MUST DO: a chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda!

In this blog, I will tell you everything about the chimpanzee trek we did in the Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda! After walking for an hour through a thick forest, you can already hear them before seeing them: chimpanzees. They scream at each other and sound pretty angry. Suddenly you see two black shadows running by from your right eye corner. Far too fast to be able to observe them, let alone take photos, but luckily a little later we are luckier. The ranger points to a place where two beautiful monkeys quietly flea each other. 

Chimpanzees spotting in Nyungwe Forest

We left Kigali early this morning and drive in six hours to the Nyungwe Forest. This is a large national park in the southwest of Rwanda, which is partly located in neighbouring Burundi. And because of that neighbouring country, we see a heavily armed soldier standing every 100 meters after entering the national park. Apparently, a lot is smuggled goes on around this border.

The Nyungwe Forest is a beautiful rainforest, over 1020 hectares. With ten of the thirteen primates living here, 300 birds and more than 1000 different plant species, there is large biodiversity. Strangely enough, it attracts few tourists, perhaps because there is not much information available about the park?

We don’t mind being one of the few. It is beautiful here! The longer we drive on the winding road that goes through the park, the higher we get. Sometimes we see a glimpse of a deep valley with lots of fog. Small mountain monkeys are everywhere along the road, looking curiously into the car. It is a bit surreal, a brand new road surrounded by the jungle.Tea plantation Rwanda

Uwinka Visitor Center and Campsite in Nyungwe Forest

After an hour driving towards the centre of the park, we arrive at the Uwinka Visitor Center, one of the three visitor centres and gateways. You can’t just go outside into the park, that’s too dangerous for you and the animals. Therefore there are these visitor centres where you pay an entrance fee to do a hike with a ranger. You can also book these walks online. We are not here to hike but for the chimpanzee trekking, and we have also decided to camp at the beautiful campsite that is located near the Visitor Center, a secluded place where we look out over the rainforest!

Once at the Uwinka Visitor Center, the park ranger tells us that we must report to another Visitor Center, Gisakura in the west of the park, before five a clock in the evening to confirm the chimpanzee trek. Fortunately, it is only half an hour away. After arriving at the Gisakura Visitor Center the rangers tell us the chimpanzees in Nyungwe have moved too far into the rainforest and that we, therefore, will drive the next morning to another place. Perfectly fine, that’s the advantage of having a car. Back at the Uwinka Campsite we quickly pitch our tent and then sit by the campfire.

Spotting chimpanzees in Rwanda

We walk softly through a thick forest. Soon there is no visible path anymore and we are just struggling ourselves through the branches, via steep slopes and over muddy streams. Less than half an hour on the road, and we can already hear them: chimpanzees! Hidden in the trees high above us, they shout at each other. But they don’t want to be seen … It takes another half an hour before we actually spot them, three dark brown dots in the trees. As soon as they realize that we see them, they disappear again.

The rangers who accompany our group of ten people, speak softly via walkie talkies and find the animals again in no time. Two young males are resting on the floor. At an appropriate distance, we look at the animals. Wow, how beautiful they are! They look so much like people, with their facial expressions and behaviour. For more than twenty minutes we take our time to observe them, but then our time is up and we leave them alone.

Back at the campsite, we are warm, sweaty and tired. But above all very happy with this beautiful experience. How beautiful nature is!

Planning a trip to Rwanda? Check out our Rwanda itinerary blog!

Practical information about a chimpanzee treck in Uganda and Rwanda

Chimpanzees in Rwanda and Uganda

You can find chimpanzees in both Rwanda and Uganda. We chose trekking in Rwanda because we could easily book the tickets ourselves online. The prices in Uganda vary considerably, we have heard about trekkings with a price $150 (in Kibale Forest, the best-known place in Uganda to spot chimpanzees) and in other places it costs only $40 (in Kalinzu Forest).

In Rwanda, we found a fixed price and we saw that tickets can be bought online a big plus. We, therefore, opted for a chimpanzee trek in Rwanda near the Nyungwe Forest.

Where do you do a chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda?

You can do a chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda in the vicinity of the Nyungwe Forest. Because the animals keep moving, their location is different every time. So go on time the day before to one of the visitor centres where they will tell you where you should be the next morning. Having your own way of transportation is a must.

There are three visitor centres in total: Kitabi (the entrance in the east of the park), Uwinka (the entrance in the middle of the park) and Gisakura (in the west of the park).

Please note: it is not on the ticket, website or confirmation email, but you must be at the right visitor centre (even if you do not know which one it will be) before five o’clock to confirm your trek. So it is so handy to go to the first one early to find out which of the three centres you actually need to be.

How do you buy a permit for a chimpanzee trekking?

You can buy your ticket at the Uwinka or Gisakura office (strangely enough this is not possible at the Kitabi visitor centre) but it is much easier to do this online. Go to the website of Rwanda Government Irembo where you can buy chimpanzee permits or book one of the other activities. [Update: currently the option to buy a permit online at Irembo seems to have been taken offline. We can’t figure out how this is possible, but hope to come up with an alternative soon.]

Please note: we were initially under the assumption that such a permit would only provide access to the park and not a guide or trek. That is not the case! As a tourist, you pay 90$ for the chimpanzee trekking and that includes everything, your guide, entrance fee and trekking.

What do you wear during a chimpanzee trekking?

There I was, with my short sport leg that completely left both my ankles and calves naked. The guide looked at me a bit confused and asked if I wasn’t afraid of the biting red ants? Fortunately, there was a Frenchman who happened to have the same pant size and was so nice to lend me his extra pants. It felt a bit weird, walking in the pants of a man who I didn’t even know but after seeing the red ants, I was so happy with it!

Please put on long pants with high socks so that they cannot crawl into your shoes. Furthermore, a T-shirt/blouse with long sleeves is also handy to protect you against the same ants. Be prepared to sometimes have to clamber up considerably and therefore become dirty. We wore hiking boots, a hat and water are indispensable.

Additional information about activities in the Nyunngwe Forest National Park

You don’t have to pay an entrance fee to drive through the park. The price for all activities includes a guide and entrance to the park. Besides a chimpanzee trek, you can do a lot of hikes (all can be booked in advance via the website of Rwanda Government Irembo). For example, a bird spot hike, another primate (monkey) trek or the Congo Nile hike.

Curious what it costs to travel through Rwanda? Check out the Rwanda budget blog!

Where do you sleep in the Nyungwe Forest?

There are not so many sleeping options in and around the Nyungwe Forest. Below are some suggestions we have been to ourselves.

Uwinka Visitor Centre and Campsite

uwinka centre camping

We stayed at the campsite of the Uwinka Visitor Center, in the middle of the park. The view is amazing. It has a small shop where you can buy food. Price: $15 per person, tents and sleeping gear is available for rent.

Book now

Kitabi- Ecocenter

Kitabi Ecocenter

This nice accommodation is close to the Kitabi entrance. For us this location wasn’t convenient because of the location of the chimpanzee trekking, otherwise, we would have stayed here! From €22 per night for 2 people.

Book now

One&Only Nyungwe House


This super-deluxe resort is beautiful and is located on the west side of the Nyungwe National Park, near the Gisakura entrance. This is an all-inclusive resort, a two-person room including all meals costs €1422 per night.

Book now

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All you need to know about a chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest

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  1. by Airi on 18 November 2021  21:25 Reply

    Thank you for the post, very useful. We are going to Rwanda and planning to do some trekking in Nyungwe Forest . I had a question, whether you had to book in advance your stay at the Uwinka Visitor Cente campsite, or was it enough to show up on the day. I seem to not really find a place to book our stay there.


    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 24 November 2021  13:27 Reply

      Hi Airi,
      Wauw such an amazing prospect! No, we didn't book in advance, we just showed up :-)! Enjoy Rwanda!
      Kind regards,

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