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One of the most well-known primate tracking excursions in Rwanda is chimpanzee trekking, maybe second only to the renowned gorilla trekking. Only in Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is chimpanzee trekking possible. The old mountain forest in this park, which is roughly 5 to 6 hours from Kigali in the southwest of Rwanda, is reported to have persisted since the last ice age. As a result, it protects a vast amount of biodiversity, with several species discovered to only live in this forest.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Nyungwe Forest

One of the greatest opportunities to view chimps in their native habitat is in Nyungwe National Park, which is home to more than 500 of them. The Gishwati-Mukura National Park in Rwanda is home to more chimpanzees, however at the present there is no chimpanzee trekking there.

Three welcome centers Uwinka, Kitabi, and Gisakura are the starting points of this journey. Visitors are requested to arrive at these centres between 4:30 and 5:00 am to meet park rangers before driving to the beginning of the trek through the forest.

Chimpanzees construct their nests every night, therefore a crew of trackers usually goes ahead of the trekking party and communicates with the guides to help the visitors avoid unnecessary and exhausting walks before they reach their destination.

In Nyungwe Forest, there is a habituated chimpanzee group with a sizable population of around 60 chimpanzees, however due to the dense forest and difficult terrain, there may not be many opportunities to see the chimpanzees. With only 30 chimpanzees, the group in Cyamudongo Forest is more manageable to watch. The beginning of the Nyungwe Forest National Park’s hiking route is at Cyamudongo, which is located 4 and a half hours from Kigali.

More than 13 distinct primate species, including more than 500 chimpanzees, call this forest home. Examples include the l’hoest’s and the black-faced vervet monkeys, which may be heard while walking through the forest. It is also Africa’s oldest montane forest. Due to their cautious nature and lack of habituatedness, these chimpanzees may be hard to locate. Additionally, because of their strong human sensibilities, they may exhibit curiosity, excitement, or anxiety when visitors are present. In the thick forests, there aren’t many well-traveled trails, which makes the chimpanzees’ journey more interesting.

The Nyungwe forest is home to all primates, although chimpanzees and gorillas are the most well-known and the area’s top draw.  It is important to reserve these permits in advance because only 8 permits for chimpanzee tracking are provided daily, compared to over 64 for gorilla trekking.

It’s best to make reservations six to twelve months in advance for the busy season (June to September and Christmas-New Year). In addition to chimpanzee trekking, Nyungwe Forest National Park also offers a variety of other extracurricular activities. These include hiking, canopy forest walks, birding, and trekking other ape species like the black and white colobus monkeys. The majority of these activities are designed to complement park visitors’ chimpanzee trekking safaris.

Make sure to bring your hiking boots or shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, and a rain jacket while going on a chimpanzee hike. You should also bring some food and at least 2 litres of drinking water.

Chimpanzee tracking differs from gorilla trekking in that gorillas are typically seen sited calmly enjoying each other’s company, playing, relaxing, or eating, but chimps are constantly spotted hanging from one tree to another, which makes watching hurried. To obtain a permit for chimpanzee trekking, one must be at least 16 years old and in average physical condition.

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