Uganda is a good year-round destination, but the rainy seasons (March to May and November to December) can make logistics a little tricky.

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Forest Wellness

Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park

Why visit Nyungwe National Park

  • One of the oldest rainforests in Africa
  • Albertine Rift Bird Endemic species

Nyungwe Forest National Park activities

Chimpanzee Tracking

They may pale in size when compared to the hulking masses that are the mountain gorillas, but there is no denying the affinity that we humans have for chimpanzees. Sharing an estimated 94% of our genetic material, chimps display an incredible range of human-like behaviours ranging from tool use to waging war.

Chimps are highly sociable creatures, and one of the few primates to form complex communities ranging upwards of 100 individuals. During the day these communities break down into smaller units that forage for food, a behaviour that has been dubbed ‘fission-fusion’ by anthropologists. Since they cover a greater daily distance than the relatively docile gorilla, chimpanzee tracking (US$90 per person) is a much more uncertain enterprise.

Chimpanzee habituation in Nyungwe is still very much a work in progress, and although you will almost certainly encounter them, it might not be all that close up. This is especially so because Nyungwe's chimps seem to spend longer periods of time high in the tree tops than many other East African chimps.

Much like gorilla tracking, you need to be prepared for lengthy hikes that can take up to several hours. However, the vegetation on the forest floor is much less dense than in the Virunga mountains where the gorillas live, so the walk is generally a little less tiring. In the rainy season you have a good chance of successfully tracking the chimps on the coloured trails (a network of trails of varying levels of difficulty), though in the dry season they have a tendency to head for higher elevations.


Although there are groups of chimps throughout Nyungwe, the habituated group that most people are taken to is actually located in the Cyamudongo Forest, a very small, isolated 'island' of forest surrounded by tea estates a little over an hour's drive from the park office at Gisakura. This group consists of about 40 individuals. At certain times, though, visitors might be taken to see a second habituated group, the Uwinka group, which is the largest with around 65 individuals. That said, this group, which is usually found within 12km of the Uwinka Reception Centre, is harder to access. Whichever group you end up visiting, having a car is something of a necessity for chimp tracking, as you’ll need to arrange transportation for you and your guide to the trailhead. Be prepared for an early start – usually 5.30am from Gisakura. Porters are available at Cyamundongo (US$10).

Visits are limited to one hour.

Colobus Monkey Tracking

A subspecies of the widespread black-and-white colobus, the Angolan colobus is an arboreal Old World monkey that is distinguished by its black fur and long, silky white locks of hair. Weighing 10kg to 20kg, and possessing a dexterous tail that can reach lengths of 75cm, Angolan colobus are perfectly suited to a life up in the canopy.

Colobi are distributed throughout the rainforests of equatorial Africa, though they reach epic numbers in Nyungwe Forest National Park. While they may not be as a charismatic as chimps, colobi are extremely social primates that form enormous group sizes – one of the two semi-habituated troops in Nyungwe numbers no fewer than 500 individuals.

As you might imagine, finding yourself in the presence of literally hundreds of primates bounding through the treetops can be a mesmerising experience. Curious animals by nature, colobi in Nyungwe seem to almost revel in their playful interactions with human visitors.

Troops of Angolan colobus maintain fairly regimented territories, which is good news for those planning a colobus track (US$60 per person), as the semi-habituated group in Nyungwe tends to stick to the coloured trails. While watching wildlife is never a certainty, generally the trackers can find the colobus monkey troop in an hour or so.

There is a smaller, and often more accessible troop, of around 50 individuals near the Gisakura Tea Plantation. Be sure to ask which troop you’ll be tracking when you make your reservation. This second troop is less worthwhile to visit as the walk is only about two to five minutes from the Gisakura park office and it feels like a lot of money to pay to stand in a tea field looking at monkeys you could almost see without leaving the park office!


Nyungwe has something of a legendary status among birdwatchers in East Africa, and is by far the country’s top spot for birdwatching with some 300-plus species, which include no fewer than 27 Albertine Rift Valley endemics. However, the dense forest cover means actually getting a good view of a bird (or any other animal for that matter) can often be frustratingly hard, which means that only serious birders are likely to get feathered into excitement by many of the park's birds.

For those people, the dirt Rangiro Rd, which starts 1.5km east of Uwinka, and the Imbaraga, Umuyove and Kamiranzovu Trails are all highly recommended for birdwatching. The paved road through the park permits viewing at all levels of the forest: expect mountain buzzards and cinnamon-chested bee-eaters perched along here, plus numerous sunbirds, wagtails and flocks of waxbills. Other commonly sighted birds include francolins, turacos, African crowned eagles, hornbills and even Congo bay owls.

There are six specialist birding guides based in Nyungwe who need to be booked in advance for specalist birdwatching trips (per person US$50) – email or call one of the park's two reception centres. There are more than 27 endemics in the park, including Rwenzori turacos as well as other large forest species such as African crowned eagles and various hornbills. Depending on what you hope to see, the guide will choose a trail that maximises your chances of spotting your quarry.

If you’re unsure of what to ask for, opt for the dirt Rangiro Rd. Thanks to the frequent changes in elevation along this route you have increased chances of spotting a good number of Nyungwe’s fine feathered friends.

Canopy Walkway

Now’s your chance to relive your Indiana Jones fantasies. The construction of a 160m-long and at times 70m-high canopy walkway is a big draw for visitors after something unusual. You won’t encounter much wildlife while on the metallic suspension bridge, but you’ll certainly appreciate the jungle anew from this unique monkey’s-eye perspective. Access to the canopy walkway, which is on the Igishigishigi Trail, involves a preliminary 20- to 30-minute hike from Uwinka. Canopy tours begin at set times (8am, 10am, 1pm and 3pm), last about two hours and are guided (per person US$60).

Nature Walks

This network of trails was constructed in the late 1980s in an attempt to open up Nyungwe to tourists. While tourism in the national park remains relatively low-key, these six trails are nevertheless reasonably well maintained. Each trail is marked with a different colour. Hikers can choose trails ranging from the 2km-long Buhoro Trail, a proverbial walk in the woods, right up to the 10km-long Imbaraga Trail, which winds steeply up forested slopes and requires about six hours. Some of the most popular trails include the Igishigishigi Trail (2.1km, about 1½ hours), which has spectacular tree ferns and great views, and the Umuyove Trail (5.5km, 3½ hours), which has birds, colourful flowers, a waterfall and large mahogany trees. The Irebero Trail (3.6km, three hours) is noted for its stunning viewpoints.

Although you need to specifically request to engage in either chimpanzee or colobus tracking, in theory you could run across either primate while hiking the coloured trails. Even if you don’t come across these two star billings, you’re likely to spot some of Nyungwe’s other 11 primates, as well as a whole slew of birdlife, and possibly even the odd mammal or two.

These trails originate from the Uwinka Reception Centre and cost US$40 per person.

A number of walking trails are also available in the Kitabi area and begin at the Kitabi Booking Office. They're much less known than the ones around Uwinka. A guide is also compulsory and is included in your trekking fee (US$40 per person).


The perfect option for those seeking a more leisurely hike, this relatively flat, sparkling quartz trail begins in the open-air site of an original gold mine, market, and army camp, and leads through an area of low fern trees and young vegetation, the ideal conditions for spotting birds in Nyungwe.


With moderate inclines, this hike reveals exceptional views of numerous stunning ridges, as far as the moun- tains of Kibira National Park in Burundi. Clearings along the way offer sunlit spaces for flowers to bloom, and viewpoints over different layers of the rainforest. Monkeys and birds can be spotted from this trail, along with tree frogs and swirls of brightly coloured butterflies.


Also known as the Mahogany Trail, this is one of Nyungwe’s most popular hikes. Relax by an idyllic natural waterfall, stroll under some of the park’s tallest trees and savour the scent of aromatic flora. Branching off the main trail, you’ll also have the chance to sight Grey-Cheeked Mangabeys, Colobus monkeys and chimpanzees, among other famous local primates.


‘Irebero’ means a ‘place to observe from’, and views are certainly the highlight of this trail. Looping around one of the park’s highest peaks, you can gaze all the way across the Rwandan border to the first ridge of Burundi on the south, and also to Lake Kivu, 30 km northwest. Wildflowers, towering trees and an abundance of birds complement this beautiful journey.


Meaning ‘waterfall’ in Kinyarwanda, the culmination of the ‘Isumo’ trail is Nyungwe’s biggest waterfall, thundering down to produce beautiful plumes of mist above the rocky river, surrounded by ferns. The jour- ney begins differently - in open-air tea fields, bursting with life from goats and butterflies to sun-loving wildflowers, offering views across to Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Behold the park’s largest wetland - the Kamiranzovu Marsh - an impressive geological formation with a circular rim of lush, forest-covered mountains, resembling a giant caldera. Along the trail you’ll discover waterfalls, colourful begonia and species that thrive in the humid swap, from ferns and lichens, to Grauer’s Rush Warblers and frogs.


This exhilarating hike is characterised by continuous open vistas on one side of the track, and the opportu- nity to spot chimps in their natural habitat. Lake Kivu and the islands of the Democratic Republic of Congo are visible early on, and as you descend the peak, listen out for the sounds of children playing as their voices carry up the mountainside from Banda village below.


This may be considered a challenging hike, but it is also considered one of the most beautiful. Views over Kamiranzovu Marsh are spectacular, and along the trail you will encounter towering trees, glossy yellow- flowered begonia, and a small remote waterfall. Mangabeys, Blue Monkeys and Colobus can often be seen here, along with the red flashes of a passing Turaco birds which you can also hear singing in the morning.


Surrounding the highest peak in the park, this trail is known for its incredible array of colourful flora and the stunning views of Lake Kivu as well as the hills of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Covering around 660m of ascent and descent, birders will be treated with chance to see the Red-Collared Mountain-Babbler among other attractive species.

Congo Nile Trail

Alongside Lake Kivu, the Congo Nile Trail is popular with both cyclists and hikers, traversing rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests. At 227km from one end to the other, it takes 10 days to complete on foot, although it is possible to do in single sections.

The trail is a wonderful way to soak up daily life in traditional villages, tour a historic church, swim and paddle on the lake shore or sip coffee where it’s made.

With twelve coffee-washing stations, three tea plantations, three cities, dozens of villages, and innumerable beaches, coves, waterfalls, valleys and vistas, the winding path of the Congo Nile Trail offers some of the finest hiking to be had anywhere in east and central Africa.

Winding its way along the fringes of the lake via the peaks of Rwanda’s green hills, the Congo Nile Trail is as challenging as it is rewarding. With a peak elevation of 2630m, it’s a serious workout to boot.

There are camp sites along the route, or guesthouses in the towns for those after a bit more comfort. Refreshments are available along the route, supplied by small shops.

Where to stay in Nyungwe National Park



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