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Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Gishwati-Mukura National Park,  Gishwati-Mukura National Park is the most recently created National Park in Rwanda, established in 2015 mainly to protect the Chimpanzees and other few wildlife species that call the Gishwati and Mukura forests home. Formed by merging the large Gishwati and small Mukura Forests, this Park is found in the western part of the country and is so far the smallest with an area of 34 square kilometers including a buffer zone.

The Gishwati and Mukura forests are sprawled on the ridge that bisects the Nile and Congo water catchment areas along the outstandingly diverse Albertine Rift within the western side of Rwanda.

Flora and fauna 

The merging of Gishwati and Mukura forests formed a Park (Gishwati-Mukura National Park) with outstanding biodiversity inform of unique flora and fauna to look-out for during a visit to the area. The Park has more than 60 tree species including Bamboo as well as indigenous hardwoods.

The Park is also home to several primate species including chimpanzees (totaling to over 20 individuals), blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys, Olive baboons and L’Hoest monkeys. Also, bushbucks, black-fronted duikers, serval cats, Tree hyraxes and Red river hogs are found in the Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

The Gishwati-Mukura National Park is a haven to more than 200 species of birds including some that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley as well as others endemic to the forest ecosystems. There are Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Turaco, white-headed wood hoopoes, red-throated alethe, Rwenzori batis, strange weavers, Purple-breasted sunbirds, grey-crowned cranes, Grauer’s swamp warblers and mountain yellow warblers are found in this National Park.

Additionally, reptiles such as Chameleons, bush vipers and other snake species are found in the Park. Tourists to the Protected Area should also expect to see a number of Amphibians especially toads and Brown forest frogs.

Tourist activities 

Primate tracking

The highlight of visiting Gishwati-Mukura National Park is usually the breathtaking primate tracking adventure that involves moving through the jungles in-search of the chimpanzees, golden monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys and blue monkeys among others.

Birding

Birding is another interesting tourist activity offered in Gishwati-Mukura National Park with highlight being a chance to see the Rwenzori batis, strange weavers, Purple-breasted sunbirds, grey-crowned cranes, Grauer’s swamp warblers and many others. Numerous species are encountered during the wet season.

Guided nature walks/hiking

There is no better way to explore the detailed beauty (birds, trees, butterflies, animals and waterfalls) of Gishwati-Mukura National Park than undertaking the guided nature walks/hiking. The well-established and maintained hiking trails offer chances of seeing the grey-crowned cranes, Purple-breasted sunbirds and Rwenzori Turaco, as well as the tree species such as Macaranga and Bamboo. The magnificent Kazeneza waterfalls can also be explored during the guided nature walks.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours around Gishwati-Mukura National Park communities involve undertaking interesting activities such as visits to traditional healers to learn how they use natural plants for healing common ailments, traditional bee keeping, tea plantation tours to learn about how tea is traditionally grown, harvested and processed into fine product, hand-craft making, farm stays as well as watching some of the communities’ invigorating cultural dances among others.

Biking along the Congo-Nile Trail

Gishwati-Mukura National Park offers exciting biking opportunities through the thrilling Congo-Nile Trails that lasts days to complete. This trail may not be in this National Park (it’s rather close) but goes through the shores of Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Forest National Park and many other interesting places thus requires participants to be physically fit to accept the challenge.

Best time to visit 

Gishwati-Mukura National Park is open to tourists all year round. This Park experiences two seasons-dry season from June to September and mid-December to mid-February, which most tourists agree is the most perfect for visiting the Park, especially for primate tracking, nature walks/hiking and biking/cycling along the Congo-Nile Trail. Besides these months correspond with Europe and North America’s summer months that are considered ideal for traveling. The wet season that falls in the months of mid-February, March, April, May, October, November and mid-December are usually avoided by tourists yet are the perfect ones for birding.

Where to stay

Given that Gishwati-Mukura National Park is still new, there are few accommodation facilities hence Gishwati Lodge is where most tourists stay during their trips.

How to get to there

Gishwati-Mukura National Park is found in the north-western side of Rwanda in Rutsiro district and only 3-4 hours’ drive from the City of Kigali. The Park is mainly reachable by road transport with both public and private means available.

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