Immerse yourself in the largest and oldest montane forests of Africa. Nyungwe Forests National Park is a montane rainforest located in Rwanda’s Kivu Belt region. Nyungwe Forest is part of the Congo-Nile divide forest which originally stretched over the entire mountain range which divides the Congo Water Basin from the Nile Water Basin all the way from Congo to Burundi. Today’s remainders of these forest complex include Nyungwe Forest, Gishwati Forest, Mukura Forest in Rwanda and Kibira National Park in Burundi.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is the largest of the remaining rainforests of the Congo-Nile divide. The other remaining rainforests of the Congo-Nile divide are small and fragmented. Nyungwe Forest is a huge, vast area with a unique biodiversity including more than 500 eastern chimpanzees. There are plans to create more forests corridors to connect all the remaining forests to Nyungwe Forest National Park, but so far these are only plans and have not been realized.
Even though the main attraction of Nyungwe Forest are the chimpanzees, this is not the only thing which makes Nyungwe worth a visit. There are a total of 13 primate species in the Nyungwe Forest National Park as well as other monkeys and mammals including serval, golden cat and duikers. Nyungwe Forest is situated in the Albertine Rift Valley and home to several endemic bird species which can only be found here. Nyungwe Forest National Park has several hiking trails, many of which lead to one of the many beautiful water falls which can be found in the forest.
One of the main attractions of Nyungwe Forest National Park is the Canopy Walk. The Canopy Walk is a series of hanging bridges across the canopy of Nyungwe Forest which allows for visitors to experience the canopy of the forest first hand and is unique of its kind in East Africa. The Nyungwe Canopy Walk was recently named the best canopy walk in the world by Lonely Planet.
History of Nyungwe Forest
The history pf protection of Nyungwe Forest National Park started as early as 1903. Even though formally protected for more than 100 years, the biodiversity and size of Nyungwe Forest has steadily been decreasing and Nyungwe Forest was not declared a national park until 2005. The original forest of Nyungwe included both forest elephants and buffalo, which became extinct in the later part of the 20th century.
Up until the 80’s, Nyungwe Forest was still divided into different zones of different use some of which were used for logging. The park suffered a lot during the war in the 90’s, but many devoted rangers stayed to in the park to protect the forest when many where forced to flee.
It was not until rather recently that hiking trails and the canopy walkway were constructed. This was done to find a sustainable future for the park which involves the right balance between ecotourism and conservation in Nyungwe Forest. It also opened the park up to activities such as hiking in Nyungwe Forest
Animal Life of Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located on the Congo Nile Divide. Nyungwe is a montane rainforest at an elevation of between 2000- and 3000-meters altitude. Even though Nyungwe Forest is in the tropics right next to the equator, the elevation keeps the temperature at a pleasant level all year. The rainfall is abundant, and the forest receives more than 2000 mm per year. The temperature is rather constant throughout the year of around 25°C and rarely drops below 15°C at night. The combination of abundant rainfall, lots of sunlight and pleasant temperatures makes Nyungwe Forest one of the most diverse animal and plant habitats in Africa with around 300 species of birds, 26 of which are endemic and around 100 other animal species. There are also thousands of plant species as well as a number of endemic orchids.