Nyungwe for independent backpackers

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)



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