CHIMPANZEE SAFARI IN NYUNGWE
Meet the Great Apes of the Rwandan jungles and on a good day also come across more than 5 primate species in the forest. At first, you might get a little anxious about the chimpanzee trek in Nyungwe Forest, taking gentle steps while searching for mankind’s closest relatives.
The Chimpanzee trek gives travellers the once-in-a-lifetime chance of walking through the verdant Nyungwe Forest found within the south-western side of Rwanda. This is just one of the places of trekking these endangered primates in Rwanda and while chimpanzee sightings are rarely as reliable or as comprehensible and collected as it is with mountain gorillas, the experience is equally rewarding.
The chimpanzees of Rwanda stay in thicker montane rainforest with generally playful but surprising human-like behavior that will blow your mind. The golden chance of seeing these Great Apes in their natural habitat is when they are high in the trees before descending down to find food thus start trekking early but also don’t forget your binoculars.
Interestingly, the dense tree canopies that categorize the lush Nyungwe Forest is actually home to about 500 chimpanzees that live in troops or communities of varying numbers. Two of these troops are fully habituated for trekking, although they are not quite as easy-going as the mountain gorillas. The large troop is comprised of about 100 members living within the main forest and has a relatively rugged terrain while the second and small troop has about 50-60 individuals that roam within the adjacent Cyamudongo forest.
How Chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe Forest are carried out
Chimpanzee safaris within Nyungwe Forest normally kick-starts early by transferring and meeting with other trekkers at Uwinka Visitor Center. On getting there, there will be a registration and meeting with other trekkers, Park Rangers and Porters before getting allocated to one of the two habituated Chimpanzee Communities. The Troop is trekked by a maximum of 8 visitors who are accompanied by a Park Ranger armed with an AK-47 gun and an experienced guide who is in-charge of providing information on the Park, different attractions and the trek generally. Before starting the actual trek, there is a chance of hiring a porter to lift your backpack, camera kit and offer support.
Begin by descending down to the verdant montane rainforest with other trekkers then transverse through the dense vegetation, rugged landscapes and ravines. It won’t be easy and therefore maintain a reasonable speed. A plethora of birds, primates, snakes and frogs will be encountered along the way.
The time spent during the trek is unpredictable and depends on the weather, landscape terrains and movement of the chimpanzee. This is however made easier by trackers who move ahead to find the location of the chimpanzees, hence expect to take 1-3 hours before sighting them. Once the chimpanzees are found, one hour is spent watching and photographing them while following guidelines issued during briefing like maintaining the minimum distance of 8 meters.
Rules and regulations to be followed during Chimpanzee safari in Nyungwe Forest
Refrain from trekking the endangered chimpanzees of Nyungwe Forest if you aren’t 15 years old.
Visitors are cautioned against using flash cameras during photography as it might scare away the Chimpanzees.
Only 8 visitors are allowed to trek chimpanzees in their natural habitat and any number beyond that will be a crowd, which is likely to lead to behavioral changes.
The time to spend in the presence of chimpanzees is limited to one hour for observation of their human-like behavior and photography.
Throwing rubbish in form of used water bottles, left-overs, papers, polythene isn’t allowed in the forest as they can become breeding zones for germs.
Cost of Permits for Chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe Forest
The Permits for chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe are issued by Rwanda Development Board and cost only $100 per person per trek but you can also secure it via a trusted Tour Operator. They have to be booked 3-6 months in advance but last minute bookings are possible for smaller groups of 1-3 people. They are available at Uwinka or Gisakura Visitor centers and the Tourism Office in Kigali City.
What to pack for Chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe Forest
For Chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe Forest, pick out things that are comfortable, lightweight and dry fast. A walking stick which is provided at briefing point is most certainly handy for hiking high altitude areas.
Besides that, visitors are advised to pack lose-fitting and breathable clothes of khaki, green and dark color (in form of long-sleeved shirts and long trousers) to protect your legs and hands from bites and scratches while in the jungle.
Don’t forget gardening gloves and a rain jacket, a good camera for taking and creating memories of the trip as well as binoculars being indispensable for sighting tinny and far creatures of Nyungwe Forest.
Also pack re-usable water bottle, energy giving snacks, toiletries, insect repellant, cotton socks, first aid kit and for a small fee ($10 to $20), you can hire a porter to offer support or morale support and lift your backpacks throughout the chimpanzee trek.
When to go for chimpanzee safari in Nyungwe Forest
The best time to visit Nyungwe Forest for Chimpanzees trekking is during the dry season- January, February, June, July, August, September and December because downpours are “less frequent”. During the wet months-March, April, May, October and November, there are heavy and almost daily downpours in Nyungwe Forest thus making soil and forest paths muddy and slippery as well as more difficult to navigate.
Accommodation options during Chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe Forest
The simple and basic Uwinka Visitor Center and Campsite, Nyungwe Top Hill View Hotel, One & Only Nyungwe House (formerly Nyungwe Forest Lodge), Kitabi Eco center, Gisakura Guesthouse are some of the few accommodation options for chimpanzee safaris in Nyungwe.