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Off the Beaten Path: Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

April 11, 2022  By: Gretchen

Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of Rwanda’s hidden gems. It is Africa’s most ancient rainforest and is the dividing line between Africa’s Nile and Congo river systems. It is also home to the source of the Nile and provides more than 70% of Rwanda’s water. The park is rich in biodiversity with more than 1,000 plant species (including more than 100 types of orchid) and over 100 butterfly species. 85 mammal species call the forest home, as do more than 300 species of birds, including many that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley.

chimpanzee in tree

The drive to the park from Kigali is spectacularly beautiful, though domestic flights and helicopter transfers are also available. Travelers arriving by road are treated to idyllic Rwandan countryside views before entering the dense forest with glimpses of its expanse as you travel along its impressive roads. You might even encounter some of the park’s thriving wildlife en route.

canopy walk

Most in-the-know visitors that choose Nyungwe Forest are interested in seeing the park’s 13 primate species. Chimpanzees, L’Hoest and Ruwenzori colobus monkeys and many more can be seen when trekking through the dense and beautiful forest. Birds, amphibians, reptiles and myriad small mammals can also be spotted when exploring. There are more than 80 miles of trails through the forest for hikers to discover its many beautiful species, towering vegetation and tumbling waterfalls. The park also features a canopy walk, allowing visitors to experience life high above the forest floor among the lofty reaches of the treetops.

All park activities are guided and can be tailored to match your interests and fitness level.

room view

One & Only Nyungwe House

Nestled withing the lush Gisakura Tea Estate on the boundary of Nyungwe Forest National Park, One & Only Nyungwe House is our top choice in the area. Striking wooden clusters of villas house treetop-skimming, luxury suites (1 and 2-bedrooms available) in stunning surroundings. The expansive villa interiors pay homage to Rwanda’s beauty and heritage. We especially love each suite’s fireplace, deep soaking tub and the wilderness view shower where you might see monkeys playing among the treetops.

aerial view

Two included daily activities let you choose from mountain biking among majestic trees, trekking the jungle paths or learning about and exploring the tea plantation. We highly recommend the optional helicopter tour over the park for incredible views (additional cost). The daily African tea ceremony is a way to immerse yourself in your surroundings, and the Jungle Spa (additional cost) is wonderful for post-trek relaxation. Be sure to also check out Nyungwe House’s ‘Nocturnal Spotlighting and Stargazing Experience’ where you can marvel at the planets and constellations from the resort’s elevated decks or visit the forest for a guided nighttime tour.

Colobus monkeys

Interested in learning more about Nyungwe?

Photos courtesy One & Only Nyungwe House