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Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda takes place in Nyungwe Forest National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Gishwati-Mukura is a recent addition to the Chimpanzee trekking spots in Rwanda and hosts about 20 individuals, a number far less than the 500 found in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Within Nyungwe Forest National Park are 3 starting points and 3 habituated communities to track. These points are Uwinka, Chamdongo and Gisakura. Chimpanzee trekking constitutes one of those exciting primates adventure tours that have promoted Rwanda as one of the best tourism destinations in East Africa. Other primate expeditions in Rwanda are Mountain Gorilla trekking, Golden Monkey tracking and Colobus monkey trekking. Gorilla and Golden Monkey treks are done in Volcanoes National Park.
Chimpanzee trekking is an intriguing and memorable experience. Though much cheaper than Mountain Gorilla trekking, it is equally fascinating and exciting. Science proved that Chimpanzees share 98.7% DNA as humans. They are highly intelligent when compared with other primates. When you sign up for a Chimpanzee Trekking Safari, you will be able to observe some of these humanly traits displayed in how they socialise, their feeding and even hunting skills let alone them appearing much like we humans. They can walk on two legs just like humans but for a short distance, they mostly prefer to use all the four limbs while walking.
The total number of Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park is currently estimated at 500 individuals but the habituated ones are only 60 for Uwinka, 30 at Chamdongo and Kitabi with the lowest number of all. Surprisingly, Chamdongo presents the trekker with more chances of finding the Chimpanzees upon tracking than Uwinka. Uwinka is such a large forest expanse which gives them space to elude the visitors and more over in such a hilly terrain that is quite hard going so pausing less success in the search for these active and mobile animals.
Chances of finding Chimpanzees upon tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
There are trackers who always go ahead of the visitors that guide them(visitors) on the quickest ways/routes to reach them on any given day. This was an initiative by Rwanda Development Board together with Nyungwe Park management to ensure that visitors are able to find the Chimpanzees even at a single visit, something that was hard before. Much as the trackers have always been helpful, the fact that nature is unpredictable can never be ruled out completely. Just know that Chimpanzees are wild animals and much like the Mountain Gorillas, they have no usual routine as they go about with their daily lives with in their habitat/forest. It should therefore be in any visitor’s mind about a possibility of a successful search or a flop.
Cost of Chimpanzee permit for Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park
$90 (US dollars) is the cost for each Chimpanzee permit for Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda. It is only payable and in cash at the Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali. Cash payments are not accepted at the park. Visitors are always advised to book and secure their permits in advance as daily viewings have a limit in terms of the numbers. Well, there are limited permits per day but again the demand is not as high when compared with Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest Park in Uganda. The reservations team at Jungle Escape Africa is always glad to advise on availability upon request.
Sessions/time for Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda
Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe starts in the morning with no other sessions in the day. Visitors are expected to arrive at the park at least by 5.30am for the briefing before they can start the trek. It is advisable to get into the forest very early as Chimpanzees are known to be very active and fast moving upon rising up. It’s always better to catch them when they have just risen up. They tend to keep on the ground more when hungry than after feeding regardless some of their food are fruits up in the trees. Unlike in Nyungwe Forest Park, most of Uganda’s Chimpanzee trekking destinations allow 2 tracking sessions of morning and afternoon.
All visits are led by park rangers and in groups of 8 people per a family of habituated Chimpanzees. Chimpanzee tracking starts off with a general briefing about the expectations and the rules of the activity. The respective briefing and starting points are Uwinka, Gisakura and Kitabi so the visitor has to be keen at the tracking point indicated on the permit which should be the tracking point.
Best time to visit for Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
The best time to visit for Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park should be during the dry months although the activity is available and can be done any time of the year. The rest of the months are relatively dry except March-May and October-November which are very wet. Though doable even in the wet months, the steep slippery slopes can hardly let the tracker navigate the forest at ease.
How difficult is Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park?
As mentioned above, Chimpanzees are very active and mobile animals and yet the land scape with in the Nyungwe National park is largely unpredictable and difficult. One should imagine how hard going it can be if enough preparation is not made prior to the visit! Unlike the Mountain Gorillas that keep on the ground most of the time and are always unbothered by human presence before them, Chimpanzees are very sensitive and afraid of humans where even the habituated ones can hardly stay in one place for too long, (and especially in the presence of humans) before they disappear. Chimpanzees are known to be good climbers. Many times, they are spotted up in trees where they keep leaping from branch to branch as they stealthily stare at the visitors down. Literally, the search only becomes more difficult given the nature of these primates but the trek is quite doable. You might want to compare with Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.
Age limit for Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Individuals of below 12 years are restricted from Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda. All visitors are required to present their passports upon securing the permits at RDB and at the park on the day of tracking.
What to pack for Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Shoes with a good grip are deemed suitable for climbing Nyungwe’s steep muddy trails.
- Wear long sleeves for tops and trousers for protection against the pricking thickets as you move in this verdant jungle.
- Binoculars to spot the Chimpanzees at a distant range or even those up in trees. They can as well be used for bird watching.
Other things to do in Nyungwe Forest Park after Chimpanzee trekking
The Canopy walk experience in Rwanda comes after Chimpanzee tracking and is another exhilarating activity that has made Nyungwe Forest to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in East Africa. Other activities are bird watching, nature walks and Colobus monkey tracking.
Elsewhere, Chimpanzee trekking tours can be arranged in Uganda in places like Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest in Murchison falls National Park, Kalinju Forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth Park and Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. When it comes to chimpanzee trekking in Uganda or Rwanda, Uganda’s Kibale forest has an edge over Nyungwe Forest National Park. Kibale has the highest population of Chimpanzees worldwide.
Rwanda Chimpanzee trekking tours: