Chimpanzee Tracking Rwanda, in Nyungwe Forest, Primate trekking is one of the most adventurous activity in this large jungle forest, home of roughly 500 chimpanzees and over other 13 species of primates that you may meet along the way as you trek the chimps this can easily be seen through the forest, other primate trekking are L’Hoest’s and the black faced vervet monkeys. The section of Nyungwe Forest National park were the chimpanzees are tracked also begins in Cyamudongo, a 4 and half hour drive from Kigali.
Of all the primate trekking that have made Nyungwe forest famous, it’s the chimpanzees that are the famous ones and core wildlife attractions in this national park. This has greatly drown a large number of visitor’s to this forest with a boost in the tourism by the Rwanda government is doing all possible to increase the visitor’s number in the country.
Chimps are highly sociable creatures, and one of the few primates to form complex communities ranging upwards of 100 individuals.
During the day these communities break down into smaller units that forage for food, the group size greatly vary depending o season and food availability, in case there is enough fruits such as fig tree season, the group may be large as they go to an extent of calling group members to eat together, when large amount of food is spotted, though communities do not cross boundaries, a behaviour that has been dubbed ‘fission-fusion’ by anthropologists. Since they cover a greater daily distance than the relatively docile gorilla, chimpanzee tracking (US$100 per person) is a much more uncertain enterprise.
Therefore it’s advisable to book these permits well in advance and a year is not too soon.
Chimpanzee habituation in Nyungwe forest is still very much a work in progress and ongoing, and although you will almost certainly encounter them, it might not be all that close up. This is especially so because Nyungwe’s chimps seem to spend longer periods of time high in the tree tops than many other East African chimps.
Much like gorilla tracking, you need to be prepared for lengthy hikes that can take up to several hours. However, the vegetation on the forest floor is much less dense than in the Virunga Mountains where the gorillas live, so the walk is generally a little less tiring.
In the rainy season you have a good chance of successfully tracking the chimps on the colored trails (a network of trails of varying levels of difficulty), though in the dry season they have a tendency to head for higher elevations.
These habituated chimpanzee group in Nyungwe forest is also bigger with about 60 individuals and due to the greatness of the forest and terrain, it gives few chances of seeing the chimps, while the group in Cyamudongo forest that has a smaller number of about 30 chimps giving the most successful sightings that are given in the small size that is covered to find the chimps in any part.
Although there are groups of chimps throughout Nyungwe, the habituated group that most people are taken to is actually located in the Cyamudongo Forest, a very small, isolated ‘island’ of forest surrounded by tea estates a little over an hour’s drive from the park office at Gisakura.
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This group consists of about 40 individuals. At certain times, though, visitors might be taken to see a second habituated group, the Uwinka group, which is the largest with around 65 individuals.
That said, this group, which is usually found within 12km of the Uwinka Reception Centre, is harder to access. Whichever group you end up visiting, having a car is something of a necessity for chimp tracking, as you’ll need to arrange transportation for you and your guide to the trailhead.
Be prepared for an early start – usually 5.30am from Gisakura. Porters are available at Cyamundongo (US$10).
However, seeing the chimpanzee at Nyungwe is not a total 100 percent guarantee as it like as nature.
Like Rwanda gorilla trekking, you will be limited to an hour with the chimpanzee once you find them during the trekking.
The main challenge with these chimpanzees is with finding them, as they are not so habituated and are always shy, also their human instincts are so strong and they show a lot of curiosity and the eagerness when the tourists are around.