Planning Your Visit To The Nyungwe Canopy Walk – All You Need To Know
Are you visiting Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda? This is an incredible area in the southwestern part of the country that offers so many things to do. We were in this area for several days and the Nyungwe canopy walk was one of the top priorities on our list of things to experience. Below we outline everything you can expect so you can plan for a great excursion.
Highlights of The Nyungwe Canopy Walk
Getting Prepared For The Nyungwe Canopy Walk
Before leaving on our trip to Rwanda we had read about this amazing canopy walk in the Nyungwe National Park. It is the only one located in East Africa and is listed as one of the best canopy walks in the world by Lonely Planet, so it was certainly of interest for us to check out.
We arrived at the Uwinka Visitor Centre by car as our guide brought us here for our reservation. Since each group is allocated a guide, it is recommended that you pre-book your reservation, so you aren’t disappointed upon arrival. Reservations can be made by contacting the park directly at +250 788 625 359 or email@example.com
We met with our guide and the others in our group who would be joining us for a brief orientation and a check that everyone had appropriate attire and footwear. They also supplied walking sticks to those who wanted them.
All About The Nyungwe National Park
The park is quite sizeable covering 1019 square kms. Back in 1933, it was originally a reserve and then designated a national park in 2005. It was fascinating to learn that this park is thought to be the oldest tropical rainforest in Africa and provides much of the freshwater for the country. It also provides water to both the Congo and Nile rivers.
Located amongst the hills of the country, the park’s elevation ranges from 1700-2000 metres which affords some spectacular scenery.
It is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts since there are known to be 85 species of animals, 345 bird species, 1068 plant species – of which 47 are endemic to the area and 120 species of butterflies! Quite an impressive place that thankfully is completely protected. After learning all these amazing facts about the park, we were excited to get going on our hike.
What Is The Nyungwe Canopy Walk Distance?
Our guide explained that the trek to the canopy walk would take approximately 1 ½ hours. We would be following the Igishigishigi Trail on a loop which is 2.1 kms long.
We found the trail to be in good condition. It was dry on the day we were there so that was helpful as we can imagine that on a wet day, it may be trickier. Some parts had steps carved into the hills but for much of the walk, it was flat ground with only a couple of inclines along the way.
The path back was more uphill, but our guide took many breaks along the way to explain what we were seeing along the trail and identify different bird species.
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Crossing The Canopy Walk
After walking through the rainforest and admiring the massive mahogany trees along the way, we arrived at the canopy walk. It is quite a structure to see in the middle of the forested area.
The suspension bridge was designed and built in 2010 by the Greenhart Canopy Walkway Company which is located in Vancouver, Canada! This company’s main goal is to preserve and maintain rainforests by creating aerial trails around the world.
Given its remote location, the structure took eight months to build. And it is no wonder it took that long since there was no way to bring machinery into the valley, so all the pieces were brought individually down by the workers, and they carried it on their heads! It must have been quite the sight to see.
What is the Nyungwe canopy walk length? The suspension bridge is constructed in three sections – the first section is 45m, the second is 90m and the third is 25m making it 160m long in total.
Once you reach the start of the bridge you will see this large metal tower that is the brace for the end of the structure. There are several of these that provide support for the bridge. At each one is a platform where you can stand before moving on to the next section of the bridge. The support towers are assembled with open space between the beams making them look less intrusive to the forested area.
We proceeded to walk across the first section which is half the length of the second section. This gives you a chance to get the feel of the bridge. Given that it is a suspension bridge it does have movement as you walk so it takes a little bit to understand the sway and get comfortable moving across.
There are tall side supports with thick ropes to hold onto as you move along. And the side “walls” provide safety but are created with a grid pattern so you can still see through them allowing a complete view of the area around you.
Once we reached the end of the first section, we stopped at the platform, took some pictures, and prepared to walk across the longest section. At this point, we were at an elevation of 2450m.
Initially, when you look down the bridge length towards the end it looks a little daunting. It is a narrow metal path that honestly doesn’t look overly sturdy. But once you take your first step and get going, walking on the middle section of the bridge is truly incredible.
Since it is 90m long there is more movement, but the scenery around keeps you very occupied. As you walk here, 70m above the ground, it is a spectacular sight.
You are up above the treetops, and you can hear the birds, the insects, and the monkeys, all chattering as you quietly observe from this incredible vantage point. Looking down into the dense vegetation is amazing as this part of the forest is completely undisturbed below.
We didn’t actually see any monkeys like we did in Jozani Forest in Zanzibar but we could hear them amongst the trees. And since we had a chimpanzee trekking excursion booked this was not a disappointment for us. The scenery more than made up for it.
We came onto the next platform where we celebrated making the journey, walked down a set of stairs, and then proceeded to cross the final short section of the bridge that brought us back down to the ground. This one was more of a slant so holding the sides with both hands was necessary. Overall, it was awesome!
From here we started our walk back to the Visitor Centre. As mentioned, it is more of an uphill walk on the way back, but it is generally a slow incline with a few places that have steeper parts. The guides were good about advising us on what was coming up and took it slower in the more difficult parts.
How To Get To Nyungwe Forest
There are no rail services or public transportation options except within the cities of Rwanda. The only way to get around is by car. The roads connecting the major towns are good but once you get off the main roads, such as to enter the parks or starting points of treks, the roads can be quite rough.
While car rentals are available, we would highly recommend having a guide who understands the road systems and how to drive 4×4 vehicles on very bumpy surfaces.
Best Time For Canopy Walk
The best time to book your canopy walk is in the morning as there can be more rain in the afternoons in this part of the country.
This experience is available year-round, but it would be important to look at the rainy season in Rwanda overall because we think this would be a much more difficult walk if it was wet. The dry season in Rwanda is from June through September and the end of December through early February.
We visited in June and were happy we did as there were still parts of trails that were muddy as it does still rain – just not as much.
Starting Time Of The Canopy Walk
The canopy walk does operate multiple times during the day, but it is best to contact the park directly at +250 788 625 359 or firstname.lastname@example.org as times do fluctuate based on the season and number of available guides.
What Is The Nyungwe Canopy Walk Difficulty?
Those planning to complete the trek to the canopy walk should be able to walk over uneven surfaces, manage inclines and steps and be comfortable walking in the heat and humidity.
How Long Is The Canopy Walk In Nyungwe?
The pace can be slowed to accommodate those who are more comfortable walking leisurely but keep in mind the walk is between 1 ½ to 2 hours long. The actual crossing of the suspension bridge is the shortest part (160m in total) and can be completed within perhaps 10-15 minutes.
What Is The Nyungwe Canopy Walk Cost?
The entrance fee for international visitors is $40.00 USD per person.
What Should You Bring?
It is important to have proper footwear as the terrain is uneven at times. It is also recommended that you wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and bring a raincoat, hat, and sunglasses. Additionally, a full water bottle, sunscreen and mosquito repellent are important to remember. And don’t forget your camera!
What Are The Attractions Found In Nyungwe National Park?
Of course, the canopy walk is a highlight of this national park, but you can also enjoy chimpanzee trekking, longer hikes to waterfalls, and bird-watching tours.
The Final Word…Nyungwe Canopy Walk
We found this experience to be a highlight of our time in Nyungwe National Park. It was a unique way to see the rainforest from a completely different perspective that gives you an appreciation for the vast area around you. There really aren’t adequate words to describe the beautiful backdrop of this forest.
It was a real pleasure to experience it and we would highly recommend including it on your itinerary to this region.