Nyungwe National Park is unscathed tropical rainforest found in the southwest corner of Rwanda. The forest has high and dense canopy of tall old mahoganies, ebonies and giant tree ferns tower with whilst orchids and other epiphytes cling visibly seen on every branch.
Nyungwe is renowned for variety of primates including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, beautiful butterflies and brightly colored birds. The Park is about 4-5 hour drive from Kigali with good attractions and views along the road namely; the National Museum former Nyanza King’s Palace, Uwinka Visitor Centre, beautiful fauna and flora, forest safari camps and lodges.
Rwanda designated Nyungwe forest as a national park in 2004 when it sought of increasing its tourism beyond mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. The government partnered with the local communities around Nyungwe and private sectors namely; the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) so as to preserve Nyungwe National Park through policy development, tourism development, capacity building and awareness campaigns in Rwanda. Over a period of time, patterning with different organizations created a network which helped in establishment of hiking trails, a canopy walkway, and the first interpretation centre in the region.
The Rwanda Development Board; a government organization responsible for economical, infrastructural development in Rwanda aided in training of park wardens and rangers and construction of six patrol posts primarily to ensure safe management over the forest. Research was also done with the help of the National University of Rwanda-the Agricultural Research; to study what best could be done to improve protection in the park.
Nyungwe is an ideal destination for chimpanzee tracking experience; which usually starts very early in the morning in a group of 8 people, allowed only one hour in the company of chimpanzees. Other activities you can opt to go for while in Nyungwe include;
Forest hiking; trails (Igishigishigi Trail and the canopy) were constructed with in the forest to allow easy exploring through the park’s interior and view other mesmerizing habitats.
Bird watching through the tropical forest of Nyungwe and see great blue turacos, red-breasted sparrow hawks and by chance the Giant hornbills among many others.
For a period of time, the park was under the threat of mining, fire, and largely poaching so the government together with the private sector and the communities worked cooperatively to cab this issue, later park protection was seen as success.
The Government developed marketing strategies for market-driven products to help to boost private sector investment in infrastructure and other services which led to increased revenue. Different groups of professionals were trained to support in health care and other communal health threats in Nyungwe. Local communities were also trained to put together new existing value to set products such as bird watching, chimpanzee tracking, accommodations, cultural activities and new attractions in order to increase the availability of visitors.
A number of projects were started by the government and the private sector with the community integrated for example Nyungwe Nziza Project (Beautiful Nyungwe); a tourism project which combines tourism (wildlife and environment) and agriculture development creating create jobs for local people. This project saw a positive impact not only to the local community but also to tourism in and around Nyungwe National Park. Its main aim was strengthening sustainable eco tourism in and around the Park with the support of the private sector.
The local community formed a Kauru beekeeping cooperative said to have over 1,000 bee-keepers around Nyungwe National Park who benefited from it. Former poachers used to do illegal harvesting using wild fires which were a threat to the park. Today the government of Rwanda supports the communities around the park through construction of over 4,000 modern bee-hives. In the end there has been increased revenue to the country. Kauru cooperative harvests of today have increased because locals were educated on the danger of illegal activities done. Recently former poachers involve in protecting the park and in income generating activities.
Rwanda is a rising tourist target because of its high marketing strategies and also targeting on the stunning Nyungwe National Park (NNP); which have seen the country reach its tourism potential. The country mainly focused on ecotourism improvement so as to assistance the communities adjacent to the parks. This has been achieved with the help of private sector investment in building and maintenance of park infrastructure. Different projects that were started around the national parks in Rwanda have noticeably helped in employment generation, benefited economically with increased revenue to the country; and now is a viable ecotourism destination in Africa.