Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda

Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda

Chimpanzee trekking / tracking is one of the top wildlife tours to do in Rwanda, perhaps only second to the famous gorilla trek. The chimpanzee trekking tour in Rwanda takes place only in Nyungwe Forest National Park – a mountain forest that is said to have existed since the ice age thereby protecting a huge biodiversity, with many species existing only in this forest. Nyungwe National Park is well known for its many primates with 13 species that have been recorded there and that includes a big population of the chimpanzees – man’s closest relatives. Nyungwe National Park has more than 500 chimps, offering one of the best chances to see chimps in their natural home. Other chimps in Rwanda are found in the Gishwati-Mukura National Park but there is no chimp trekking done there.

About chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park

Two troops of chimpanzees have been habituated for the chimpanzee tracking adventure in Nyungwe National Park. One troop lives in the larger Nyungwe forest and the second troop lives in Cyamudongo forest, a small patch of forest located to the east of Nyungwe forest. Cyamudongo forest is part of Nyungwe National Park though physically detached from the larger and main forest. Historically Cyamudongo was once part of Nyungwe forest. The habituated chimpanzee group in the main Nyungwe forest is bigger with about 60 chimps, however given the magnitude of the forest and terrain it offers lesser chances of seeing the chimps, while the group in Cyamudongo forest that has a smaller number of about 30 chimps offers the most successful sightings given the small size that be covered to find the chimps in any part.

The Rwanda chimpanzee tours in Nyungwe set off from Gisakura ranger station. Tourists are expected to be at Gisakura station by 4.30am to meet the park guides for briefing and by 5am are transferring to the starting point of the trek into the park. There is only one session to track chimps in Nyungwe which is the early morning session.

The chimps nest somewhere new every night and therefore the time taken to find them may not easily be predicted. However, there are park trackers who will have gone ahead of the tourist trekking group to find the chimps before they leave their nests and communicate to the park guides the location so the guides will work out the easiest route to find the chimps that by then will have most likely already left their nests and on the move. On average it takes about 2 -3 hours of trekking to find the chimpanzees.

Tourists are allowed only one hour to see the chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest national park and it is a wonderful opportunity to observe them closely as they go about their lives. Observing the actions and features from the chimpanzees, one can see why they are called man’s closest relatives which share up to 98.7% DNA with man. Because a troop of chimps can cover large territory and the individual chimps of the troop can become quite distant from each other,  so to communicate their locations every now and then the chimps communicate by way of deafening screams, loud pant hoots and thunderous slapping of the tree barks and buttresses – it is such a hair rising moment like nothing you have experienced before!

The chimpanzee trekking experience is different from the gorilla trekking as the chimps are very active and are running around in the tree canopies, and so there may be a bit of running after to catch up and sightings may be a bit more sporadic and rushed.

Cost of the Rwanda chimpanzee trekking permit & age limit

The cost of the permit for chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is USD 90 for foreign non residents and USD 60 for foreign residents of Rwanda and East Africa (Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Burundi).

Important to note is that only 8 tourists are allowed to track each chimpanzee troop in the day’s session, and therefore since there are two habituated chimp groups only 16 chimp permits are available each day. This is a very limited number of permits considering how many people track the chimps. You are advise to book your chimp tour well advance so that your permit is secured.

There is an age limit of for one to go chimp trekking in Rwanda and you must be 16 years and above

Tips for chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda – how to prepare

Average fitness is okay, but good fitness will make the experience more enjoyable as the chimps can swing through the trees at such speed that you may need to literally after them.

Bring as essentials; hiking shoes or boots, long pants, long sleeved shirt, a rain jacket, sunscreen, insect repellent

Carry at least two liters of drinking water and some snacks

Where to stay before the chimp trek in Nyungwe

EAR Guesthouse – budget

Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge – Midrange

One & Only Nyungwe House – Luxury

*The above lodges are located at the edge of Nyungwe and are near to the Gisakura ranger station

Emeraude Kivu Lodge – Midrange. This is located on Lake Kivu in Cyangugu town and it is about a 30 minutes drive from Nyungwe National Park

Chimpanzee trekking tours in Rwanda

2 days chimpanzee tracking tour to Nyungwe national park

3 days Nyungwe Nyungwe tour with chimpanzee tracking

3 days Chimpanzee tracking and Lake Kivu tour

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