Nyungwe National Park is located in the South West of Rwanda, around 5-6 hours’ drive from Kigali or 1.5 hour drive from Kamembe airport. It is one of Africa’s most ancient forests with rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs all contributing to its important eco-system. It has exceptionally high levels of biodiversity and numerous endemic species, harbouring around 85 mammal species, approximately 40 reptile species and nearly 300 bird species. Nyungwe Forest provides refuge for an amazing 13 different primate species, including L’hoest monkey, Grey-cheeked mangabey and Dent’s Mona monkey. But the largest and most sought-after primate is the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). These primates are our closest relatives, sharing 98% of our DNA and displaying extremely human like features.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN TRACKING CHIMPANZEES
You will have a very early start to your day, as you need to check in at 05:00am at the Nyungwe Park Office (by Gisakura Guest house). Once registered and you’ve been assigned your guide, you will drive deeper into the forest (1-1.5 hours) before you reach the start of your trip trek. There are two habituated chimpanzee families in Nyungwe Forest, Cyamudongo and Uwinka. You are most likely to find the Cyamudongo family which has around 40 members. The terrain here is very hilly with steep inclines and likely to be muddy, so this is not an activity for the frail or injured and a reasonable level of fitness is required.
In contrast to the Mountain gorillas who are very sedentary and often sitting in clearings, the chimps are more likely to be found high up in the trees and regularly on the move. Although this may present more challenges for getting that perfect photo, the experience itself will be no less memorable. The chimps will no doubt enthral you with their intelligent and complex social behaviour. But be prepared for their noisy communication techniques with loud hoots and banging of trees and their stumps.
HELPFUL FACTS ABOUT CHIMPANZEE TRACKING
- The park office is a 5 minutes’ drive from your accommodation (Top View Hotel or Nyungwe House)
- There is a maximum of 8 visitors allowed in each group
- There is a total 16 permits issued per day
- A maximum of 1 hour is allowed with the Chimpanzees
- Porters are available for $10 carrying a maximum of 15kgs