Chimpanzee trekking is mainly done in Nyungwe National park. This park consists large blocks of montane forest found in both central and east Africa. Its home to variety of fauna and flora and has got 200 different types of trees as well as flowering plants including the orchids and the giant lobelia. This national park is famous for its primate species and in total, it has over 13 recorded species including; chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, silver monkeys and many more. Nyugwe national park is also an ornithological site and has over 300 bird species and nearly 30 are restricted to montane and albertine rift.
Majority of chimpanzee population in Rwanda is found in Nyungwe Forest national park, trekking these primates is an amazing experience and rewarding. This park is an ideal destination for primate lovers and most of the visitors will go for at least one tracking experience. The activity starts early in the morning, the chimps are tracked in groups of eight as the mountain gorillas. The visitors are always given one hour to spend with the chimps once they are located by the park rangers. Their sightings aren’t reliable since they often remain in the dense forest, but their human like features and the playful moods make the trek worthwhile.
Beyond chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe national park, the grey cheeked mangabey as well as the Rwenzori colobus monkey trekking is on offer and these can be found in troops of several hundreds. The other monkey species can be seen jumping on trees as you engage in tracking of these two monkey species.
The chimpanzee groups live high within the canopy of Nyungwe national park and tracking them is one of the most wonderful experience. These black and white colobus live within Nyugwe forest, they are long haired creatures and they are so photogenic. The golden monkeys can also be found in some places outside volcanoes national park, these live in troops of about 30 individuals, have a rich color, as well as energetic demeanor.
A guided hike through Nyungwe forest can lead you to these beautiful creatures where you will be able to watch them interact as well as play around. Chimpanzee tracking can be done year around in the forest, even though it’s raining, or shining. Their sightings are common and the guides are very skillful in tracking these beautiful primates.
There are generally three reception centers in Nyungwe national park were the visitors can meet their guides, these include; Kitabi , Gisakura as well as Uwinka. The vehicles are not provided so it’s best to arrange transportation in time. Chimpanzee permits are sold at $ 90 per person and can be bought from Rwanda Development Board offices.
The chimpanzees share 98% of the human genes, have got large bodies with limbs which makes it the closest relatives to the human species on earth. They give birth every four to five years and they look after their young ones up to the age of 10 to 12 years when they are old enough to survive on their own. They usually live in families which separate at a later stage in life and join later. They use tools like the rocks to crack the nuts and sticks to fish for the termites. They also organize hunts to catch small antelopes as well as monkeys to feed on.
About conservation of the chimpanzees, they are considered endangered species mainly because they are rare and their numbers are declining. They are protected mainly because they are threatened by extinction. The government of Rwanda has put aside land to save the remaining apes mainly the chimpanzees. There have also been rules that govern the chimpanzee trekking activities so that their ecosystems are conserved.
Chimpanzees have also got many threats that affect them, some of these include; losing their homes were the forests are cut down for agriculture purposes, the chimps are hunted for meat is some parts of Rwanda, some of them are hunted for petty trade especially the baby chimps, some of them are killed and maimed by wire traps set for antelopes in the forests.
The following are the rules which apply while carrying out chimpanzee trekking and these include; the maximum number of people in a group is 4 visitors per the guided walk, 1 hour is the maximum time allowed to spend with the chimps, a distance of 8m is encouraged between the trekkers and the chimps, they should not be provoked by the tourists at any time, visitors with diseases like flu or diarrhea should not be allowed to trek, visitors should refrain from eating near the chimpanzees, children below the age of 12 are prohibited from tracking the chimpanzees, the trekkers have to carry gear/ rain jacket, long boots as well as long trousers and lastly visitors are advised to remain in tight group and follow the guide’s instructions ever.
Other Primates of Rwanda
Black & White Colobus Monkey
These are also considered as old world monkeys and they are natives of Africa. They are closely related to the famous brown monkeys and their name comes from a Greek word meaning Docked. These are herbivorous species which feed on leaves, fruits, flowers as well as twigs. Their habitants include both secondary and primary forests, wooded grasslands, as well as riverine forests. These monkeys are found in higher density logged forests and their ruminant digestive systems have also enabled them to occupy many niches which are inaccessible to many other primates.
The colobuses live in groups of about 9 individuals including a single male with many females within the group as well as their offspring’s. Their new borns are completely white in colour and are mainly cared by their biological mothers.
These monkeys are also good at seed dispersal through their sloppy eating habitants and also through their digestive systems. These also prey for may forest predators and are threatened by hunting for bush meat, logging and habitat destruction. There are five species of this type of monkey with 8 sub species. These include; Black Colobus and its sub species include; Gabon black colobus and Bioko black colobus, The Angola Colobus includes sub species like sclater’s angola colobus, Adolf friedrich, powell cotton Angola colobus, Cordier’s, Prigogine and peter’s Angola Colobus. King colobus, ursine colobus and Mantled Guereza etc.
Colobus are arboreal and can also jump long distances, though their tails are not prehensile. These spend most of their time resting and grooming. They move only 350m in a day and they eat 2-3 kgs of leaves. They usually small species and aggressive between groups. These also three chambered stomach capable of extracting the cellulose from its diet of 90% leaves.
Colobus monkeys are the only capable species prospering on the diet. The other foods on which they feed on include; fruits, moss, bark, insects as well as soil. There groups are usually small with 1 to3 adult males, 2 to 4 females as well as off springs. The females usually breed every two years and their gestation is 5.5 months. The bachelor males may also band together or follow a family troop however keep a low profile until they take over from their leaders. Their main predators are the golden cats, dogs, chimpanzees as well as the crowned hawk. The human beings also hunt them for ceremonial use as well as trade.
Colobus Monkey tracking
This specie is mainly recognised by a black body with stark white whiskers, tail and shoulders ’A troop of these monkeys is made of 400 individuals and this means that visitors who come to track these monkeys, have a high chance of finding them an hour or less into the trek. These are social in nature and the visitors experience playful interaction with these primates. Visitors will get chance to interact with these groups of primates.
These monkeys are so outstanding and are well represented in Rwanda. Nyungwe forest has the greatest variety of primates that will interest primate lovers with over 13 primate species including; white and black colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey, L’Hoest monkeys, as well as golden monkeys.
Trekking the colobus monkeys starts early in the morning by 7:00am and visitors are accompanied by experienced park guides at a cost of $70 per person. The guides will also reveal to the secrets of Nyungwe forests since you are on a look out of the amazing black and white colobus monkeys clinging and jumping on the trees. The trek also takes between 4 to 6 hours and the experience is worthwhile.