Tourists may visit the Nyungwe Forest 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 & News page for some links) 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 no 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 National University of Rwanda, and home to a fabulous museum rich with images and examples of Rwandan culture and geography. Butare also has several good restaurants.
Once in Nyungwe Forest, tourists can stop at Uwinka, a tourist destination and research site managed by Conservation Project of the Nyungwe Forest (PCFN) along with the Rwandan parks department, located right along the paved road bisecting the forest. Activities at Uwinka include hikes on one of the many trails in the well-maintained trail system. 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 lhoesti monkeys and blue monkeys present and often readily observed around Uwinka, requiring less strenuous hiking to view.
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 forest research and conservation activities happening at this site. The Rwandan parks department has an office here as well. 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. There are camping facilities at Uwinka, if tourists choose to stay the night in the forest. There are also limited number of rooms in a small cabin at Uwinka that may be available to rent. Tourists should plan to bring their own food with them for their stay at Uwinka in the forest. Proceed to Gisakura and the PCFN office to check in and reserve a campsite or cabin space at Uwinka. Tourists may also stay at the guest house in Gisakura, and return each day to hike in the forest, an easy 40 minute drive. Lastly, there are several hotels and restaurants in Cyangugu, a town about an hour drive from Gisakura along the border with DRC.
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 Information
- Nyungwe Forest Information