on the ground and on the trees. Chimpanzee trekking in the 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 which 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, chimpanzee trekking is during the rainy season when there is plenty of food in the forest for the chimps and this limits their movements. In the dry season, chimps go deep into the forest which makes trekking more difficult.
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 turaco, and many more. Other activities that can be done in the Nyungwe forest include the canopy walk, birding, and primate tracking especially monkeys.
For more primate tracking experiences, take Rwanda gorilla tours to Volcanoes National Park and have a 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 incorporated on a single trip.