Nyungwe National Park is part of the larger revitalized ecotourism effort throughout Rwanda. Now is a better time then ever for tourists to visit Nyungwe National Park and experience the beauty and diversity firsthand. Airlines fly into Kigali, Rwanda, the capital, on a daily basis.
From Kigali, tourists may choose to book travel through a tour guide (see Travel & Links page for some great information websites) or take one of the buses available in Kigali down to the forest. Vehicles are also available for rent. The trip takes about 5 hours, and the roads are narrow and winding, with breathtaking views. You may wish to bring water and snacks, as there are few shopping opportunities available once in the forest.
On the way to Nyungwe Forest from Kigali, it is worth it to stop in Butare, a beautiful town on the way to the forest, location of the University of Rwanda Huye campus, and home to a fabulous museum rich with images and examples of Rwandan culture and geography. Butare also has several good restaurants and cafes.
Tourists should stop at Kitabi at the eastern entrance to the Nyungwe National Park, location of park headquarters and the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management. There is also a cultural village to visit in Kitabi.
Once in the national park, tourists can stop at Uwinka, a tourist destination managed by Rwandan Development Board (RDB). This is also a research site managed by the Conservation Project of the Nyungwe Forest (PCFN-WCS) along with the Rwandan parks department. Uwinka is located right along the paved road bisecting the forest. Visitors can schedule popular activities such as chimp tracking, hiking, bird watching, and a thrilling adventure on the park’s new Canopy Walk. The center also serves as the trail head for many of the well maintained hiking trails. There is a trail to Bigugu Mountain, the highest peak in Nyungwe Forest at nearly 3000m. The terrain is rugged and steep, and you will be at relatively high elevation, so be sure to bring water, wear good hiking shoes with support, and bring warm clothing in layers to accommodate temperature changes.
There is an orchid garden at Uwinka, an outhouse, and picnicking huts. Park guides will accompany you on hikes – they are knowledgeable naturalists who can point out plants and animals. Birding is spectacular in the forest, so be sure to bring binoculars. Tourists may choose to hire a guide to attempt to view semi-habituated black-and-white colobus monkeys or chimpanzees; these often require more strenuous hiking. There are L’Hoest monkeys and blue monkeys present and often readily observed around Uwinka, requiring less strenuous hiking to view. There is a small restaurant with hot meals available for purchase at the Uwinka center.
A canteen with hot meals and tourist facilities are available at Gisakura, a tiny village located on the western edge of the forest road. The Conservation Project of the Nyungwe Forest (PCFN), supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), maintains an office and tourist welcome center here, as well as the canteen and guest rooms. There are also forest research and conservation activities happening at this site. The Rwandan parks department has an office here. PCFN maintains several nice walking trails from Gisakura into the forest. You may also tour a tea factory at Gisakura, and visit a small forest fragment in the tea plantation where colobus monkeys are readily visible.
There are several options for your stay at Nyungwe Forest, whether you’re looking for rugged camping or an upscale hotel. The camping facilities are located near the Uwinka Center or there are several wilderness campsites that require some hiking to access. Tourists should plan to bring their own food with them for any overnight camping. There are two hotels located very close to the park, the five star Nyungwe Forest Lodge and the Nyungwe Top View Hotel. Tourists may also stay at the guest house in Gisakura, and return each day to hike in the forest, an easy 40 minute drive.
The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the East African Rift that covers parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. This area is one of the most biodiverse regions on the entire continent and has a thriving conservation effort. The rift and the many activities it offers is well worth the trip outside of Nyungwe National Park. There are many safaris offered where a visitor can discover more than half of Africa’s birds, 40% of Africa’s mammals, and about 20% of the continents amphibians and plants. The rift is also home to the world’s largest mountain gorilla populations.
General Travel Information
- Center for Disease Control: Health information for travelers to Africa
- Consular Information: Travel information for Rwanda
- Rwanda Embassy: Rwanda’s United States embassy
- Rwanda Tourism: General tourism information
- Volcanoes Safaris: Safari trips through Uganda and Rwanda
- Magic Safaris: Safari and general travel information for Nyungwe
- Terra Incognita: Ecotour information
- Nyungwe National Park Tourist Info
- Kitabi Village Information