Nyungwe Forest is a high-altitude, mountainous rain forest in southern Rwanda conserved in 2005, the Government of Rwanda declared Nyungwe a national park, according it the highest level of protection in Rwanda. This forest, the largest mountain rainforest in all of Africa, hosts 13 species of primates including the Angola colobus found in groups of 300-400 animals that is an attribute unique to Nyungwe. It also hosts a large population of chimpanzees and two other threatened species of monkeys; the owl faced monkey and reported but unverified sightings of the golden monkey.
Nyungwe receives more than 2000mm a year of rain. Recently, Nyungwe opened a canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. This is a wonderful vantage point to view the incredible biodiversity of this rare forest.The canopy walk opens at a time when Rwanda is being recognized as a top 10 global travel destination (Lonely Planet, 2009.)
Nyungwe forest national park is Rwanda’s leading chimpanzee tracking safari destination for primates and birding tours in Rwanda. Nyungwe forest Rwanda is the source of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo. The Congo-Nile Divide is a mountain range that runs north to south through Rwanda. FAUNA Nyungwe is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Birdlife International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, butterflies, moths and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination in the making. (Source: Draft Investors Guide to Nyungwe National Park Area, South Western Rwanda, Preliminary version 1 – 2008) Nyungwe is also Rwanda’s primary water catchment, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters.The people of the area are as diverse, with many examples of song, dance, music, cuisine, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the nature side of trip to this part of Africa. The forest has a network of walking and hiking trails. It has a number of camping sites and the development of cultural tourism near the edge of the Park is underway. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the development project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park. The thirteen primate species which are found in Nyungwe represent something like 20-25% of the total number in Africa, an extraordinary figure which in East Africa is comparable only to Uganda’s Kibale forest. Furthermore, several of these primates are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN red list, and Nyungwe is almost certainly the main stronghold for at least two of them. The most celebrated of Nyungwe’s primates is the Rwenzori Colobus a race of the more wide spread Angola colobus which is restricted to the Albertine Rift. The Rwenzori Colobus is highly arboreal and acrobatic leaf-eater, easily distinguished from any other primate found in Nyungwe by its contrasting black over all colour and snow-white whiskers, shoulders and tail tip. Although all colobus monkeys are very friendly, the ones in Nyungwe are unique in a way, they typically move in troops of several hundred animals. A semi-habituated troop of 400 species, resident in the forest around the campsite, is known to be the largest troop of arboreal primates anywhere in Africa and elsewhere in the world, only the Chinese golden monkey moves in groups of a comparable number. Most of the other monkeys in Nyungwe are guenons, the collective name for the taxonomically confusing cercopithecus genus. Other types of monkeys in Nyungwe National Park are the L’Hoest’s monkey, Silver monkey, golden monkey, Owl faced monkey, red tailed monkey, Dent’s Mona monkey, crowned monkey, Vervet monkey, and Olive baboon which is a savanna monkey that is occasionally seen along the road through Nyungwe, Grey-cheeked mangabey is an arboreal monkey of the forest interior. In addition to the chimpanzees and monkeys, Nyungwe harbors four types of small nocturnal primates more closely related to the lemurs of Madagascar than to any other primates on the African main land. These are three species which include bush baby or galago (group of tiny, hyper active wide – eyed insectivores) and the sloth like potto. All are very unlikely to be seen by tourists.