Gishwati Mukura National park
Gishwati Mukura national park is Rwanda’s newest national park located in the western side of the country. Gishwati Mukura national park was established as a national park in 2015 after the government of Rwanda passed the law with an aim to protect the chimpanzees that call this forest home. The Gishwati Mukura national park is now the smallest national park replacing the Volcanoes national park that was previously known as the smallest.
The Gishwati Mukura national park is a 2 hour road transfer from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda but if you prefer a flight, you may book a chartered flight from Kigali to the park that is a 30 minute flight by Akagera aviation. It is about 30 minutes away from the Volcanoes national park so you can visit both parks while in the area.
The Gishwati Mukura national park is sitted on an area of 34 square kilometers and this park is comprised of two rain forests these are the Gishwati forest and the Mukura forest. The Gishwati forest is located in the northern part and the Mukura forest is found in the south. The Gishwati forest was majorly affected in the Rwandan genocide that happened in 1994 and this was a hiding ground for people thus the deforestation for human settlement, land was cleared for farm land as people began to settle after being displaced.
The Mukura forest was already a protected forest as a wildlife reserve for a period of about 50 years and was on its way to national park status but the 1994 unfortunate events reduced the forest to almost 50% after illegal mining and human settlement continued to take up space in the forest.
The Gishwati forest and the Mukura forest combined have qualified for national park status as their ecosystems need greater protection and there is hope that after this decision made, the natural resources of the park will thrive and multiply in number to compensate the loss made during the genocide. The Gishwati forest that was majorly affected in the genocide has been on a steady growth of reclaiming up to 1,000 acres of land in the past few years as the country has stabilized.
This Gishwati Mukura national park has a buffer zone where trees have been marked to show the outline of the park and to protect the natural resources of the park. There are a few plans in place to have a wildlife corridor to connect the forests of the region that is the Gishwati forest, the Mukura forest and the Nyungwe forest which is more known and visited. All the three forests are home to the chimpanzee and other primate species.
The Gishwati Mukura was opened for tourism in 2020 after the lockdown in Rwanda factored by the Covid-19 pandemic was eased. This was done with an effort to realize the loss that may have been as a factor of closing the national parks of Rwanda for several months.
Visitors of this national park can book a chimpanzee trekking activity or trek other primates. The Gishwati Mukura national park is a home to six other primate species and these are the blue monkeys, the golden monkeys, the L’Hoest’s monkeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys and the black and white colobus monkeys. The chimpanzees in the Gishwati Mukura national park are habituated and are permits for the activity are available for booking.
Besides the primate treks, you can visit the Gishwati Mukura forest for a bird experience as it is a home to 84 different bird species, endemic and migratory birds. The common sightings on a visit to Gishwati Mukura forest include the wood hoopoes, warblers, Grey crowned crane, purple breasted sunbird, mountain yellow warblers, red throated alethe, strange weave, Rwenzori turaco, the black fronted duiker to mention but a few.
There are a few animals that you may be able to spot in Gishwati Mukura national park and these are the serval cats, the red river hogs, some reptiles and amphibians like great lake bush viper, southern tree hyrax and different types of toads and chameleons, and butterflies that you will enjoy on your visit. The diverse ecosystem of the park is surely showing a positive growth of its resources.
The Gishwati forest was previously sitted on an area of 250,000 acres of land and by a check that was carried out in 2001 and an estimated land of only 1,500 acres was left which is a loss of 99.4%. The Gishwati Mukura national park is located on the highest ridges of the Congo-Nile Divide and this is on the line of the Albertine Rift valley thus the 20 different endemic bird species in this park. The 20 Albertine rift region endemic species that you may spot can include the rare Grauer’s swamp warbler and the dusky crimson wing.
The Gishwati Mukura national park is now clearly reserved for tourism purposes and the illegal use of the resources of the park has been banned and some agencies have put efforts in funding the conservation of the forests such as the World Bank that signed a 9.5 million USD deal with the Rwandan government in 2013, two years ahead of the national park being established.
Besides chimpanzee trekking, primate trekking and birding experiences, the Gishwati Mukura national park offers the biking or walk on the Congo-Nile trail to explore the area on bike for a number of days. You may also take on a cultural experience offered by the communities living around the park.
Accommodation near the park is less established but there is a lodge called the Gishwati lodge where you can book your night stay. You may also opt to stay in the other known and familiar destinations like Volcanoes national park and Rubavu.