Rwanda’s national parks are natural wildlife reserves and protected ecosystems, located within the borders of Rwanda in the heart of East Africa. These protected conservation areas include Volcanoes National Park (also known as Pac National Des Vulcans) in the north, eastern based Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National park in the south and the recent addition Gishwati-Mukura National park situated in north – west.
Each of the national park in Rwanda harbors exclusive wildlife, ranging from the endangered mountain gorillas to a profusion of wildlife in Akagera national park and massive population of primates in Nyungwe and Gishwati-Mukura national parks.Below is a complete list of national parks in Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
The Nyungwe is situated in the southwestern Rwanda, at the border with Burundi to the south and Congo to the west. It is arguably the largest montane forest in east and central Africa and one of the highly rated conservation forests in Africa covering a total area of 970sq.km. The park is found in the district of Rusizi in south western Rwanda only 225kms from Kigali taking 4-5 hours’ drive. The forest receives 2000mm of rainfall every year, and is Rwanda’s largest water catchment area.
It was first declared as a forest reserve by German colonial government in 1903 but the forest suffered wild fires, poaching of animals and extensive woodland cutting. It was not until in 1980s, following the restoration of colobus monkeys that was living in groups led to restoration of the conservation work. It was later declared in 2005 as a national park.
The park is known for its 13 primates including chimpanzees, L’Hoest monkeys, and acrobatic Ruwenzori colobus among others. It also contains more than 1,050 plant species, 250 albertine rift valley endemics and 200 orchids. The park is home to over 120 butterfly species, 32 amphibians, 38 reptiles, 85 mammals and 310 bird species.
Gishwati Mukura National Park
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is Rwanda’s recent addition to its list of national parks. With the creation of this park on 1st/02/ 2016, the number of game parks in Rwanda increased to four. Gishwati is located in the North-western side of Rwanda and covering the districts of Ngororero and Rutsiro.
The park was formed by combining Mukura Forest Reserve (1,988 hectares) and the Gishwati Forest Reserve (1,440 hectares) in 2015, it ended up being called Gishwati-Mukura National Park. When it was first created, it covered over 250,000 hectares but was depleted to nearly 28,000 hectares in largely due to uncontrolled resettlement, illegal farming of land, mining and lumbering in the forest after the 1994 genocide among others.
Gishwati-Mukura national park is one of the richest game parks in Rwanda in when it comes to biological diversity. It is a home to a considerable number of mammal species and great deal of primate species such as Eastern Chimpanzees, the Black and White Colobus monkeys, L’hoest monkeys, Golden Monkeys and Blue Monkeys. Other mammal species are the serval, Black-fronted duikers, Red river Hogs and southern tree hyrax among others.
The park also has over 60 species of trees that include bamboo, Giant tree ferns, Carapa Grandiflora, and local hard wood. There are also over 130 bird species in the Park which include Woodhoopoes Old world warblers, Mountain-yellow warblers plus 14 Albertine Rift endemics such as the Rwenzori turaco and red-throated alethe and so much more.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national Park is one of the first national parks to be formed in Africa, originally gazetted in 1925 together with Virunga national park of D.R. Congo as one big conservation area with intentions of protecting the then critically endangered mountain gorillas from poachers. At that point in time, it was bounded by Karisimbi, Mikeno and Bisoke volcanoes.
Volcanoes national park however remains one of the smallest national parks in Rwanda. It is the only park in Rwanda which inhabits the rare Mountain gorillas and fetches thousands of tourists all over the world to come and have a one on one encounter with these mighty creatures.
Other than mountain gorillas, Volcanoes national park is well gifted with varied ecosystem that has favored the presence of other forest mammals, bird species, primates, varied vegetation. Its neighborhood is base for exhilarating cultural encounters, historical sites, and scenic landscapes with abundant plantations, mountains, and so much more.
Akagera National Park
Named after river Kagera, which flows along the Rwanda’s eastern border. Akagera national park is located in the eastern region of Rwanda and was established in the year 1934, making it one of the oldest conservation areas in Africa. This park covers an area of about 1122km and it includes swamp, Montane, and savannah habitats, rendering it a magnet for verdant flora and fauna species. This park has beautiful attractions that have sourced visitors around the world.
Akagera national park is blessed with a variety of mammals that have attracted tourists across the globe. From the playful primates of the blue monkeys, olive balloons, view vevert monkeys, to bush babies during a night drive. The national park offers massive wild game views of animals such as; forest elephants, antelopes, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, impala and the cape eland-the world’s largest antelope.
Besides the beautiful animals, Akagera national park also has a wide range of bird species – over 500 in the park. Birds such as the African wattled plover, cattle Egret, grey crowned crane, and the remarkable shoebill among others call Akagera home.