While mountain gorilla trekking has become a cornerstone for most tourists in Rwanda, there is still a lot more to catch a glimpse of than simply trekking the rare mountain gorillas. If you can not make it to Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking, at least do not fail to visit Nyungwe Forest National Park for yet another dramatic chimpanzee experience. The park is located in the southwestern part of the country, approximately 5 hours drive from the Kigali capital. En route, you can visit Nyanza King’s palace, Rwanda National Museum in Huye, and Murambi Genocide memorial. Access to the park is easy by road or by air to Kamemba airport. By road, you can rent a car in Kigali at a cheap price and drive your own adventure to this chimpanzee forest.
Chimpanzee trekking is a distinct experience from mountain gorilla tracking. Compared to mountain gorilla adventure, chimpanzees keep roaming from one place to another, jumping from one tree to another and they make a loud noise. Equally, for face-to-face encounters with these beautiful creatures, visitors have only one hour which involves exploring their general behavior, body gestures, and above take photos as many as possible. Chimpanzees communicate by screaming, loud hoots, and the booming hitting of the tree barks and buttress.
Over 13 primates call Nyungwe Forest National Park their home of which chimpanzees form part of these magnificent creatures. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park starts from Cyamundongo, Uwinka, Kitabi, and Gisakura about 4 and a half or even more hours’ drive from Kigali city center. This forest features one of the oldest montane forests which offers refuge to over 500 individuals of wild chimpanzees. Aside from tracking chimpanzees, you will also catch a glimpse of the rare L’Hoests, Black and white colobus monkeys; Red-tailed monkeys, baboons, Black-faced vervet monkeys, and many more. Nyungwe Forest National Park was founded in 2004 and extends up to 970 square kilometers.
Chimpanzee tracking in Rwanda at times is challenging since most of them are semi habituated, meaning they tend to shy off from humans. In Cyamundongo for instance, about 43 individuals have been habituated for visitors to track and in Nyungwe there are nearly 60 of them that have been set for tourism. Chimpanzees share about 98.7 percent of their DNA with humans, which is why they are described as man’s close relatives. This also means that chimpanzees are very susceptible to human infectious diseases. The hike in search of chimpanzees in the jungle means you have to walk along the already established paths or virgin areas within the thick jungles of Nyungwe forest. Chimpanzees are the most famous and they form the major tourist attractions in the park. They live in troops ranging from 10 members and above.
Like any adventure, a permit is a must to have for this tremendous adventure. In Rwanda, Chimpanzee tracking permits are sold at $90 per visitor. About 64 permits each day are given out in Rwanda and this means that you have to book your permit early enough to avoid disappointments.
To get the best out of this adventure in Nyungwe Forest National Park you need to consider both the dry and wet seasons. The dry season is best as the habitat is kept dry and makes hiking easier for visitors but you can also visit the park during the wet season as this comes with much food for the chimpanzees to feed on. During this season most of these species do not roam compared to the dry season when the habitat incurs food shortage rendering them to wander for long distances.
For lifetime experiences with these amazing creatures, you need to consider appropriate packing and the key items to include are a day pack, a litter of drinking water, snacks, long-sleeved shirts or T-shirt, a rain jacket, waterproof hiking boots that are lightweight, long trousers, hat, insect repellent and many more.
For visitor stay, the notable accommodation lodges include Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guest House, Peace Guest House, and Emeraude Kivu Resort among others.
In conclusion, if you are planning your safari to Africa, count Rwanda as one of the most visited destinations for a variety of magnificent primates. Besides tracking mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, you can also catch a glimpse of chimpanzees and other primates.