Nyungwe National Park, in Rwanda

Imagentact mid-elevation forests (1600-2000M) like Nyungwe are rare in Africa, but they are important habitat for many species. Nyungwe is one of the last places in Africa to maintain this type of crucial forest. At over 1000 km2, Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest. Nyungwe is the source of Africa’s great rivers. Rain that falls on the east side feeds the Nile and on the west runs to the Congo. The Congo-Nile Divide is a mountain range that runs north to south through Rwanda. Nyungwe receives more than 2000mm a year of rain. Recently, Nyungwe opened a canopy walk, the only one of its kind in East Africa. This is a wonderful vantage point to view the incredible biodiversity of this rare forest. The canopy walk opens at a time when Rwanda is being recognized as a top 10 global travel destination (Lonely Planet, 2009.) In 2005, the Government of Rwanda declared Nyungwe a national park, affording it the highest level of protection in Rwanda. This forest, the largest mountain rainforest in all of Africa, hosts 13 species of primates including the Angola colobus found in groups of 300-400 animals that is an attribute unique to Nyungwe. It also hosts a large population of chimpanzees and two other threatened species of monkeys; the owl faced monkey and reported but unverified sightings of the golden monkey. Nyungwe is stated as “the most important site for biodiversity conservation in Rwanda” by Birdlife International for its approximately 280 bird species, 25 of which are endemic. Nyungwe’s forests extend to altitudes occupied by few other forests in Africa; 1600-2950 meters above sea level. It is also home to myriad orchids, butterflies, moths and other fascinating insects – all of which constitute the potential for a major, low volume, tourist destination in the making. (Source: Draft Investors Guide to Nyungwe National Park Area, South Western Rwanda, Preliminary version 1 – 2008) Nyungwe is also Rwanda’s primary water catchment, sheltering more than two-thirds of all of its waters. The people of the area are as diverse, with many examples of song, dance, music, cuisine, handicrafts and other artisan skills that make for a fascinating complement to the nature side of trip to this part of Africa. The combination of both potential and conservation has been noted by the Government of Rwanda and a major integrated development thrust is underway, supported not only by the Government itself, but also the USAID, UNDP, Wildlife Conservation Society and other donors and NGOs. The forest has a network of walking and hiking trails. It has a number of camping sites and the development of cultural tourism near the edge of the Park is underway. New trails and camping sites are planned and being constructed as part of the development project, as are new ways of both observing and enjoying the Park.

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