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Extending for 970 square kilometers 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.
A uniquely rich center of floral diversity, Nyungwe forest has more than 200 different types of tree, and a myriad of flowering plants including the otherworldly giant lobelia and a host of colorful orchids.
An extensive network of well-maintained walking trails leads through Nyungwe forest to various waterfalls and viewing points. A comfortably rustic rest house and perfectly situated campsite lies alongside the main road, and the reserve can readily be visited as a day trip from the towns of Huye and Cyangugu.
Nyungwe National Park does, however, deserve more time: anybody who wants to track chimps and see several varieties of smaller primate will need two days there – and dedicated bird watchers might never want to leave!
Nyungwe forest is most alluring for its primates: 13 species in all, including humankinds closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome LHoests monkey and hundred strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola Colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe forest harbors almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift.
The avian highlight of Nyungwe National Park is the great blue turaco – an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
Facts About Nyungwe Forest
Area: 970 square kilometers (378 square miles), the largest single forest block in East Africa.
Elevation: Between 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters (Between 5,600 feet and 9,700 feet).
Temperature range: 0-30 degrees C (32-85 degrees F, average daytime temperature: 15.5 degrees C (60 degrees F).
Rainfall: 1800-2500 mm per year (71-78 inches).
Rainy season: September to May.
Dry Season: June to August, with several dry weeks in December/January.
Forest Type: Nyungwe forest is made up of a complex matrix of Albertine Rift montane forest. Nyungwe National Park is known for its rugged terrain and complex mosaic of dense vegetation types from tall dense forests to open, flower filled marshes. The park has a varied topography with varied soil types providing micro habitats for both plants and animals. Moist, fertile soil supports tall forests, while dry ridges provide habitat for shorter trees and thickets. The southeastern portion of Nyungwe is blanketed with bamboo, an important commodity, while flooded forests, marshes, and open herbaceous ground cover are interspersed throughout.