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Chimpanzee Trekking in Rwanda

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda takes place in Nyungwe Forest National Park Rwanda’s oldest National Park and its neighbor Cyamudongo Forest, in southwestern Rwanda. Nyungwe Forest harbors the highest population of chimpanzees in Africa about 500 individuals, and of which two troops have been habituated for the chimpanzee tracking adventure, one troop is in the main Nyungwe forest, and the second one is in Cyamudongo – a small patch of forest located to the east of Nyungwe forest and formerly part of it.

The chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda sets off from three reception centers; Kitabi, Uwinka (main) and Gisakura where tourists can meet the park ranger guides. The tourists are expected to be at the reception center as early as 4.30am and at 5 am drive to the starting point of the trek into the forest. The chimpanzees nest in a new place every night because they are always moving, there are trackers who go ahead of the trekking group to find them and communicate with the ranger guides. Tourists spend only one hour with the chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park and get to observe them closely going about their lives and see the human-like features and behavior that make them our closest relatives with 98.7% DNA. Every now and then the chimps communicate by way of deafening screams, loud pant hoots and thunderous hitting (slapping) of the tree barks and buttresses – it is such a hair-rising moment like no other, and quite memorable!

The habituated chimpanzee group in the main Nyungwe forest is bigger with about 60 members, however given the magnitude of the forest and terrain it offers lesser chances of seeing the chimps, while the group in Cyamudongo forest that has a smaller number of about 30 chimps offers the most successful sightings given the small size that be covered to find the chimps in any part.

The chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda experience is different from the gorilla trekking as the chimps are running around in the tree canopies, and so there may be running after to catch up and sightings are a bit more sporadic and rushed.

The cost of the permit for chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park Rwanda is USD 90 for foreign non-residents and USD 60 for foreign residents of Rwanda and East Africa (Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Burundi).

Guidelines for Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda

16 years is the minimum age.

One should be fit enough Average fitness is okay

Carry hiking shoes or boots, pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a rain jacket

Carry at least two liters of drinking water and some snacks

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Chimpanzee trekking in RwandaIn many ways, tracking Chimpanzees is a totally different experience from that of the Mountain Gorillas; unlike the Gorillas, the Chimpanzees are constantly moving around and at high speeds, jumping from tree to tree making lots of noise. In contrast, the Gorillas are usually found sitting eating quietly in a forest clearing. One of the other huge differences between the two tracking experiences is that with the Gorillas, one is allowed one hour to observe and photograph them; with the Chimpanzees there is no time limit. Keeping up with them is the biggest challenge and the biggest determining factor of the amount of time spent with them. Of all the primates in the Nyungwe Forest, it is the Chimpanzees that are the most popular and the core wildlife attraction in this park.

The section of Nyungwe Forest National Park where the Chimpanzee tracking begins is near Cyamudongo, a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Kigali. The forest is Africa’s oldest montane (mountainous ecosystem) forest, home to 13 species of primate, including an estimated 500 Chimpanzees. As you pass through the forest, you will hear the whoops and cackles of L’Hoest’s and black-faced vervet monkeys.

The challenge with Chimpanzees, is finding them, as they are not habituated (accustomed to human beings’ presence) and are often a little shy; fortunately, their human instinct is strong and they show a lot of curiosity and eagerness when tourists are around.

Chimpanzee Tracking permits are only $100, which is considerably less than the Gorillas. There are 64 permits per day issued in Rwanda for Gorilla trekking, and only 8 per day for Chimpanzee tracking. So it is advisable to book these permits well in advance, even a year ahead is not too soon.

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