Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is another activity that diversified the tourism sector in Rwanda, as a major attraction has been the endangered mountain gorillas.
Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is carried out in Nyungwe forest National Park. This long stretch of montane rain-forest is the largest in Africa at the moment and a great conservation sight attracting researchers and scientists who are interested in primate research. The forest is part of the wider Nyungwe National Park which now includes the Cyamudongo forest. Nyungwe forest is a key water catchment area in the country producing rains that feed rivers like the Nile. Nyungwe forest is a great bird sanctuary with over 310 species. Birders will be able to spot paradise flycatchers, Chapin’s flycatcher, purple-breasted sunbirds, Rockefellers’ sunbird, red-collared mountain babblers and Ruwenzori turacos among many others.
In Rwanda, chimpanzees are found in two main places – Nyungwe National Park and Gishwati Mukura national park. Nyungwe National Park has the highest population of chimps (over 400 individuals) and other primates – 13 species in total. Other species include blue monkeys, mona monkeys, silver monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, the Dent’s monkey, black faced vervet monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, baboons, grey-cheeked Mangabeys, Rwenzori colobus, black and white colobus monkeys.
Chimpanzee trekking is a complete ball game from gorilla trekking, Chimps are stubborn, noisy and very mobile. Because they are lighter, they spend a lot of their time on top of the trees unlike mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are very gentle and peaceful. They will eat quietly and interact with less provocation and drama in the group. Tracking chimpanzees requires one to be fit enough in order to follow the primates for long periods as they make quick movements both on the ground and on top of trees before settling down.
According to our 3 Days Nyungwe National Park tour package, Chimpanzee trekking begins with briefing at 5:00am.
The briefing takes place in either Uwinka Overlook Visit Center, Gisakura or Kitabi. You need to wake up as early as 4:30 am so that you have breakfast and prepare to start the activity. As already mentioned above, the forest is large. The only way to find the chimps is to try and reach them before they head out for the day. A group of trackers go ahead of the team to find the location of the chimps before communicating to the lead Ranger /Guide about where to find them. The trackers and rangers are very experienced and knowledgeable about the chimp communities and where to find them.
Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest can take between 2 to 6 hours or longer. After following/chasing the chimps for a while, they may settle down and allow you to observe them more closely or take photos. While with the chimps you will notice that they behave just like we humans. You will watch them groom each other, mate, breastfeed, play and start fights. Some members of the group are quiet while others are more vocal. Like humans, they have their group dynamics and internal politics. Although chimps are curious about humans, they will tend to keep their distance.
Note: As a large forest, Nyungwe presents challenges for those interested in chimpanzee tracking. The chimpanzees tend to move deep into the thick forest reducing the chances of seeing them. It is much easier to spot the chimps in Cyamudongo forest because it is smaller and easier to cover by foot in a short time.
Below are the Chimpanzee Trekking Tours: