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Chimpanzee Safaris in Nyungwe

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Nyungwe Forest in south western Rwanda is absolutely beautiful and big too – 400 square kilometres to be exact! The forest is a mixture of montane forest with three different habitats including savannah, primary and secondary forest. Sitting across 1600 to 2950m, the views are simply staggering and the forest has fairly cool temperatures.

Nyungwe is home to 13 different species of primate – twelve different monkeys including the black and white marked L’Hoest Albertine Rift monkey and one ape – the chimpanzee.

The female dominated groups of L’Hoest’s monkeys Cercopithecus lhoesti walk on all four legs so are classed as a Quadra pedal species.  These gorgeous moneys have dark black bodies with long fuzzy white beards and they forage on the forest floor looking for seeds, insects and fruit.

Visitors to the park can go on guided walks in the forest with resident rangers in search of butterflies, moths, animals and of course chimpanzees and monkeys too.  Though one only has a 50/50 chance of seeing the chimps, the walks are fruitful and rewarding with the lovely forest scenery, waterfalls, orchids, birdlife and insects always being in abundance.

It is possibly best to search for the chimps during the dry season when they tend to forage on the forest floor for fruit.  The walks take around three hours. Some of the walks can traverse over fairly steep terrain, so trekking boots are absolutely necessary.   

Nyungwe is home to about 500 Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes. The chimps in the park are all black with fairly large prominent ears and most have white beards. A chimpanzee’s diet is varied with fruit, honey, seeds and resin and also meat – catching small animals including monkeys when they hunt.

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Chimpanzees are highly intelligent sharing about 94% of our DNA though inconclusive genome differences of 1.2% on average – there are many studies on this subject!

There are also many species of birds found in Nyungwe including the Ruwenzori turaco, Lagdens bush shrike, Fraser’s eagle owl, Ruwenzori batis, red-faced woodland warbler and mountain masked apalis.  About 52% of all of Africa’s birds are found in the Albertine Rift of which Nyungwe is the largest protected area within the Rift.

The other primates in Nyungwe include the sun-tailed Gabon monkey, mona monkeys, blue monkeys, mangabey and the Preuss’ Cameroon monkey and all of the primates are classed as Old World species. This class lived in large forests before the last ice age after which the forest split into smaller sectors, thereby all species adapting to their own habitats. 

The lovely and small owl-faced monkey is similar and related to the L’Hoest’s monkey, but is rarely seen and very little is known about them.  They have a white strip that goes from their lip to the top of their nose.   

The Angolan colobus monkey is large with long black and white hair and a slap-dash eating habit - dropping fruit and berries to the forest floor which other animals and birds consume. Nyungwe is a wonderful addition to the Virunga Mountains where one can see the Mountain gorillas.

And now, Nyungwe has another excellent reason to stay – which is the gorgeous, luxurious Nyungwe Forest Lodge set on a working tea plantation on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest. Here there are various guided walking trails from 1- 7 hours and is perfect for those wanting to simply relax or walk and take in these breathtaking surroundings.

Pictures by courtesy of Kamageo

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