Practical Guide to Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda

Travel On The Dollar
June 24, 2024  •  5 min(s) read

Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest national park in Rwanda is one of the most amazing experiences to see the chimpanzees in their natural habitat.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda - A Practical Guide

Where to track Chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest Park

Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
There are two groups of Chimpanzees habituated in the massive area of the Nyungwe national park – one group is found around Uwinka and other big group is found at Cyamudongo. I was told that it was easier to track them in Cyamudongo forest because of the smaller area of the forest, compared to Uwinka which covers huge area. But Chimpanzees are always on the move, so depending on the behavior of the group, your trek can be longer and sweatier!

The park elevation varies between 1600m-2950m above the sea level and above-moderate fitness is required to be able to follow them in the dense forest.


How to apply for Chimpanzee tracking permit in Nyungwe Forest Park

Considering the limited spots per day to track Chimpanzees, and only one time-slot open per day, it is highly recommended to make a reservation in advance. Each day, the trek starts at around 5-5:30am and only a set number of people are allowed.

To secure a permit for Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest national park, visit the Nyungwe Forest’s Online Reservation form. Fill this form and expect to receive an email within 24-48 hours. The process is:

  1. Fill online request for permit.
  2. Receive confirmation email. ACTION: Respond to this email confirming your dates, no. of people, etc.
  3. Receive email with a link to the payment. ACTION: Make a payment by clicking the link provided. It costs $250 per person.
  4. ACTION: Save the payment confirmation as PDF. Reply to the email with the payment confirmation.
  5. Receive an email confirming the payment.
  6. NOTE: You will NOT receive the permit in email, but just a confirmation.


How to get Chimpanzee tracking permit in Nyungwe Forest Park

Once you have completed all the actions outlined above, and you are in Nyungwe National Park, visit the Gisakura Reception Center (located at -2.4601036157683485, 29.094829970491634) at least a day before your scheduled trek to check-in at the park reception.

Make sure to carry your passport with you as they will verify your name and payment, and assign a tour guide to you who will explain the next steps.

How to get there

IMPORTANT: You must have a 4×4 vehicle of your own to visit the forest area where the Chimpanzees are residing. Click here to see how you can rent your 4×4 vehicle in Nyungwe park.

You park guide will inform you on the pickup time and location, from where you will drive to the entrance of the forest. The Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe always starts at 5:00 (exact time will be given by your park guide). The location of the pick-up will also be given by the guide, but mostly it is Gisakura Reception Center.

Remember that you are in charge for picking up the guide from the said location and bring them back at the end of the visit. To get to forest, a 4×4 vehicle is a must because the of the unpaved road. Your guide will navigate you to the entrance of the forest.

Road leading to entrance of Nyungwe Forest for Chimpanzee tracking, Rwanda
Road leading to entrance of Nyungwe Forest for Chimpanzee tracking


Things to carry for Chimpanzee tracking

For a great trek, here are some essentials to carry:

  • Hiking shoes – A good hiking shoes are a must! The trails leading to the Chimpanzees tend to be wet and graveled making them slippery.
  • Long-sleeved shirt and full trousers – Protecting your skin from the thorny trees and insects is important, and long-sleeved t-shirt with full trousers do just that! Also, light clothes that can be washed and dried easily are highly recommended.
  • Long socks – Tucking your trousers inside long socks prevents the ants to crawl inside your pants!
  • Garden gloves – These help your hands from scratching from the thorny trees!
  • Waterproof rain jacket/poncho – Nyungwe is a rainforest, and it’s likely to rain during your hike, so keep a rain poncho to protect all your items.
  • Insect repellent – Considering the high elevation, there are no mosquitoes here, but other insects can be dangerous or just annoying.
  • Snacks, water – Packed lunch and water is a must for the unpredictable hike that can take a few hours to a whole day depending on the location of the Chimpanzees. Most hotels in the park area will provide packed lunch.
  • Walking stick – Your guide will give a walking stick to you to give you support while hiking in the jungle especially during the rainy season when the forest is muddy and slippery.
  • Small backpack – Easy-cleanable and small backpack to keep all your items safe.
  • Camera – You will be far away from the Chimpanzees so a camera with good zoom is a must!

Porters can be arranged in the Nyungwe forest national park at the starting point. Make sure to let your guides know in advance. Your guides are always there to help you push or pull yourself during the hike.

Best time for Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe

From mid-May to late August fig trees are rich in fruits making this a blooming period and the best time for Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe. It is the dry season which makes the trek less muddy, less slippery and more accessible.

Chimpanzees are most easily seen in the early morning making your trek start around 6am from the entrance of the forest.

Chimpanzee in Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda


Guidelines for Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe

  • Keep a distance away from the primates to avoid contraction of diseases to the primates.
  • Masks are not mandatory for Chimpanzee tracking.
  • Do NOT use flash while taking pictures of the primates. It can scare them leading to aggression.
  • No littering in the park.
  • Do not feed chimpanzees.
  • Stay calm and stay silent.
  • Follow your guides instructions.

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