Archive for the ‘Nyungwe Nat Park’ Category

As a break from the usual practical stuff:

Many thanks to Tina Sloane for these very detailed updates for Nyungwe Forest National Park:


I arrived by bus, and felt this chapter somewhat overplayed the difficulty of getting around without a car:

Getting there, the bus from Huye (or Kigali) to Rusizi will stop anywhere along the main road in the forest if you warn the driver. You will however have to pay the full 5,000 fare for the journey. When booking in Huye or Kigali simply ask for a return and explain where you will be getting on so the seats are reserved. The advantage of booking with Sotra Tours is they have a booth at the bottom of the hill which Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is on (5mins from Gisakura guesthouse) so you can ensure they warn the driver to stop for you!

Nyungwe forest lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, Gisakura Guesthouse, KCCEM and Uwineka campsite are all short walks from the main road. Although it is easier to access the activities which start at the reception center nearest to your accommodation when I inquired about other activities the park rangers were happy to arrange a car for $100 or a moto for 10,000rwf to take me to canopy from Gisakura, wait for me and take me back – so all the activities were in effect accessible.

Park fees p.157
Still operating the Byzantine fee structure I am afraid! Waterfall walk has its only price now – $50 for nonresidents and $40 for foreign residents.
A trip to colobus monkeys is also separately priced – $60 for nonresidents and $40 for foreign residents. As they are both in their own category now it is not possible to benefit from discounts for combining them with other activities.

Accommodation p. 167
Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is now $200 for a double and the drinks are heavily marked up, even compared to other hotels, but the location makes this a stunning place to stay and worth every penny.

Trails and activities p.170
Despite visiting in low season, activities were going on throughout the afternoon (at the times given in guidebook) including after lunch.

Nick Johnson writes:

If you want great birding in Nyungwe (from Gisakura) ask them to phone Narcisse their bird man who is great and a lovely guy. I spent a morning with him and saw 29 species inc 11 endemics including. 3 turaco species.

I saw the fourth Turaco species in Rwanda – the Ross’s – down by lake Kivu at a place called. Kumbya last weekend. Kumbya is the last place on the Rwandan side of the lake which has original vegetation and trees, hence the good birds.

Alex writes

I’ve been using and appreciating your guide during my two months in Rwanda this summer.  I wanted to send along a couple of quick updates.

The first is about Kageno Eco Lodge, listed for Nyungwe National Park on page 167 of the 2012 edition of the guidebook, and now finally open (  It’s a delightful place (and Banda is a beautiful, if remote and inaccessible village).  But you have it listed as “Upmarket”; in fact, it’s very much a budget hotel.  There’s no electricity or indoor toilet.  Anyone coming here expecting an upmarket place will be in for a rude surprise.  That said, I think it should definitely be listed.  We loved it and stayed twice, and Christine, who prepares the food and looks after the place, does a terrific job.  But it’s an out-of-the-way, difficult-to-reach, very simple budget guesthouse.  For tourists with slightly rugged inclinations, it’s great to hike down through the Nyungwe forest from Uwinka (where the main tourist reception center is) to Banda, spend the night at the Kageno lodge, and then hike back up a different trail the next day.  The views are terrific, and the village is beautifully situated.

Secondly, a new upscale hotel has just opened in Kamembe (next to Rusizi-Cyangugu), right on the waterfront.  It’s called the Emeraude (see also It has been open only two months–but it’s a gorgeous place. Each room has a balcony opening out over the lake, and the Belgian owners have put some effort into the design and the restaurant, which serves good food. It seems a cut above anything else in town, so it’s definitely worth including in the guide.

Matthias de Beenhouwer writes:
I have recently returned from a 3 day trip to Nyungwe with 5 friends. I want to recommend it as a perfect budget location for independent travelers.
We went at the end of june and I was supprised by the ease of accessing the park, and getting around, with public transport. Therefore, independent travelers should not at all be afraid to go there with public transport (at least not after the rainy season). We first took a bus around noon from Huye (Butare) to Gisakura which goes to Rusizi (we had to pay full price, 4000 rwf, though this would not be the case if you find a minibus). There are several bus companies like Sotra tours who drive every hour before noon and about every two hours after noon. It isn’t so hard to find empty seats on every bus, so if you travel with few people there seems no need to reserve in advance. The Gisakura Tea Estate Guesthouse has closed down, what leaves the Gisakura guesthouse the only site on the western boundary of the forest to put your tent. This is no fantastic option because they charge 10.000 rwf per person (if you bring your own tent), there is no view, you are not allowed to walk to the nearest forest patches (because that’s where they do the colobus tracking) AND you are not allowed to put up more than 2 tents. So one tent for 10 persons is just fine but don’t try with 3 tents of 2 persons each… There is another option for campers, however, in Buhinga, which is a 3 kilometers further away from (to the west of) the park. There should be a more cheap community campsite with plenty of space for tents although I have no further details on that.
We did the waterfall trail from Gisakura, which is very nice. If you are interested in monkeys and birds, it is recommended to stress to the guides that you want to take your time in the forest. It was not possible for them to leave before 9 am so by taking it very slowly you will exit the park only around 4 to 5 pm, ideal for forest birds, squirrels and monkeys (we saw grey cheeked mangabey, angola colobus, dent’s mona and blue (subsp. Dogetti) monkey). This was all without monkey tracking, just by taking your time once inside the forest.
Next day we left early to Uwinka and it was rather easy to find a lift to get there (even with 6 people + bags). In Uwinka we again first convinced the park staff to combine trails but as we wanted to get to Kitabi in the evening they stressed to stop the walk early enough. So by 3 pm we were at the roadsite and immediately found another lift to Kitabi. There we stayed at the campsite of the Friends of Nyungwe, which I would definitely recommend. The staff is incredibly nice (especially mr. Rick), there is a superb view over the forest + tea plantations and it is much more cheap (5$ p.p.) than Gisakura or Uwinka. Food can be arranged for you if you call them in advance. Next morning it was again very easy to find public transport to Huye so the forest seems very accessible without private vehicule and even without reservation of public transport (except of course if you just payed 100$ for early morning chimp tracking).
One more thing, the forest walks are indeed not cheap but if you discuss with the guides than you can do a nice full day walk making the price really worth it. Plus, by buying a permit for several days, the price goes down.
Contact for Friends of Nyungwe (coordinator: Jeanbaptiste 0788845941/0725681010, community tour guide: Rick 0783233579/0722233579)


Marilyn Parsk writes: 

We recently spent 6 days in Rwanda and information I had gleaned from posts on this website were helpful to me so I thought I’d share our experiences. I will preface this by saying we are a 60′ish couple who now like to travel comfortably, but not necessarily expensively. My key advice would go to those who want to see the gorillas. Paying the high prices that even the local companies want to charge you is totally unnecessary and you can arrange it yourself for a fraction of the cost with the same services. I got our permits by contacting the sources suggested in the book and wiring the money ahead to reserve the date. Upon arriving in Kigali by air I stopped at the main office en route into town and picked up the permits. I had arranged for a car and guide with Amaharo tours. While they are based in Musanze we began and ended our time with them in Kigali. While they kept trying to sell me a whole package I insisted I only wanted a driver and 4 wheel vehicle for 4 days. I paid $100/day for both, with gas and park entry fees paid by me directly. After going to Musanze (where I had made arrangements through email to stay at Muhabura Hotel, clean and adequate) and seeing the gorillas we then drove to Butare (staying at the Credo Hotel, again clean and adequate) and on to Nyungwe National Park. There we stayed in the Gisakura Guesthouse, our only place with limited electricity and the bathroom outside and down the walkway. While rustic, the food was good and the staff pleasant.Again, I had made email reservations ahead and since the place filled up I was glad to have the booking because the only alternative in the area is a 4 star hotel. When I had picked up the gorilla permits in Kigali they had said I could easily arrange chimpanzee permits when I got to Nyungwe but unfortunately they were all taken so I should have insisted on doing it in Kigali. Apparently permits reserved one place are not always communicated to the end site, though, so the whole system is imperfect.

Rwanda is a beautiful country to drive around . Our 6 days were perfect for getting a feel of Kigali, seeing the gorillas (a bucket list experinece) and enjoying Nyungwe. Since we were going on to Tanzania for safari we did not do the other animals at Akagera.

As we found other people’s entries really helpful when planning our trip, we decided to post a summary of our 3 weeks stay in Rwanda in November 2012. We had a truly wonderful trip and really enjoyed Rwanda’s natural beauty and its welcoming people. We were travelling as a family: parents and 3 grownup children! We mostly tried to do budget travel but we did splurge for trips to the National Parks.


We arrived in Kigali and stayed at AEE (African Evangelical Enterprise) guesthouse (neighbourhood: Remera, quite a distance from downtown but close to the airport). It was 15 000 fr (25 USD) for a double room. The rooms were simple and clean and the bathrooms were down the hall, the grounds were quite nice with some spots for sitting outside. They tried to overcharge us on the two occasions we paid and we actually decided to stay at another place for our final stay in Kigali.
We went to Nyanza by local bus (Volcanoes Express): the bus left from Nyambogogo bus station. The King’s Palace was a 45 minute walk outside of the town and there were very few directions showing the way. We visited the King’s Palace which was well worth a visit and we had excellent guided tour which explained the King’s way of life (8000 fr each).
We then continued by public transit to Huye (Butare )where we spend the night. We stayed at the Hotel du Mont Huye 25 000 fr (40 USD) for a triple room which included breakfast. Even though we had reserved by phone, they had no record of our reservation. The grounds were nice and the staff was friendly. The next day we visited the National Museum (8000 fr each). It’s worth reserving several hours for this museum which explains the history of Rwanda (excluding the genocide).
We then travelled back to Kigali (about 2 and ½ hours) to pick up 2 of the family members who arrived a few days later. In Kigali, we recommend the genocide memorial. There are many restaurants, coffee shops and a great nightlife depending on your interests. The city is amazingly clean. If you have the time and interest, the local bus routes are definitely the cheapest (200 fr, 0.35USD) and probably the most interesting way to travel around the city.

Next we travelled by 4X4 to Nyungwe National Park. We rented a jeep with a driver for 65 000 fr per day (110 USD: included driver’s allowance & unlimited mileage) excluded gas (about 40 USD per day, depending how much you drive, obviously!) and tip (we tipped about 8 USD per day). We rented from AZ IMPEX which is not a tour company. Our driver was very nice, accommodating and drove very carefully and this was the least expensive rental that we were able to find. The drive to Nyungwe was about 5-6 hours on quite nice roads. We stayed at KKCEM Guesthouse in Kitabi which was on the East end of the park (closest end to Kigali). We paid 10 000 fr (18USD) for a room with a double bed. The place was quiet, clean and simple and hot water was available. We had reserved via email but they did not have our reservation when we arrived. There was a restaurant which served breakfast, lunch and dinner (3000 fr). Dinner was buffet style and the restaurant also served as a cafeteria for the college students.
We stayed at Nyungwe for 3 days and went on several walks inside the park. We bought the 2-3 day long trails pass which was 70 USD per person. There were 3 reception centres in the park, one in the east, one in the west and one in the middle. Accommodations are just outside the park on the East or the West. We also went for Chimp tracking (90USD per person) which starts at 5AM at the West End of the park (2 hours from the East). If Chimp tracking, it may be worth paying the extra money to stay at the West end; otherwise, you have to wake up at 2:30 am! Chimp tracking was very strenuous and requires lots of water! You must book in advance for the chimps. While it would be possible to get to Nyungwe by public transit, it would be very difficult to get around the park without your own vehicle.
We then returned to Kigali before going on a day trip to Akagara National Park. This also requires your own vehicle. Entrance to the park was 30 USD per person and a car fee of less than 10 USD. Even though a guide is optional (15 USD), we strongly recommend one as they know were the animals are most likely to be found! This was one of the highlights of our trip, we saw giraffes, zebras, hippos, gazelles and were even lucky enough to see 2 elephants! The drive from Kigali is about 2 hours. We recommend that you arrive in the park around 7am so you can find a guide and have the whole day for the park. We stayed in the park for about 7 hours before driving back to Kigali the same day.
Next we went from Kigali to Musanze (Ruhengeri) by public bus with Virunga (about 2000 fr). The trip was about 2 hours and quite comfortable if you don’t have too much luggage. We stayed at the Tourist Rest House (8000 fr/15USD for a double bed). The staff was really friendly and helpful and there was a good little restaurant; however, the rooms were small, drab and the hot water was sporadic. We rented a 4X4 from Musanze for 80USD per day including gas & driver’s allowance to get to the National Park (Amahoro Tours). We went to see the golden monkeys (100 USD per person) which was really great, the monkeys were very energetic and we saw them up close. Plus, it was an easy walk to get to spot them. The next day we went to see the gorillas and it was a mesmerizing experience (750 USD per person). We had booked directly with the ORTPN from Canada and wired the money and there were no difficulties with this. You definitely need your own transportation when going into the Volcanoes National Park, trying to improvise is unfortunately not a good idea.
From Musanze we went to Rubavu (Gisenyi) by public bus with Virunga (about 1500 fr). The trip was about 1 hour.We stayed at Inzu Lodge, a beautiful spot at Rubona 7km outside of the town. We stayed in comfortable beds set up in safari tents (20 000 fr/35USD). It had a great view, a delicious restaurant, lots of beautiful touches and it was altogether a great place to relax, wind down and spend some time reading and eating.
From Rubavu  we returned to Kigali by public bus (3000 fr), about 3 hours. Upon returning to Kigali we stayed at the Procure St-Famille located in downtown Kigali (12 000 fr/20USD including breakfast). If looking for a budget option downtown, this is viable; however, the washroom and showers left much to be desired and the rooms were very plain… it may be worth upgrading a little if you can afford it!
Here is some contact information:
Kigali: A.E.E. Guesthouse —
Huye (Butare): Motel du Mont Huye – Telephone 250 788 401228 (no email address)
Kitabi: KKCEM Guesthouse—
Musanze: Tourist Rest House –Telephone: 250 785 227990 / 252 252 546635 (no e-mail address); they remembered our reservation
Rubavu: Inzu Lodge –

Transportation (4×4):
Musanze: Amahoro Tours –