One thing you can never go wrong about Nyungwe Forest National Park is its rich diversity and the best way to discover the hidden attractions of this natural gem is by hiking right through it to appreciate the majesty of its towering trees, wide array of wildlife species, plethora of bird species and just take photos. This 1000-square kilometer Park is found in the southwestern side of the country and borders Lake Kivu, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are over 1000 plant species of which 200 are tree species while 140 are Orchids. Of the 80 over mammal species, 13 are primate species. Nyungwe is also one of the best 5 birding spots in Rwanda with over 320 bird species that include over 20 Albertine Rift endemics. If you have plans of venturing into this jungle (known for being the largest Afro-montane rainforest in Africa) and stretch your legs, here are the must-try hiking trails;
At 1.8 kilometers long, the incredible Buhoro Trail is one of the shortest in this National Park and can be completed in only one and a half hours. This easy Trail is perfect for travelers looking to simply enjoy the cool breeze while appreciating the beauty of Mother Nature.
Bigugu Trail is over 13.2-kilometer long (for a round trip) and usually starts from Nyabishwati for a distance of over 6 hours. While it is long, there is so much to see and these include flora species, breathtaking hills, phenomenal views of Lake Kivu, and magnificent islands in the DRC side of Lake Kivu. If you choose this trail, be prepared to hike to the highest peak of Nyungwe Forest (Bigugu).
The Congo Nile Divide
This is the longest Trail at 42 kilometers and is also one of the most rewarding. It was named after the watershed that separates/divides DRC from the Nile and goes through the Rwanda-Burundi border while rewarding hikers views of the Nile River, shores of Lake Kivu and so much more.
Igishigishigi Trail starts from Uwinka Visitor’s Center and is one of the most popular because it involves exploring the sought-after canopy walk. The Trail takes about 2 hours to complete this 2.1-kilometer Trail known for its “canopy walkway” where views of forest canopies, orchids, Valleys primates and birds are relished. Igishigishigi Trail was named after the huge ferns lined along it and can be combined with two other longer trails.
The 10-kilometer long Imbaraga Trail is for the experienced hikers who yearn to take in jaw-dropping views of four spectacular waterfalls, with most of them sighted after just few kilometers of hiking. The trail takes over 6 hours to complete thus it is important to be prepared with packed lunch, snacks, enough drinking water and a rain jacket.
Irebero is a medium-to-hike trail that extends about 3.4 kilometers and takes only 3 hours to complete. It goes around two of Nyungwe’s highest peaks while rewarding visitors with unmatched views of Lake Kivu on the Rwandan side.
The 10.6-kiloemeter Isumo Trail is another popular hiking trail in Nyungwe Forest because it rewards visitors with views of the Park’s biggest waterfalls- Isumo falls. This Trail begins from Gisakura Visitor Center and takes only 4 hours to finalize. While the waterfalls are the highlight of this trail, also expect to enjoy views of Gisakura tea estate (where you will be passing through), a stunning steep rainforest and a wide array of bird species.
Kamiranzovu Marsh Trail
The word “Kamiranzovu” is translated as “swallowing elephants” in the local Kinyarwanda dialect because the wetland was believed to have swallowed the last elephant of Nyungwe Forest. This 5.9-kilometer trail can be completed in 3 hours with views of sunbirds and other species along the way.
This 6-kilometer Trail begins from Karamba main road and goes through a former gold mine, Army Camp and local market, with great birding opportunities. The 3-hour Trail is one of the easiest to hike in Nyungwe Forest and ideal for elderly travelers.
Muzimu hiking Trail starts from Gisovu Ranger Post with hiking distance of 5.2 kilometers and hiking time of three and a half-hours. It is said to be relatively easy with opportunities of encountering a plethora of birds, as well as relishing views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Lake Kivu on a clear day.
The 4.7-kilometer Ngabwe Trail starts from Kitabi Center and can be completed in only 3 hours. Expect to enjoy views while hiking to the peak of Mount Ngabwe. This is one of the best Camping and picnic sites in Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Starting from Uwinka Visitor Center, Rukuzi Trail is over 9 kilometers long and can be completed in over 5 hours. There are high chances of sighting chimps along Rukuzi trail, in addition to taking in views of the stunning Banda Village where children’s voices can be heard from the mountainside.
The 5.5-kilometer Umuyove Trail begins at Uwinka Visitor Center and can be completed in only three and a half hours. It is also known as the “Mahogany Trail” because hikers have an opportunity of walking under huge Mahogany tree before refreshing by the waterfalls. There are also great chances of sighting chimps along this trail.
Another popular nature walk option in Nyungwe Forest is the 17.8-kilometer Uwinka trail that can be completed in over 8 hours. It is considered one of the most difficult trails and passes through ravines and increases chances of sighting a plethora of bird species.
In 3 hours, you can complete the 3.6-kilometer Umugote Trail but expect a real challenge as you ascend hills which will reward you with breathtaking views of stunning and colorful flowers, birds, the Ridges, and Kibira National Park in neighboring Burundi. Besides birds, many primate species are likely to be sighted along this Trail.