Welcome to the authentic guide to Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda

Nyungwe forest national park

Tucked away in the middle of tea Plantations, the biggest mountain rain forest on this side of the African continent can be a bit deceptive in its vastness if you simply catch a glimpse of it from a far. Nyungwe forest is probably the most preserved forest in Africa. Some say it is the most important site for biodiversity in Rwanda. It is home to over 1000 species of creation after all.

Nyungwe Forest is a tourist favourite with those on safari in Rwanda.

Muzimu Trail

Muzimu at the remote northeastern Nyungwe. From Gisakura, the drive alone would be ...

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Ngabwe Trail

Ngabwe or the Eastern edge of Nyungwe National Park Beautiful views The mountain is a convenient...

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Kamiranzovu Trail

Kamiranzovu : The Ancient Swamp Kamiranzovu Marsh, Nyungwe National Park’s largest wetland, is an impressive geological ...

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Karamba Trail

Karamba : The Western Birding Trail This easy stroll reaches a 360-degree viewpoint with little physi- cal effort and is the...

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Umugote Trail

Umugote trail : South View Distance: 1.3 km, alone, 0.6 km longer than remaining on the upper Umugote TrailI isolated...

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It has some amazing and breathtaking scenery and is a vantage point for picturesque views of the Virungas and the Congo. Nyungwe is nature at its very best. It is lush and beautifully green, often seen with cooling mists in the early mornings and late evening.

One of its exciting attractions besides all the animals and birds and trees, is the 50m high , 200m long canopy walk. This is a thrilling experience for many and this canopy walk is the only one of its kind in East Africa. There is also Mount Bigugu found inside the park.

History & facts


Brief history

Nyungwe forest has been in existence for thousands of years. But its more recent history is what we can speak of.

In 1903, during the colonial era, Nyungwe which was Colonial crown land was declared a forest reserve by the German colonial government. There was a period between 1958 and 1973, when the area reduced by due to fires, woodcutting and poaching of animals, the sq. km coverage of the forest reduced by a whole 150 sq. km. But the elephant population was still quite large. In 1974, the last of the buffaloes was killed. Fast forward to 1984, some biodiversity studies conducted in the area by the Wildlife conservation society revealed a vast population of Colobus living in groups of up to 400 members! Tourist and research facilities were later set up in Uwinka, but most of these were destroyed during the genocide in 1994.

Then the restoration work began in 1995, in an environment that was still riddled with paranoia and uncertainty. But the work went on and in 2005 Nyungwe forest was declared a national park and officially a protected area.

The designation of “National Park” is the highest protection level in Rwanda in terms of nature conservation.

Nyungwe Forest National Park was established as a national park in 2004. This happened at a time when Rwanda was on the list of top ten tourist destinations according to Lonely Planet ratings. The country was also decidedly looking to expand its tourism sector and determined to grow tourist numbers at the time. Clearly establishing Nyungwe was a good decision for Rwanda.

Nyungwe is an important water catchment for Rwanda and contains many natural resources that are quite useful to the Rwandan people.

The beautiful green forest is also quite important to two of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo.



Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in the South Western part of Rwanda. It is bordered by the Rwanda-Burundi border in the South. Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo lie on the west side of the park.

It covers an area about 1020 sq.km and has an elevation of 1600-2950m above sea level. This vast unspoilt rain forest receives an annual 2000mm of rain.



Wildlife is the main reason most people make trips to national parks and Nyungwe definitely satisfies that qualification. The park is home to about 85 mammals, 13 primate species, over 280 bird species, some of them endemic to the region, over 1060 plant species, 32 amphibians, 38 reptiles and various species of butterflies.

This nature hub is quite rich with all things natural and colorful.

The most sought after primate in the park is the chimpanzee, but there are several monkeys including the rare and elusive golden monkey. Other primates include the olive baboon, red-tailed monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, L’hoest’s monkey, the Angola Colobus and a few more. Other animals in he park include; golden cats, the fronted duiker, golden cats and others.


Nyungwe forest has quite the variety of bird life. With more than 280 different bird species, 27 of these birds are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. It is a worthwhile place to visit for any bird watcher. Bird life International declared the the park “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda”. Some of the birds you might catch sight of in Nyungwe include: Giant horn bills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrow hawks. The blue Turaco is the birding highlight here.

Birds, chimpanzees, monkeys, butterflies, exotic plants and trees, an exciting canopy walk high up in the air, breathtaking scenery. What’s not to like?!
Nyungwe Forest National Park is found on Rwanda’s border with Tanzania at a somewhat lower altitude although it is more hilly compared to the majority of national parks in countries neighboring Rwanda. This park is innovatively carved with a maze of swamps which flow into River Nyungwe Forest. It park is mainly dominated by a savannah landscape, open grassland plus acacia woodland.

The park is found 2 hours from Kigali in the Eastern Rwanda province. Most of the road is paved until approximately thirty minutes drive to the park gate when it becomes a bit dusty and bumpy. Some of the wildlife you will find within Nyungwe Forest includes elephants, buffaloes, giraffes as well as zebras, plus over twelve different species of antelopes, plus the hard to find lions plus leopards. In case you have take game drives in countries such as South Africa and Kenya then you may not be really impressed with the small national parks of Rwanda. Here the animals are not as many as in other parks such as Serengeti, although a trip to this park will offer a unique one day adventure during your stay in Kigali.

Nyungwe Forest National Park is a wonderful place for bird watching with a diversity of species of nearly 525 bird Species (4 of which are endemic), plus a great profusion of migrant birds. The hard to find Shoebill Stork may be seen here as well together with the beautiful Papyrus Gonolek in danger of extinction.

This National Park was in fact named after the beautiful river Nyungwe Forest which flows down the eastern boundary of the park. Nyungwe Forest Park is Rwanda’s most prominent Savanna wildlife reserve. In comparison to other areas within Rwanda, this place is somewhat warm and is found at a lower altitude and its terrain is mainly blanketed with dense, woodland characterized by broad leaves, and a transparent acacia woodland in addition to patches of rolling grasslands that are dotted with vivid stands of the cactus such as the Euphorbia candelabra shrub.

Moving to the western part of these plains you will find a string of low altitude beautiful mountains that reach heights between 1,600 meters and 1,800 meters. However, the eastern part of the park you will find a large wetland, and then the amazing River Nyungwe Forest directly pours into a complex of a number of lakes that are connected by extensive papyrus swamps plus zigzag water streams. Unfortunately, the total wildlife population within this area has significantly been reduced by poaching in the recent years, and currently what was once the northern part of the park is today a human settlement for refugees that returned in the country. The other lakes found inside this national park are often used as water as sources of water for their cattle especially the long horned Ankole cows; these are the commonly seen large mammals in this area. You will be amazed the large number of wild animals you will find inside the park for example: giraffes, hippos, buffaloes, zebras, antelopes plus elephants. The lakes are home to some of the largest hippo populations you will find across the whole of Africa, as well as an overwhelmingly big number of giant crocodiles, in addition to leopards, lions plus black rhinos which unfortunately are less in numbers. Also, the birdlife here in Nyungwe Forest is amazing with close to 550 bird species that include all species of scarcity plus some huge flocks of water birds. .

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the wildlife reserves across Africa in which you may have a drive for several hours without coming across any another safari vehicle, and not being able to guess the wild animal you are going to encounter in the following couple of minutes. Furthermore, Nyungwe Forest is among the most charming savanna reserves, having its impressive lakes that are surrounded by continuously varying vegetation, forests plus high beautiful mountains.