The Nyungwe Forest is the largest surviving mountain rainforest in Africa, and it is an incredibly lush and diverse habitat. Birdlife International cites it as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda”, the national park is home to a myriad of orchids and butterflies, 275 species of birds (27 of which are endemic), and 13 different types of primate. In fact, 20% of all apes in Africa live here, so whether it is your goal to see the acrobatic Rwenzori colobus, Chinese golden monkey, or L’Hoest monkey, you are in with a very good chance. The primate groups - known as troops - in this forest are sometimes as many as 400 members strong, and a number of them have been semi habituated by primate researchers, making it possible for visitors to get very close indeed.
Entering the park through rolling hills, you climb steadily through the mountains of Nyungwe National Park. The One & Only Nyungwe House is a magnificent rainforest resort, set within the lush green expanse of a working Rwandan tea plantation. The gentle landscape is dotted with bamboo and grassland as well as tea bushes, and animals and birds - including the rare mangabey monkey - are known to come right up to the lodge. You can watch them from your private terrace, which is guaranteed to boast sublime views of both the rainforest and the mountain peaks. The 22 luxurious rooms are split between six clusters of wooden villas, so it always feels intimate and there are plenty of private spaces. You can give back to this special place by helping to build fences, work the land, tend animals, or simply relax and enjoy the peace in the spa.
The most pressing reason to come to Nyungwe House and the Nyungwe Forest, however, is to track chimpanzee in their stunning natural habitat. Your guide might be a born and bred local or an international chimp expert: both will illuminate you with wildlife facts and their personal stories as you hike up into the mountains, preparing yourself for the unmatched thrill of a close-up chimp encounter. Nyungwe has one of the last intact chimp population in East Africa. There are approximately 500 chimps here, and two of the communities have been habituated, so they are particularly curious when human visitors are around. The paths through the forest are well established, which makes it an easy hike, but as tracking permits are very restricted in number, you certainly won’t be bumping into other people. We share 98% of our DNA with chimps and watching their human like behaviour in the Nyungwe Forest is simply unforgettable.