Rwanda is a beautiful landlocked east-central African country with a unique environment. In this country are plenty of opportunities to connect with nature and see animals. Rwanda has 4 national parks. These large and stunning national parks protect many native plant and animal species. With the right permits and reservations, you can even see gorillas and eastern chimpanzees on guided tours.
Follow along to learn more about the 4 beautiful national parks in Rwanda.
1. Gishwati Mukura National Park
The first national park on our list is the Gishwati Makura National Park. It’s the newest national park in the country and consists of two separate forests, the Gishwati and Makura. This luscious and beautiful national park was established in 2015 and has continued to flourish. Before it was founded as a park though, a project was launched in 2007 to preserve the forests. This park has changed a lot in the last few years and is considered an ongoing conservation project.
Sadly, while conservation efforts are underway, there is still a lot to do. The area used to be filled with rainforests, but because of illegal mining, livestock farming, deforestation, and resettlement, a lot of the forest was stripped bare.
This national park though isn’t as accessible as the others on this list. To reach it, you need to enter Gishwati Forest. You also can’t pay for park fees, instead, the park is included if you stay in the only accommodation, the Forest of Hope Guest House. It’s recommended you book a guided tour and take the three marked trails.
Although there is never a 100% chance you will see wildlife here, you can book guided tours to see unique animals like golden monkeys and endangered eastern chimpanzees. The blue monkey and the L’Hoest monkey also live in the same area. Bird hiking is a popular activity since there are about 232 bird species in the Gishwati forest section of the national park alone.
2. Nyungwe National Park
The next beautiful Rwanda national park on our list is the Nyungwe National Park. This park is located in Rusizi, Rwanda. It was established as a national park in 2004 and is a very popular place to visit within the country. The park is home to one of the oldest mountain rainforests in all of Africa. It is filled with unique wildlife, including the L’Hoest’s monkey, which is endemic to the Albertine Rift.
You won’t run out of things to do while visiting this stunning national park. For example, there are about 15 marked hiking trails and many guided tours. Primate trekking is one of the most popular activities to do while visiting the park.
Apart from the trails and animal viewing, there is also a thrilling canopy walk. This long bridge offers some of the best views in the country, and maybe even the continent. The canopy walk is 525 feet long and suspended about 230 feet in the air. It can take up to 2 hours to cross the bridge.
Animals thrive in this national park. There are about 13 primate species, 38 reptile species, 85 mammal species, 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, and 32 amphibian species.
Some of the most common animals within the Nyungwe National Park and forest reserve are:
- Silver monkeys
- Olive baboons
- Red-tailed monkeys
- Common chimpanzees
- Golden cats
- Black rhinos
3. Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is another popular national park in Rwanda. It’s especially known for its unique populations of gorillas. Volcanoes National Park is conveniently only a 2-hour drive from Kigali international airport. This national park also has the highest number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Conservation area.
Tourists can book guided tours and visit the 10 habituated gorilla families within the national park. If you’d like to visit the gorillas, you need to purchase a gorilla permit which guarantees permit holders at least 1 hour in the presence of a gorilla.
This park has been around for about a century, but it was divided between Rwanda and Congo as they gained their independence in the 1960s. A key person in the park’s history is the American primatologist, Dian Fossey. She created a mountain gorilla research center in between the Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes. She fought against poachers and was a voice for the conservation campaign of the mountain gorillas. However, sadly she was murdered in 1985 and was buried next to the grave of her favorite gorilla, Digit, at the research center.
Although gorillas are fascinating, you can find more than just gorillas within the Volcanoes National Park. Other animals include elephants, spotted buffalos, black-fronted duiker, golden monkeys, and at least 178 bird species.
4. Akagera National Park
Last but not least is the Akagera National Park, located in eastern Rwanda. This 433-square-mile park borders Tanzania. It’s an old park and was founded in 1934. Within this national park is the largest protected wetland in Eastern-Central Africa. Although it’s only about 433 square miles now, when the Belgian government established the national park, it covered 970 square miles of land.
A lot has changed about this park since it was established. For example, there used to be a large population of African wild dogs, but a disease killed off the large group. The last officially recorded wild dog in the Akagera National Park was in 1984. There were also about 250 to 300 lions, but they were killed in the 1990s after farmers returned home and settled in the park. However, in 2015, seven lions from South Africa were released into the park. Now, about 40 lions are living within Akagera National Park.
Tourism is also thriving because of the park. It has increased dramatically since the partnership between African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board. For example, in 2010, there were only 8,000 visitors. However, by 2018, the park was seeing 44,000 annual visitors.
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