Extending for 1,000 square kilometres across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. A uniquely rich centre of floral diversity, the forest has more than 200 different types of tree, and a myriad of flowering plants including the other-worldly giant lobelia and a host of colourful orchids.
Nyungwe is most alluring for its primates: 13 species in all, including humankind’s closest living relative the chimpanzee, as well as the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey and hundred-strong troops of the delightfully acrobatic Angola colobus. The most important ornithological site in Rwanda, Nyungwe harbours almost 300 bird species of which two dozen are restricted to a handful of montane forests on the Albertine Rift. They include the spectacular Rwenzori turaco, the secretive red-chested alethe, and several iridescent sunbirds. Equally remarkable are the perpetually honking giant hornbills that crash through the forest canopy, and the stunning great blue turaco, an outlandishly blue, red and green bird.The avian highlight of Nyungwe is the great blue turaco - an outlandish blue, red and green bird which streams from tree to tree like a procession of streamlined psychedelic turkeys.
Nyungwe lies at an elevation of between 1,600 metres and 2,950 metres, and enjoys an agreeably cool. An extensive network of well maintained forest trails leads to a number of waterfalls and viewing points. A comfortable rest house and perfectly situated campsite lie alongside the main road, and the reserve can be visited as a day trip from smarter hotels in the towns of Butare and Cyangugu. Nyungwe does, however, deserve more time: anybody who wants to track chimps and see several varieties of smaller primate will need two days there - and dedicated birdwatchers might never want to leave!