Rwanda 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
Nyungwe Forest National Park is located in the southwestern region of Rwanda, near the D.R. Congo and Burundi borders to the west and south respectively. It is undeniably the biggest Afro-montane forest in the east and central Africa and a highly ranked conservation forest in the continent spanning an area of 970 sq.km. Nyungwe Forest park is located in the south west of Rwanda, in Rusizi district, barely 225kms from Kigali city, a distance that takes only 4-5 hours of non-stop drive. Nyungwe forest receives total of 2000mm of rainfall annually, making it the country’s biggest water catchment area.
Nyungwe was originally established by the German colonial Government as a forest reserve in 1903 but it was later consumed by wild fires, poaching and massive deforestation. Later in the 1980s, restoration of Colobus monkeys in the park resumed which also resurrected the overall conservation works. In 2005, it was officially declared a fully fledged national park.
Nyungwe national park is home for over 13 primate species including the rare chimpanzees, L’Hoest monkeys, and the acrobatic Ruwenzori colobus among others, making it a renowned “primate capital of Rwanda”. Apart from the primates, Nyungwe also shelters over 1,050 unique species of plants, 250 of these are endemic to the albertine rift while the other 200 are orchids. over 120 butterfly species are inhabited here as well as 38 reptiles, 32 amphibians, 85 mammals and up to 310 species of birds.
Gishwati Mukura National Park
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is located in Ngororero and Rutsiro districts in North-west side of Rwanda and it is the latest addition to Rwanda’s portfolio of national parks. This park was operationalised with effect from 1st/Feb/2016 increasing the number of national parks in Rwanda to four, including Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Akagera National parks.
Gishwati – Mukura national park was formed earlier in 2015 after Mukura Forest Reserve (1,988 hectares) was merged with Gishwati Forest Reserve (1,440 hectares), thus the name; Gishwati-Mukura National Park. By the time of its creation, the park was spanning up to 250,000 hectares though it depleted to barely 28,000 hectares in 1994 after the horrible genocide mainly due to uncontrolled human occupancy, illegal cultivation and deforestation, mining and lumbering, poaching, etc.
Gishwati-Mukura national park is a bio-diverse conservation area, with a considerable population of mammals, abundant flora, bird life and profusion of primates including eastern chimps, L’Hoests’ monkeys, blue monkeys and colobus monkeys and mammals include serval cats, duikers, River Hogs, and southern tree hyrax.
Gshwati-Mukura is a permanent home for abundant flora, up to 60 different species call this park home, including Giant tree ferns, bamboo, carapa grandiflora, and the local hard wood. The abundant lush vegetation provides comforatble shelter for bird life, and species such as the mountain yellow warblers, woodhoopes old world warblers and over 14 Albertine rift endemics luke the red-throated alethe and Rwenzori Turaco, etc.
Volcanoes National Park (Pac National des Volcans).
Volcanoes National Park is one of Africa’s famous and oldest conservation areas first established in 1925 together with Congo’s Virunga National park as one huge conservation area. These were created primarily to protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas that were at the verge of extinction.
But nevertheless, Volcanoes National Park remains one of the tiniest conservation areas in Rwanda and the only destination where the rare mountain gorillas can be trekked and the most populous of all parks in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National park is also blessed with vast ecosystem which has supported the presence of forest mammals, abundant bird life, primate species and lush vegetation. On its periphery is a profusion of amazing culture and traditional entertainment presented by various cultural groups but most famously the Ibyiwachu cultural village which brings live the unique Rwanda cultural dances, songs, stories, cuisine and so much more.
Akagera National Park
Akagera national park is situated along the Eastern boarder with Tanzania and spans River Akagera from where it derives its name. It is one of the oldest parks in Rwanda, gazetted in 1934 after Volcanoes National park to protect the endangered mammal species, including Rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and cats such as lions and leopards.
Akagera National park spans a total area of 1122 Sq.km and it encompasses wetlands, Montane and plain savannah habitats, rendering it a preferred hub for verdant flora and fauna species.
This park has pleasant attractions which have sourced visitors from all over the world, ranging from a variety of mammals, primates that can be spotted on any Akagera wildlife safari. From the cheerful blue monkeys, olive balloons, vevert monkeys and to the bush babies, jackals, leopards viewed on a night drive, Akagera offers extraordinary wild game views that no any other park in Rwanda can match.