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Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is one of the most popular primate tracking experiences in the “The Land of a Thousand Hills”. Our best chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda tours offer you a close encounter with chimpanzees – our closest genetic ancestors – in their natural habitat

Chimpanzee trekking tours in Rwanda are only offered in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Although this Rwanda safaris adventure is less publicized than gorilla trekking, the experience is almost similar. The intelligence and social behaviour of these endangered great apes make them fascinating to watch.

They live in communities and the main chimp community that visited during chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda consists of approximately 40 members. Like human beings, chimpanzees tend to have strong personalities, and their expressive faces make their identities easily recognizable to us.

On our adventure of chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda, you will realize that chimps are more active than gorillas, and finding them as they forage widely can be challenging. Once found, however, it will be a fascinating encounter as they play, argue, and care for their babies. 

If you are lucky, you may hear them pant-hooting – a communal loud calling that can be triggered by anything that excites them – even you. Few fortunate on a chimpanzee trekking tour in Rwanda visitors even get to witness chimps hunting monkeys.

chimpanzee trekking tours to Rwanda

Is it worth going chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda compared to other countries?

The most famous countries for chimpanzee trekking in Africa are Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The only place to track chimpanzees in Rwanda is Nyungwe Forest National Park. This beautiful, high-altitude rainforest jungle is remarkably accessible and is home to 13 species of primates.

Nyungwe Forest is worth visiting for its natural beauty, exciting forest hikes and biodiversity alone.

The chance to track chimpanzees is a bonus. The chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is highly recommended, but because Nyungwe National Park is still an emerging destination, chimp sightings is a bit more hit-and-miss on Rwanda chimp trekking tours than in Uganda and Tanzania.

In Rwanda, only one group of up to 8 visitors can track chimpanzees a day. This makes it a very exclusive wildlife safari experience and visitor numbers in Nyungwe Forest National Park are generally low compared to the main chimpanzee tracking destinations in Uganda.

Tanzania offers amazing chimpanzee trekking in Gombe Stream National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park, but these remote primate parks on shores of Lake Tanganyika are very inaccessible. It is either very time-consuming or expensive.

Kibale Forest, the main destination for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, and Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda are both easy to visit. The drives from their respective capitals take approximately 5 hours.

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo offers chimp trekking as well, and the national park is usually visited as an add-on trip from Rwanda.

Can I add a chimpanzee trek in Rwanda to a gorilla trekking tour?

It is easy to add chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda to gorilla trekking tour. In fact, when visiting Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, further exploration of this beautiful country is highly recommended.

Rwanda is a compact country and you can combine gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park with chimpanzee trekking in Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe national park on a short road trip.

While you can drive between the national parks in a day, an overnight stop on the beautiful shore of Lake Kivu in the Albertine Rift Valley adds interest to the tour.

If you have more time, you can extend your Rwanda further to include a safari to Akagera National Park for a classic Big Five game viewing. The densities of wildlife in Akagera National Park are not comparable to the most famous game parks in East Africa, but this off-the-beaten-track safari destination is incredibly scenic and rewarding in its own right.

What fitness level is required For Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda?

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda needs a reasonable degree of fitness. But this actually depends on the day as every day is different.

You might find chimpanzees after 15 minutes or after 2 hours. And then, they may be stationary, feeding in trees, or they might be on the move. The latter can create a challenging hike as you try to keep up with them moving through the undergrowth at high speed.

Whether or not you are fit and capable, it is important to come prepared. You will need good waterproof hiking shoes or boots and a lightweight rain jacket.

You are also advised to put on long trousers. You will be given a walking stick, but you can bring own if you have one. It is a great help on slippery slopes and trails.

You will have the chance to hire a porter to carry your backpack with camera, water, and snacks. They can also help you stay steady when trekking on challenging terrain.

Is chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda safe?

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda is very safe. Incidents with visitors on Rwanda chimp treks are almost unheard of. The chimpanzees which you will visit are habituated to the presence of people and they know that humans are no threat to them.

However, it is very important to pay attention during the chimpanzee trekking safety briefing before your trek into the forest. Also ensure that you listen carefully to the instructions given by your range guide, and to maintain at the recommended distance from the chimpanzees.

Rwanda as a country is also a safe destination. But, the country is stained by the memory of the horrific 1994 genocide, which resulted from an ongoing conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi people. The genocide in Rwanda occurred 29 years ago and there have been no recurring incidents since.

Today, Rwanda is a well-run country and the people are welcoming. As in any large cities in the world, there can be problems with petty crime in cities, and visitors should take usual safety precautions. None of this should be a problem if you book a Rwanda tour through reputable operator.

How much is chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda?

Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda costs US$90 on top of the national park entrance fee of US$40.

This is a bargain in comparison to the Rwanda gorilla trekking permit at US$1,500. Although many visitors mainly undertake safaris to Rwanda only for mountain gorilla trekking, a chimp trekking tour is almost always part of a larger Rwanda tour.

Mid-range Rwanda safari tours including gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking and an overnight stay on the shore of Lake Kivu start at around US$ 3,000.

A 3-day combined Rwanda safari package of a classic savannah safari in Akagera National Park and chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park starts at approximately US$1,500.

A 6-day Rwanda tour that combines all three Rwanda National parks and includes chimpanzee and gorilla trekking starts at about US$3,500.

Are chimpanzee sightings guaranteed?

Chimpanzee sightings during chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda are never guaranteed.

While habituated, the chimpanzees in Rwanda are completely wild. They move daily in search of what to eat and they end the day with making a nest for the night.

Male chimps also spend a reasonable amount of time patrolling their community territory. But trackers work hard to find the chimpanzees daily and the success rate are relatively high.

If the chimpanzees are on the move, your fitness level will also determine the quality of sighting, as keeping up with them can be challenging.

Most visitors on chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda will at least catch a glimpse, and if you find them feeding or resting, you will probably get to spend a very rewarding hour with them. All in all, these nimble apes are less sedentary than gorillas and sightings are altogether more hit-and-miss.

What other activities are offered in Nyungwe besides Chimpanzee trekking?

  • Canopy walk: It is a 2 – 3 hour activity that is easily added to the chimpanzee trekking tour and can be done in the afternoon on the day of transfer from Kigali. This iconic involves the walk over a 160m canopy walkway that suspends over a deep forested valley 74m from ground.
  • Colobus monkey tracking: This is a beautiful light activity in Nyungwe that takes you to encounter a megatroop of 400 colobus monkeys that have been habituated and will stay throughout your presence.
  • Hiking: Nyungwe forest is a heaven for those who love the nature and the outdoors. There are several trails in the forest offering wonderful hiking experiences depending on what to you want to experience in the forest.
  • Tea estate tour: A tea estate and factory at the edge of Nyungwe forest offers visitors a chance to experience tea growing and processing.
  • Cultural experience: After the chimpanzee trekking you can explore the countryside and see how people live their lives, know their cultures and traditions.

Where to stay before or after the chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park

  • One & Only Nyungwe House – Luxury
  • Gisakura Guesthouse – budget
  • Nyungwe Top View Hill Lodge – Midrange

Important Tips For chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda

  1. What to pack: Water, snacks for while you trek, raincoat, several layers of clothing, wide-brimmed hat, hiking shoes, insect repellent and equipment such as cameras and lenses.
  2. Backpack: Carry a day pack for the items above ;
  3. Porter: Hire a porter for the trek – he will carry your backpack – freeing you to carry a camera. The cost is a fraction of your daily expenses on safari , yet it makes a big difference in the porter’s life;
  4. Photography: The forest is dark, and the use of large lenses will be limited. Keep that big lens in your backpack, and use a general-purpose lens on your camera. Keep a dry lens cloth handy to wipe away dew and raindrops. Flash photography is not permitted while with the chimps;
  5. Waterproofing: Bring a few waterproof bags for equipment in case of showers and high humidity;
  6. Weather: Chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda are in high-rainfall area. The weather can swing from clear and hot to torrential rain and cold in minutes.

Ready to Start Planning Your Chimpanzee Trekking Adventure?

Chimpanzee is highly endangered and trekking is carefully regulated in Nyungwe National Park. But it’s a bucket-list experience precisely because it is not easy to get close to chimpanzee in the wild but, when you do; you’ll be more than thrilled. And we can help you get there…