If you’re after nature at its most authentic, and like the idea of tracking both Colobus and chimpanzee, then your journey into Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest should be something of a dream comes true. Guided through a 10,000 year old rain forest habitat, you will experience an environment as varied and as wonderful as the Galapagos Islands, one that ranges from flooded forests to swamps to herbaceous populated clearings.
Accompanied by your personal guide, your trek through the forest will include a canopy walk, the opportunity to track chimpanzee, Colobus and golden monkey, and may even end with observing the white bearded L’Hoest monkey making its elaborate nest – a rare treat. Best visited during the wet season, when behaviour is that bit more predictable, the chance to make contact with a quarter of Africa’s primates in a single ancient and beautiful space promises to be the trip of a lifetime.
A combination with tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda is the ultimate wildlife experience and the reason why most people come here on holiday: sitting within a small family group of gorillas is a ‘must’ for serious wildlife enthusiasts. This is where Dian Fossey first brought the world’s attention to the plight of these majestic primates in the late 1960s, when only around 250 survived.
Today their numbers worldwide have increased to some 880, split between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; almost half of them live in Virunga Mountains, that is Virunga National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the another half found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda. Although mountain gorillas are the stars of the show, there are plenty of other primate tracking opportunities while on your tours in Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to thirteen different primate species, among them chimpanzees and Rwenzori Colobus, both of which can be tracked. Indeed, Nyungwe Colobus monkeys can sometimes be seen in spectacular troops of several hundred, believed to be among the largest numbers worldwide. And in Volcanoes National Park, two groups of endangered golden monkeys have been habituated for visitor tracking. Pretty and playful, they’re a delight to watch.
Gisenyi (also referred to by its new name Rubavu) is a large town spread over several hills on the northern edge of Lake Kivu. Once a colonial beach resort of note, Gisenyi waterfront is lined with fading old mansions, some decent hotels including some of international standard, and trendy bars on the Lake shore, ideal for a sun downer cocktail. Nearby Rubona is also home to some pretty lakeside hotels.
There is a pleasant public beach on Gisenyi lake shore but it can get quite busy, particularly at weekends. Some hotels have private beaches and water sport options. Driving north from Gisenyi (Rubavu), the Imbabazi Orphanage founded by American Rosamund Halsey Carr, is a beautiful memorial to a remarkable lady.
On returning to Rwanda after the genocide at the age of 82, she transformed her ransacked house into an orphanage for survivors and over 400 orphans have since called this place home. Sitting among colourful gardens, the house looks like an English country cottage, complete with an aging Labrador. Imbabazi is planning to develop a cultural centre in Carr’s memory and runs a variety of projects for local people, continuing to support its former orphans. Your driver/guide will need to contact the orphanage beforehand should you like to visit.