Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is another activity that diversified the tourism sector in Kigali as Rwanda’s major attraction has been gorillas. The permit for this activity goes for 90 USD for foreign tourists while for the Rwandan tourists it goes for 60 USD and is only done in Nyungwe forest that is in Rwanda.
This trek starts off from three reception centers that is; Uwinka, Kitabi and Gisakura where the tourists meet the park rangers and the tourists are expected to be at the reception as early as 4:30 am and 5:00am then you drive to the starting point of the trek into the forest.
Chimpanzee tracking is different from gorilla trekking in a way that the chimpanzees are always seen swinging from one tree to another which makes the viewing rushed whereas gorillas are found sited quietly enjoying each other’s company, playing, relaxing or eating. One must be 16 years and above and averagely fit to be able to get a chimpanzee trekking permit.
Chimps nest every night so there is usually a group of trackers who go ahead of the trekking group and communicate with the guides leading the tourists to avoid long and unnecessary treks which could tire the tourists out before they reach their destination.
When the chimpanzees are located and met, the tourists are allowed limitless time to watch, enjoy them and observe their features and characteristics closely as they are not easy to keep up with and do not settle in one place like gorillas do so it is hard to estimate the time that one can spend with the chimps.
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives as they have 98.7% DNA, making them exciting to be observed especially when they display what we call “human behavior”. Chimpanzees communicate with ear deafening screams, loud hoots and hit tree barks or buttress roots. It is such a thrilling and hair rising moment that you cannot afford to miss.
There is a habituated chimpanzee group in Nyungwe forest with a big population of about 60 chimps however with the thickness of the forest and tricky terrain, the chances of viewing the chimps may be few. The group in Cyamudongo forest is smaller with a group of 30 chimps that are usually easier seen. The section of Nyungwe Forest National Park where the trekking is done starts in Cyamudongo a 4 and a half hour drive from Kigali.
This is also Africa’s oldest Montane forest and a home to over 13 different primate species including over 500 chimpanzees for example the L’Hoest’s and the black faced vervet monkeys that can be overheard on the trek through the forest. These chimpanzees however may be difficult to find as they are not so habituated and are shy creatures, also their human instincts are so strong and show a lot of curiosity and eagerness or unease when tourists are around. There are few well established paths in the denser forests which makes the trek for the chimpanzees more exciting.
All the primates are found in Nyungwe forest and of course the chimpanzees and gorillas are the famous ones and the main attractions of the region. Over 64 permits are issued in a day for gorilla trekking and only 8 for chimpanzee tracking therefore it is advisable to book these permits in advance.
For peak season (June to September and Christmas-New Year) it’s advisable to book six to 12 months in advance. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park comes with other extra activities that are offered within the park for instance trekking other ape species such as the black and white colobus monkeys, hiking, canopy forest walk, birding and many more and most of these activities are meant to supplement on visitors chimpanzee trekking safaris in the park.
When going for a chimpanzee trek, make sure to carry along your hiking shoes or boots, long sleeved shirt and a rain jacket plus you are advised to carry at least 2 liters of drinking water and some snacks.