History of Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe forest is hundreds of thousand years old and people’s presence can be traced back to about 50,000 years ago.

1903

Nyungwe is declared a forest reserve, first by the German colonial government then by the Belgians, with restrictions on clearing. Protection is not consistently enforced.

1958-1973

Forest in Nyungwe is reduced by over 150 km2 due to fires, woodcutting, hunting of animals, and small-scale agriculture. Nearby Gishwati and Virunga forests are also cut in half at this time for agriculture conversion.

1969

Elephants still number in the hundreds in Nyungwe.

1974

The last buffalo is killed in Nyungwe by hunters.

1984

Nyungwe is divided into areas that allow for sustainable use and harvesting of timber. The Government of Rwanda develops a plan for a buffer zone that can still be seen today.

1984

Biodiversity surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with RDB (formerly ORTPN) document colobus in groups of up to 400 membersan unheard of phenomenon.

1987

Trail system begins to be formed at Uwinka.

1990

Project Frugivore, a USAID-funded project out of University of Wisconsin-Madison initiates a research project on the role of frugivores in the maintenance of biodiversity in Nyungwe. Focus species include the three turaco species, two guenon species (blue monkey and mountain or L’Hoest’s monkey) and understory frugivorous birds.

1994

War and genocide devastate the country and destroy many of the research and tourist facilities in Uwinka. Most senior staff is forced to flee, but many junior staff members at Nyungwe stayed to protect the park.

1995

The park begins to rebuild, but security and stability are still uncertain.

2005

Nyungwe is declared a National Park

2006

USAID begins work in Nyungwe with the Strengthening Sustainable Ecotourism in and around Nyungwe National Park Program. Or more simply put, Nyungwe Nziza meaning Beautiful Nyungwe. These efforts were the first to kick start Nyungwe’s growing eco-tourist industry and resulted in the construction of the Uwinka Interpretation Center.

2010

Nyungwe Nziza (beautiful Nyungwe) project begins to help boost ecotourism and economic growth in the area funded by USAID

The Wildlife Conservation Society begins a three year Conservation Education and Outreach Program with the goal of decreasing threats to the park by educating the local communities about the value of Nyungwe’s biodiversity.  Since the start of the program the participants have led local community groups on several educational visits to the park. They’ve also visited schools, churches, and other groups with successful education programs.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge was opened as the first five star establishment serving the Nyungwe Forest region. It was built to blend in with the surrounding environment and is situated in a tea plantation at the edge of the park.

Rwanda Development Board launched the park’s Canopy Walk. The Canopy Walk is the first of its kind in East Africa and the third of its kind in Africa. This hanging platform allows tourists to view different animal species and take in breath taking views.

2012

Nyungwe Nziza project won British Guild of Travel Writers’ Global Award for the best new tourism project in the world.  The project was praised for its effort in balancing tourism, wildlife, and agricultural community. The award highlighted the 44% increase of visitors within one year after the introduction of the canopy walk. Rwanda Development Board News

2013

The park becomes the first in Africa to train all guides as Certified Interpretive Guides.
Park launches professional guide certification

Nyungwe is nominated for World Travel Awards, which looks to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across sectors of the tourism industry.