Nyungwe National Park, Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest offers a rare and vital habitation for numerous primate and bird species.
With recorded 275 bird species, 26 of them are widespread; Nyungwe is one of the most important and still undiscovered bird watching destinations in Africa. At 3000 meters above sea level with Mount Bigugu the highest point in the Park, Nyungwe’s forest extends to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa. Nyungwe is also habitat to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of chimpanzees and occasionally deafening, athletic combination of other primates like Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti). Several hiking trails are common in the park leading to a canopy walk, primate tracking adventures, the southernmost source of the Nile and ecotourism attractions.
Nyungwe Forest National Park contains 13 diverse primate species (25% of Africa’s total), several bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. Most of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift Montane Forests, an Eco region in Africa as the number of common species found here is larger than in any other jungle in the Albertine Rift Mountains, according to surveys. The forest has a widespread manifestation of collections of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes – Blumenbach, 1775) and Angola colobus (Colobus angolensis – Sclater 1860), the latter now extinct in Angola for the extreme hunt to which they were exposed.
The park boasts of an array of orchids, butterflies, moths and other insects with a growing set-up of walking and hiking trails and a number of camping sites near the Uvinka Visitor Centre. Cultural tourism activities are being developed near the edge of the Park. Many trails and camping sites have been set as part of the USAID-sponsored Nyungwe Nziza Project aimed at protecting and promoting tourism in the park. Nyungwe forest has lived for thousands of years and is among Africa’s oldest forests and therefore, there is likelihood that climate change will not disturb Nyungwe so long as it remains protected from man-made threats.
Nyungwe forest remains ecologically diverse because scientists believe it was one of the few places in Africa to remain green during the last Ice Age. Many wildlife species took refuge in Nyungwe and stayed. This Mountain Rainforestis a home to a variety of plants, animals, and habitats found almost nowhere else in Africa. Being part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the forestis in the Albertine Rift, a mountainous segment of East Africa that largely harbors more endemic birds, mammals, and amphibians better or more than any other region in Africa. For instance, about 1000 species of birds, 52% of Africa’s birds, have been noted in the Albertine Rift. Nyungwe is the largest protected area within the Albertine Rift and hosts 25% of these endemics, unlike any other place in East Africa.
Nyungwe Forest is Rwanda’s primary water catchment, protecting more than two-thirds of all of its waters. Annually, Nyungwe forest receives more than 2000 mm of rain and consequently making it the source of Africa’s great rivers. Rainfalls on the eastern side of the forest feed River Nile, whereas rains on the west run to the Congo.