I remember my trip to Nyungwe National Park vividly, I went with a group of domestic tourists in a convoy of vehicles branded Tembera U Rwanda, up and down through the beautiful hilly landscapes of Remarkable Rwanda.
We also made stops in Nyangarama for some of that tasty roasted meat, maize and potatoes, so for those who had not had breakfast it was time to have a feast, just 30 minutes from Kigali.
The thin roads along those hills can be scary though, I could hardly take a nap the way I am used to during long trips especially as we approached the park, we got to meet big trucks heading to or from Burundi and DRC and most times I couldn’t catch my breath.
You can’t have road rage like I see in countries such as Kenya and drive on upcountry Rwandan roads, you will die. The road is however well maintained, sleek, clean and with proper signage. It is also best to abide by the speed limit regulations if you want to live longer.
I am quite nostalgic about the trip because I believe it was around this period, the last quarter of 2016 when the domestic tourism campaign had just began, spearheaded by the Rwanda Development Board.
A guided nature walk tour in Nyungwe National Park, which included an adventure through the canopy walk way and a hike to Kamiranzovu waterfall is one of the cheapest tourism activities you can currently indulge in the country. Of course there are other activities such as Chimpanzee tracking and bird watching.
On their website the park entry fees for nature walks has been indicated as follows; Resident foreigners pay US$30 per person daily. Rwanda residents pay between Rwf 3,000 and 4,000 for entrance fees per individual daily to enjoy a guided nature walk, while East Africa Community (EAC) nationals pay $5 daily, East Africa Community (EAC) non-foreigner residents pay $30 daily per person, students who are Rwandan Citizens pay Rwf 1,500 daily per person, while students who are foreign residents pay $20.
You can use public transport to get to the destination so you don’t necessarily have to hire a safari vehicle because your feet will be the fuel you need to maneuver the forest. A simple Toyota or town car will do you good.
It depends on how long you have; usually 2 to 3 days in Nyungwe would be ideal to explore the forest extensively and to avoid fatigue because it’s a holiday not a boot camp!
Day 1 we took a not so straight path to the canopy, it took at least a 1 hour walk holding relatively long wooden sticks half my body height. Those sticks helped us not loose balance as you walk through the terrain, passing wet and muddy patches at times. It’s a rainforest so you can’t trust only your feet to support you.
The hike is therapeutic, you breathe in fresh air, hear the birds chirping, the chimpanzees hooting, screaming, grunting at a distance.
We got to the canopy and the length of that rope hanging high up all the forest trees was nerve wrecking, the tour guide who had been all chatty and funny, giving tales about the forest chimpanzees and their mating game finally put on a straight face to give instructions about the canopy walk. So at this point you know real things are about to happen.
Just so that I don’t mislead you on all the instructions, in case I missed one too many while the ranger was talking I will skip this part.
The reason for this is that I was the last one to complete the canopy walk, my heart was about to explode and the more I heard people cheering me on and saw photographers capturing the moment I just wanted the world to open up and swallow me alive.
Well some courageous freaks went back and did a round 2 just to enjoy the bird’s view of the forest from the canopy while I couldn’t even look left or right and breathe in. However it is worth it and now I can do it all over again; they say you get the most out of life by facing your fears.
The sun was already setting by the time we were done so we enjoyed a few picture moments and then walked back to the campsite for a bonfire experience. Nobody prepares you for the cold in Nyungwe at night, it bites to the bone.
Day 2 we took a bus trip around the tea firms in the area as we headed to another entry point through the forest to take us to the amazing Kamiranzovu waterfall. Nyungwe Park is maintained like that, tourists use different entry points into the forest to explore different experiences around the Park.
The trees in this part of the forest looked quite distinct from the ones I had seen on day 1, maybe it was just my sight. The tour guide on day 2 shared stories of Rwandan traditional culture and the medicinal value of the forest. I wish I could remember each tree by name and their medicinal value but maybe that will be a push for you to go and gain knowledge on this first hand.
The waterfall was just exquisite and refreshing. We all tried to get a little bit closer to feel the gushing water flowing downstream splash on our skin, all over sudden the fatigue of a 2 hour hike down the forest was literally washed away.
Nyungwe is indeed the best place to be one with nature.