PARC NATIONAL DES VOLCANS (PNV) [ Volcanoes National Park]

In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat," wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, "are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas". Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda , the Parc des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath. The park covers the Rwandan side of Virunga Conservation area.

Species: In the forested hills of the park can be found the rare golden monkey and a populations of buffaloes and elephants. The park is most known for hosting a population of mountains gorillas, Gorilla Gorilla Beringei specie. About 200 bird species have been recorded in the park, with 13 species endemic to the Albertine Rift, including the Rwenzori turaco.

Activities: Trekking can be arranged to hike two of the Virunga volcanoes, accessible from the Rwandan side, through the cultivated foothills: Karisimbi (4.507m) and Bisoke (3.711m). The climb to the peak of Karisimbi requires two days, with clients sleeping in a tent on the mountain. It does not require technical skills, but clients have to be fit and healthy as the walk is quite arduous and conditions can be wet, cold and muddy. Bisoke is a day's walk and although less steep than Karisimbi still requires walkers to be fit. The paths go thr

ough afromontane forest, bamboo, and woodland. Higher up there is Afro - alpine moorland, grassland and marsh, giant lobelia and senecio. Another important activity is t racking the habituated rare Golden Monkey of the Kabatwa group and Musongo Group. Visits to "Old Karisoke" Dian Fossey Research Centre are available. The walk takes about 6 - 8 hours in all and is a fascinating way to explore the park and get a glimpse of the remains of this historic place. Dian Fossey graveyard is located on Bisoke volcano, where she spent most of her time when researching on gorillas.

Four habituated families of mountains gorillas make the gorilla tracking the most exciting activity in the Parc des Volcans.

AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK (ANP)

Set at a relatively low altitude on the border with Tanzania, Akagera National Park is different than the cultivated hills that characterise much of Rwanda. Dominated scenically by the labyrinth of swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River, the most remote source of the Nile, this is archetypal African savannah landscape of tangled acacia woodland interspersed with open grassland. Created in 1934 it covers an area of 2.500 kms.

Species. Akagera offers big game viewing, with herds of elephants and buffaloes emerging from the woodland to drink at the lakes, then other mammals include leopards, spotted hyenas and lions. Giraffes and zebras haunt the savannah, and more than a dozen types of antelope inhabit the park, most commonly the chestnut - coated impala, but also the oribi and bushbuck, as well as the ungainly tsessebe and the world's largest antelope, the statuesque Cape eland. The lakes of Akagera are inhabited by hippos and crocodiles, a part from some of the continent's densest concentrations of waterbirds. The connecting marshes are the haunt of the endangered and exquisite papyrus gonolek, and the bizarre shoebill stork.

Activities. The Park offers well developed trials for game drives. Also possible to arrange boat trips on the lakes along the Akagera river.

NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK (NNP)

Extending for 970 kms across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda , Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa , and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. It is located in Southern Rwanda bordering Burundi.

Species . A uniquely rich centre of floral diversity, the forest has more than 200 different types of tree, and a myriad of flowering plants including the other - worldly giant lobelia and a host of colorful orchids. Nyungwe is most alluring for its primates: 13 species in all, including the chimpanzee, as well as 'Hoest's monkey and hundred - strong troops of the Angola colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda , Nyungwe harbours about 275 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift. The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue turaco - an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree. There are 270 species of tree and 70 species of mammals.

Activities. An extensive network of walking trails leads through the forest to various waterfalls and viewing points. The main attraction is the guided walk to view large groups of black and white Angolan Colobus monkeys or chimpanzees. The starting point is the information centre and Head Quarter at Uwinka

There number of activities offered at Nyungwe Forest with on overnight at Nyungwe forest Lodge. The activities revolve around walking and trekking in the National Park. The walk can last from 1 hour to 7 hours. The most popular activities are listed below. Black and white colobus monkey trekking, grey – cheeked mangabey trekking and the Kamiranzovu Swamps and Waterfall walks. Bird watching and cultural area walks are also offered.

Chimpanzee Trekking

While on your safaris in Rwanda, Chimpanzee Trekking is recommended adding to your Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Chimpanzee tracking is mainly done in Nyungwe National park. A group that sets off to track is maximum 8 people and trekking starts early morning a packed lunch is recommended and couple of liters of water, wear long trousers, long-sleeved shirt, rain-jacket, hat and hiking boots. Chimpanzees are familiar with people just because they habituated.

Monkey Tracking

In Nyugwe national park we spot different kind of primates. Unconfirmed sightseeing of Golden monkey has also been reported. But the most popular one in this Nyungwe National park are 300 Colobus monkeys, Ruwenzori colobus Monkey, Grey Cheeked Mangabey, as you continue with tracking you will have a chance to see L'Hoest's monkeys (primarily on the main round near Uwinka). Another rare animal you might also run into is the owl-faced monkey, an Albertine Rift endemic that inhabits Nyungwe's southern forests. In fact, most of the monkey species found in the park are endemic. Mona monkey and the blue monkeys. The forest is also a primate country.

Hiking in Nyungwe Forest

The park is gifted with 13 hiking trails for hikers’ paradise. I have trails that a must to visit and enjoy the experience.

   Congo- Nile divides trails

   You will get acquainted with the world's most separated river the trails take 3 to 4 days. It about 227 Km alongside the cong and the Nile. While trailing in the forest, you will get acquainted with the forest that separated the river basin the flows into the Nile and the river basin of the Congo. During the trek, you'll navigate through varied landscapes such as rainforests, bracken fields and bamboo forests. This 42 kilometer 3 to 4 day trail is along the ridge in the forest that separates the river basins that flow into the Nile and on other side of the ridge into the river basin of the Congo. This is for the experienced hiker and involves camping in the forest as you make your 42 kilometer trek through the ridge of the forest. This is an amazing multi-day hike that will be most memorable and is not to be confused with the popular Congo – Nile Trail that runs alongside Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda. This is the longest Hiking Trail in Nyungwe Forest. For those going on a multi-day trek, it can also be done by biking 4 by 4 car driving.

   Karambe Trails

This is located and the former site of Gold mine, the hike is really easy, hiking through the fern tree via the market and the army camp. In Nyungwe it is also considered to be the best location of bird watching.

   Umoyove Trail

This is another trail which takes through the tallest trees in Nyungwe. These trails also have channels that lead to all sides of Chimpanzee trekking. Umoyove trails is also known as mahogany trails

   Igishigishigi trails

This hike is about 2.1 km Nyungwe is also known for a canopy walk, this hike has got a great sightseeing for canopy trail. It can be combined with the longer Imbaraga or Umoyove Trails.

   Umugote trail

An amazing trail for birding watching. This hike takes through numerous ridges, rainforests, and stunningly beautiful flowers and on a clear day, the Kibira National Park in Burundi.

   Uwinka trail

Want to listen the bird singing and making al sort of noise. This is the hike that will lead you there through the lowly ravines, the hike may a had one but worthy it after hearing the sound of birds, that cools your mind.

   Imbaraga trail

This hike require experienced hikers, the trail rewards hikers with the sight of four scenic waterfalls - any of them will be refreshing after trekking a little less than 10 km.

   Irebero trail

On this hike you will have a clear view of Lake Kivu. You will king around two of the highest peaks in the park. As the site of Lake Kivu you will be able to capture good sights on your camera. Make sure you batteries are fully charged.

   Bigugu trail

For hikers who interested in seeing flowers and trees, you hike around the highest peak. On a clear day you will have a view of Lake Kivu as well as hills and islands belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

   Isumo trail

On this trail, you may find formers in the garden who will give an explanation of tea planting in the fields, steep rainforest ravines and to top it off, the biggest waterfall in the Nyungwe National Park.

   Kamiranzovu trail

This trial is mainly for people who love water this trail it features the park's largest wetland, an ancient swamp and magnificent waterfalls.

   Muzimu trail

This trail will take you through the eucalyptus forest and pine trees. You hike in the northeast of Rwanda. Another view of birds and their enjoyable sound in the forest.

   Ngabwe trail

For picnic and camping, this is the hike. The campsites are set for all who want to go for this trail.

   Rukuzi trail

This trails leased to chimpanzee Trekking and community. You will view the homes in the community from where you can hear children's voices carrying up the mountainside.

Birding in Nyungwe Forest

In Nyungwe National Park It had been recorded that it has 310 bird species and 27 of each are endemics and are part of the species that are found in the forests of the albertine rift. Nyungwe National park is also the most important park for the conservation of motane birds on the region. There also many different types of birds than can be sported on this sport, The sun birds of many types like the purple breasted and the blue headed sun bird and can be found in flowering trees. Birding had become the most popular activity in East Africa. You will have ample time view it all.

Canopy walk and the Hike

This canopy walk is one of the best experiences that many cannot afford to miss out. The canopy walk way is about 6o meters above the ground and 160 meter stretch. It was constructed in 2010 by the green heart NGO group supported by USAID. The canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest starts from Uwinka and its a guided a walk, The walk can also be done via the long trails of Umuyove or Imbaraga. Along the hike you will be surprised to see butterflies flying over your head birds, and primates like monkey moving on top of the trees. Above you and below you and a beautiful view of the huge Nyungwe forest and the great Lake Kivu. It’s an amazing sight.

Community and Culture based tourism activities.

Culture is an amazing activity and the opportunity to experience Rwandan tradition living and what makes it authentic. In Nyungwe Forest, you will have an opportunity to participate in the activities like grind millet and sorghum and grinding stone to make food. There is a lot to explore. You will be welcomed by local musician. Listening to the music and seeing them dance, that makes it so unique. In might have a chance to attend wedding ceremony that is you fortunate, you can also participate in basket weaving and testing of the local food.

Ethno Botany Tour with traditional healer

This field tour will introduce to you herbs and plants that help to cure different ailments. It is followed by a visit to the local pharmacy and to meet individual who are under treatment and follow up their recovery stages.

Brick making Tour

Visit the clay fields where you can watch and learn the art of local brick making with clay. Clay bricks are wrapped in banana leaves to dry over a two day period before being processed in a wooden frame. This tour is often coupled with opportunity to get your hands dirty and help build a community house.

Market Tour

This is worthwhile exploring. Enquire about the village walks where local Rwandese women demonstrate cooking traditional Rwandan food. This include food preparation and how to packages food in banana leaves the use of various local spices until the meal is served

Gishwati -Mukura officially becomes Rwanda’s 4th National Park

  The newly created Gishwati-Mukura National Park 

Rwanda officially has four parks. The newest is Gishwati -Mukura National Park after Nyungwe, Akagera and the Volcanoes National Parks. The law establishing the Gishwati-Mukura National Park was signed and gazetted on 01 February 2016.This law also determines its boundaries, surface and buffer zone.

According to the law, Gishwati-Mukura National Park is composed of the Gishwati Forest with an area of 1,439.72 hectares and Mukura Forest with a total surface of 1,987.74 hectares. The park’s buffer zone has a total surface of 992.48 hectares.

Initially, the Gishwati-Mukura reserve was estimated to cover 250,000 ha before it reduced to 28,000 ha in 1980s due mainly to uncontrolled human activities such as illegal mining, animal grazing and tree cutting, among other threats.  Over the past decades, the Gishwati-Mukura area was nearly depleted due largely to resettlement, livestock farming and small farming in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Today, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) through its project called “Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) project” is working to restore the highly degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape to enhance both environmental & economic benefits from both forests.

Activities to restore the Gishwati-Mukura landscape include rehabilitating natural forest and biodiversity within the Gishwati and Mukura reserves, enhancing sustainable land management in the agricultural lands between both forests and introducing silvo-pastoral approaches in the rangelands of the central former Gishwati reserve.

Gishwati-Mukura Park is known for a wide range of flora and fauna, including primates, chimpanzees and mammals among others. It also boasts of about 60 species of trees, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.

As noted by the Director General of REMA, Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, upgrading Gishwati-Mukura forests to the status of a National Park will ensure that the remaining part of the natural forests is fully protected.

Dr. Mukankomeje also affirms that “the new park will contribute to improving the livelihoods of population living in the surrounding areas as they will get off-farm jobs such as working in hotels and restaurants to be established near the park, becoming guides for tourists and selling craft products to different people coming to visit the park.”

"In addition, implementation of LAFREC activities within the park boundaries and its landscape will create hundreds of jobs for local communities, giving them an opportunity to diversify their sources of income and eventually improve their living conditions," Dr. Mukankomeje added.

Residents around Mukura – Gishwati National Park welcome its establishment. They also assert that the new park equals to richness as they are promising to build good relations with daily visitors.

The Gishwati-Mukura National Park is located in Rubavu, Rutsiro, Ngororero and Nyabihu Districts of the western part of Rwanda.

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