Destination Kivu Belt

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

Explore the wilder side of Rwanda by going chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to over 500 chimpanzees and Chimpanzee tracking is without a doubt one of the most popular activities in Nyungwe Forest. Rwanda is not a mass tourism destination and the activity is done privately or in a small group. Not normally an outdoor person? Don’t worry, a professional guide will tell you about every mysterious thing you see in the forest and a professional tracker will help you locate the primates. Raincoats, boots and walking sticks are available if you need them.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest can be done in two locations in and you will want to choose the area for the activity close to where you are staying. Nyungwe Forest is large, and you will want to avoid unnecessary transport to your chimpanzee tracking location, especially since the activity starts early in the morning. The park rangers should choose the location for you depending on where you are staying.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest is an early morning activity and prepare to be away at least until lunchtime, but this can vary depending on the location of the chimpanzees during your visit. You need to pre-book the activity at the latest the day before, but preferably earlier. Chimpanzee tracking can be organized through the Visitor’s Center at Uwinka, the Gisakura Park Office or through a private tour operator. To know if a tour operator in Rwanda is officially licensed, head over to the RTTA Website. Most of the accommodation providers around Nyungwe Forest will be able to assist you to book, but you should really book your chimpanzee tracking ahead of departure to Nyungwe to make sure that the activity is available when you plan on doing it. 

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

The price for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest can seem quite high, but the activity itself is not organized by any commercial company. All the money goes back into conservation or to the communities living around the park. Knowing about the long history and struggle of Nyungwe National Park and the challenges of conservation among some of the poorest communities in the world, the price for the park activities is not so high in proportion. No matter if you book your chimpanzee tracking through an operator, the park office or a travel agent, they will need to book an official permit for you. You can do this yourself in the government system Irembo, but it is quite complicated and you should ideally have someone book it for you.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest is done in a small group accompanied by an experienced guide, ranger and tracker from the park. Most guides and rangers in Nyungwe Forest have been working in the park for many years and many come from the areas around Nyungwe. The largest group size when tracking chimpanzees is eight people in a group, but often the groups tend to be smaller than this. Children under the age of 15 are not allowed to do chimpanzee tracking. 

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

Eastern Chimpanzee

The type of chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest is the eastern chimpanzee. The eastern chimpanzee is a subspecies of chimpanzee found in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda. There is also a small population left in Burundi. In Rwanda it can be found in Nyungwe Forest and Gishwati Forest. The eastern chimpanzee is smaller than other recognized subspecies of chimpanzees, male and female are also much more similar in size.

Chimpanzees are very strong and robust primates and through a close look at them you recognize that they are our closest relatives. Chimpanzees live in large family groups in dense tropical forests where they spend most of their times foraging for edible fruits and shoots. Unlike monkeys, chimpanzees are too heavy to swing themselves entirely through the tree canopy and spend a considerable amount of time on the ground. They are good climbers and will easily climb trees in search of fruits, or to evade danger. Chimpanzees sleep in beds or nests that they prepare from leaves and branches high up in a suitable tree. 

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

Chimpanzee Trekking inside the main Nyungwe Forest

Chimpanzee trekking inside the main forest of Nyungwe National park starts at the Uwinka Visitor’s Center. The tracking starts at 5:30 am and you should be there ahead of time to register and get organized with your guide. The tracking is done inside the main forest and usually you will be tracking a large group of chimpanzees which consists of around 60 individuals. Tracking here is a good choice if you are staying in or close to the park.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Cyamudongo Forest

A bit outside the main Nyungwe Forest is the smaller Cyamudongo Forest. This patch of forest is a conservation area and home to a group of around 30 chimpanzees. The tracking starts at 5 am from Gisakura Park Office. Registration and payment for chimpanzee tracking must be done the day before. Cyamudongo Forest is a good place for chimpanzee tracking if you are staying in Rusizi or Gisakura. It is about 1h 30 mins with a 4WD drive from Gisakura Guest House and about 1 hour driving from Rusizi. 

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

Information about Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

  • Minimum age for chimpanzee tracking is 15 years
  • Must be pre-booked the day before
  • Largest group size per guide is 8
  • Starts at 5:00 am from Gisakura or 5:30 from Uwinka

Contact Information and Booking

Nyungwe National Park is managed by African Parks in cooperation with the Rwandan Government and Rwanda Development Board.

Pre booking is not always necessary but is strongly adviced.

Good to know:

  • Raincoats, boots and walking sticks are available from the reception
  • All Nyungwe hikes are classified as hiking in protected area/National Park.
  • Animals live in their natural habitat
  • Guide and permit are needed

Most of the websites and contacts about Nyungwe Forest online are not official park websites and the information is sometimes wrong and not reliable. 

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