Planning a photography safari in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park, found in Rwanda, is the perfect destination for tourists traveling to the country. The national park is home to numerous primates, some of which include chimpanzees, which are the leading tourist attraction in the park, L’Hoests monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, grey-cheeked managers, and Ruwenzori colobus monkeys, among others.
Most Popular Safaris
A photography safari to Nyungwe National Park is one of the activities that are carried out, and it gives tourists a chance to explore the park behind the lens as they participate in the other activities offered to tourists. Photography safaris in Nyungwe can be carried out all year round, but the best time depends on other activities you plan to carry out while in Nyungwe National Park. The dry season experienced from June to September is considered the best time for visiting Nyungwe National Park. Still, in case you are traveling on a budget, the best time is during the wet season from March to May, when discounts are offered to tourists.
What to pack for a photography safari to Nyungwe Forest National Park
Camera: You can carry any camera, but we recommend getting a snap-and-shoot camera, especially if this is your first photography safari. Some cameras are rented out for a small fee if you do not have a camera. Cameras come with equipment that is needed, including a camera bag to keep all your equipment, extra lenses, lens cleaners, camera stands, a tripod, spare batteries, and wide and mid-range ranges, among others.
Clothes: Packing the right clothes for a photo safari is one of the most important things for an enjoyable safari. When packing your safari, ensure that the clothes packed are of neutral color, for example, khaki, green, or brown, to blend in with the forest easily. Blue is believed to attract tsetse flies, black absorbs heat fast, and brightly colored clothes attract too much attention. You can pack at most two pairs of clothes, including undershirts, long-sleeved shirts, and trousers that are not jeans, and try as much as possible to avoid camouflage clothes since they are associated with the army.
Gaiters and thick socks: The gaiters are mainly used during the wet season, and we advise clients to get adjustable gaiters. The thick socks are also essential, and trousers are usually tucked into the socks to stop insects from crawling up your pants.
Garden gloves: Make sure you get thick garden gloves that protect your hands from thorns, scratches from trees, and blisters while hiking through the forest.
Binoculars: Adjustable binoculars are the best, and they are a necessity since they come in handy. These help you to see all the wildlife that is far especially if you are into bird watching, watching primates, and game viewing.
Hike boots: Hike boots are a must since you are going to be moving from one place to the next. Some of the qualities of hike boots you need for your photo safari are they should be strong but not heavy, they should be fitting to avoid blisters on your feet, ankle-length boots are the best, and if possible, get waterproof hike boots.
Other essential lists that you should pack include insect repellent, sunscreen, a sunhat, cash for tips and other emergencies, a rain jacket, a warm sweater, wet wipes, a flashlight, a biodegradable toilet paper, and refillable water bottle, among others.
Activities carried out in Nyungwe National Park
Several activities are offered in Nyungwe National Park that you can participate in while on a photography safari and these include:
Nyungwe National Park has quite a population of chimpanzees, and this is the most participated activity in the National park compared to other activities. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe is carried out all year round, but the best time is during the dry season when the vegetation is sparse. Trek routes are easily accessible, unlike during the wet season, and the chimpanzees can easily be trekked. The chimpanzees keep moving from one place to the next, making it fun to trek them to their current location. The cost of the chimpanzee trek for Rwanda nationals is 5000Rwf, foreign non-residents pay $90, EAC nationals and foreign residents pay $10 and $60, respectively, foreign resident students pay $30, Rwandan students pay 3000Rwf and EAC students pay $5.
Chimpanzee trekking is mainly carried out in two places within Nyungwe, the Nyungwe forest and the Cyamudongo forest. Tourists get to trek the habituated chimpanzees, study their behavioral patterns, what they feed on, how they care for their young ones and other primate features. During the chimpanzee trek, you also see other wildlife like bird species and primates.
Some rules and regulations need to be followed when chimpanzees trek in Nyungwe National Park. These are keeping a distance of 7 meters from the chimpanzees, avoiding approaching the chimps, no feeding is allowed, no one is allowed to feed the chimps, keeping the national park clean by keeping your rubbish until you find a dustbin, flash photography is not allowed, there are no toilets and therefore you have to dig a hole of 10 cm deep and after cover it up properly, the minimum age for chimp trekking is 155 years and a maximum of 8 people is allowed to trek the chimpanzees per session.
Enjoy the canopy walk.
The canopy walk in Nyungwe is an exciting experience for tourists visiting the National Park, and it is carried out on a 160m walkway suspended 70m above the forest. It is one of the most active activities in the forest and was officially opened in 2010 to boost tourism in the national park and Rwanda as a country. The canopy walk is carried out in two sessions, one in the morning and the second in the afternoon.
The cost of the canopy walk is set according to the category of tourists visiting Nyungwe and these are Rwanda residents pay RWF5000 per person, foreign non-residents pay $60, EAC citizens pay $10, EAC foreign residents pay $50, foreign residents pay $50, EAC students pay $5, a foreign resident student pays $25, EAC resident student pays $25 and Rwandan student pays 500RWF per person.
Some things you should carry for your canopy walk include a refillable water bottle, snacks, hiking boots, a raincoat, a passport or national ID, a camera, a hiking stick, and a permit.
The metallic canopy walkway is not for the faint-hearted. Still, it offers great views of Nyungwe Forest National Park for example, primates like the black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, and the Angola colobus. You also see wildlife like bird species, golden cats, forest elephants and duikers.
Forest nature walks
If you are scared of the canopy walk but would still love to explore the national park, nature walks are the best way to do it, especially if you are scared of heights. The forest nature walks will take you around the national park using different trek routes like the Igishigishi trek trail (the shortest trail among the three), the Bigugu trek trail, which is considered to be the most difficult and used by tourists looking for a challenge and the waterfalls trail. During the nature walks, tourists see numerous wildlife like monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, and over 3000 registered bird species.
Nyungwe National Park is home to other primates besides the chimpanzees, including vervet monkeys, L’Hoests’ monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys, silver monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, and Grey-cheeked Mangabeys. Ruwenzori colobus, Angola colobus monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys, among others. Primate walks are best done in the morning and late afternoon and in the dry season (June to September). During the primate walks, you also see other wildlife species, including bird species, butterflies, and medicinal plant species.
The Gisovu chimp family group carries out chimp habituation in Nyungwe National Park. Chimp habituation is the process through which the primates are studied and trained to get used to human presence. You get to spend more time with the chimps during chimpanzee habituation as compared to normal trekking. However, at the moment, chimpanzee habituation is carried out on a smaller scale, but it is still a good way to study the behaviors of chimpanzees.
Nyungwe National Park is a better birding destination compared to Volcanoes National Park, with 300 recorded bird species. The national park is home to 25 Albertine species endemic to the park, and these are the Miombo wren warbler, Blue Turaco, coqui Francolin, Guinea Congo forest biome, long-tailed cisticola, Chubb’s cisticola, Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ross’s turaco, red-throated alethe and strange weaver. The best time for bird watching is during the wet season, which is October to November and March to May, when the migratory birds are around.
Birding in Nyungwe is carried out in only some of the national parks, and this is because the different bird species are found in specific parts of the park. This is why the Rwanda Development Board came up with a birding permit that costs $50 per person. Professional and experienced birding guides will be around to help you and take you to the best birding spots. Some things you can pack for a birding safari to Nyungwe National Park include recognition books, binoculars, and a camera.
Enjoy the Congo Nile trail.
The Congo trail is both a hike and biking trail that can be completed on bikes, kayas, or foot. It is a 42-kilometer trail named after the part (watershed) separating the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trail goes through Rwanda to the Burundi border, the shores of Lake Kivu, the Nile River, and Nyungwe National Park, including other areas. Get ready to cycle through the Nyungwe National Park as you release all the tension energy and enjoy the great views the forest offers.
The Congo Nile Trail is used by cyclists who travel through different villages in Rwanda and Nyungwe Park. It is a form of exercise and, at the same time, an enjoyable activity that is used to get to know more about Rwanda and its unique culture with the different stops made at the different villages for camping. The bikes are loaned out to cyclists at the start of the hike and remember to carry camping gear, snacks, and enough bottled water to take you through the journey.
How to get to Nyungwe National Park
Located in the western part of Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park can be reached using two modes of transport, which are air and road transport. Nyungwe is 217 kilometers from Kigali, and you can use public or private means to get to Nyungwe. We usually advise clients to book with us or any trusted local tour operator to help organize their safari to Nyungwe National Park, including transport. Charter flights are arranged from Kigali International Airport to the nearest Kamembe Airport, and then a guide will drive you the rest of the way to the airport.
Where to stay in Nyungwe on a photography safari
Accommodation around Nyungwe comes in three categories: budget/basic, mid-range, and luxury accommodation facilities. Rwanda has been labeled a luxury tourist destination, but you still need a facility that fits your budget. Some of the facilities we recommend when you visit Nyungwe Forest National Park include the Gisakura Family Hostel, a budget-friendly facility located along the main road of Gisakura, Golden Monkey Hotel, Nyungwe Top View Hilltop, Uwinka campsite, Rustic Rest House, Hotel Ibis Butare, One & Only Nyungwe House, Café Restro Bar Keza, Kitabi Eco-Center, KCCEM Guesthouse, EAR Gisakura Visitor Centre and Hotel Falcon Butare among others.
Come and enjoy a photo safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park and explore Rwanda as a country with its diverse culture. We are always around to help you plan your photography safari all year round, and all you have to do is get in touch with us for a fun and exciting experience.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a perfect destination for primates and many more activities. Contact us for more information.