Gishwati Mukura, Rwanda’s fourth national park, is made up of two different forests reserves, the larger Gishwati and the smaller Mukura, totaling 34 square kilometers plus a buffer zone. The woods are located on the slope that separates the Congo and Nile water catchment zones, along the extraordinarily biodiverse Albertine Rift in the country’s west. It is made up of 60 different tree species, including native forests and bamboo.
The creation of Gishwati Mukura National Park is a striking illustration of Rwanda’s government’s considerable effort to position the country as a top tourism destination in East and Central Africa. Rwanda’s tourist sector has grown by leaps and bounds with the launch of the Congo Nile Trail, restoration of royal historical sites, opening of the Musanze caverns, introduction of professional birdwatching, and the establishment of this new national park.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is 13.2 square miles in size and is located in western Rwanda (the districts of Rutsiro and Ngororero). The park was created by combining the Mukura and Gishwati forests, which are located between Rwanda’s Akagera and Volcanoes National Parks. This fusion of two main woods has resulted in a park with extraordinary biodiversity, home to creatures such as Red river pigs, bush bucks, serval cats, tree hyraxes, and black-fronted duiker. Chimpanzees, baboons, golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys are among the five primate species found in the park.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is currently a popular site for birdwatchers in Rwanda. Over 100 bird species may be seen here. The Old World Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, and White-headed Woodhooper are among the most notable. Visitors may also expect to see brown forest frogs, toads, chameleons, and bush vipers. Let’s go through the two woods in the national park in greater depth.
The Gishwati forest is the bigger of the two woods that currently form the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Gishwati was part of a larger forest system that stretched from the Nyungwe forest to Uganda and central Africa (including Congo). For thousands of years, Gishwati forest connected these huge woods to Nyungwe forest before human activities isolated it.
Mukura forest, on the other hand, is considerably smaller than Gishwati. Encroachment of forest land has reduced the initial 2,000 hectares of forest cover to 1,200 hectares. The forest does not have chimps, but the development of a forest corridor to the Gishwati and Nyungwe will allow the primates to enter if they so want. Following Rwanda’s genocide in 1994, the two woodlands were nearly decimated. People who had been displaced by the sad occurrence returned to the land and lived in the forests in large numbers. Because to illicit logging, poaching, and the opening up of farmlands, the forest lost most of its vegetative cover.
Even while the government made efforts to stop the devastation, as we will see later, Mukura forest Reserve now faces a new dilemma. Mukura forest is built on massive Coltan deposits. Coltan is a mineral that is used to manufacture telephones, computers, and other electrical equipment. Coltan may not be as precious as ivory or gold, but it is nevertheless profitable enough to drive destitute communities and unscrupulous individuals to go to any length to obtain it. Despite strong precautions in place, the no-nonsense Rwanda police continue to arrest those mining the profitable mineral.
Despite having a diverse eco-system, Gishwati Mukura National Park attracts less foreign visitors than, example, Nyungwe or Akagera National Parks. As previously said, one of the primary causes is that the forest lost many of its precious resources to refugees who were uprooted from various regions of the country. They deforested significant areas of the forest for subsistence farming, resulting in landslides, floods, soil erosion, soil sterility, and poor water quality. Over 80 percent of the trees, animals, wild fruits, and vegetables in the two woods were destroyed.
In following years, the government resolved to move quickly to end the unlawful occupation and deterioration of the two woods. The government has collaborated with various local and international groups in an effort to restore the woods to their former levels. The Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP) was the first group to collaborate closely with the government in recovering the forest. Ted Townsend started GACP in 2007. The initiative collaborated with President Paul Kagame and the Great Ape Trust to end the devastation in the two forests. The GACP came to an end in 2012, and the Forest of Hope Association took its place.
The Rwanda Development Board signed a 25-year agreement with Imizi Ecotourism Development Ltd to develop a tourism and conservation management program in phases at the Gishwati-Mukura National Park in order to ensure better management and visibility for the newly created national park.
Imizi is a well-known conservation organization with programs in seven additional African nations that operates under the brand Wilderness Safaris. It maintains Bisate Lodge in the Volcanoes National Park and Magashi Lodge in the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. Whereas Wilderness Safaris is in charge of creating park activities such as chimp trekking, the Rwanda Development Board is in charge of research, monitoring, law enforcement, ranger presence, community participation, and conflict resolution.
The cooperative has helped provide the groundwork for the park to become a prominent tourist attraction in Rwanda, serving as an alternative to mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park and wildlife drives in Akagera. The pact is also intended to promote Rwanda as a top African country for sustainable tourism, which would assist communities around the national parks.
There are several reasons to visit Gishwati Mukura National Park. Rwanda is already recognized as the world’s fifth safest and most secure country, and with the high-end eco-tourism project launched in the park, this is one location not to be missed when in the country. Gishwati-Mukura National Park provides a variety of tourism activities for visitors, including bird watching, monkey viewing, guided nature hikes, camping, and picnics. Let’s take a closer look at these activities:
Gishwati-Mukura national park in Rwanda almost lost its Chimpanzee population owing to habitat degradation and poaching. Their numbers have grown dramatically as a result of government involvement, with assistance from Wilderness Safaris and other international animal conservation organizations. Visitors to the park may expect to encounter golden monkeys, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, baboons, and, of course, chimps.
Wilderness Safaris has begun the habituation process for several monkey families, including chimps, during the previous two years. The habituation process guarantees that they are no longer terrified of people and can tolerate them in their midst. Gishwati-Mukura is quickly becoming a popular site for people interested in chimp trekking in Rwanda. Chimpanzee tracking, like other park activities, begins with a briefing from park headquarters on the activity, expectations, and what to bring. Visitors are almost expected to see other forest species such as wild cats, duikers, and forest birds while tracking the primates.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park is one of Rwanda’s top spots for bird viewing. The park is home to over 83 species, including 15 that can only be found in the Albertine Rift, such as the Grey Crowned Crane, Martial Eagle, Mountain Yellow Warblers, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Weaver birds, Wood hoopoes, Strange weavers, and the Stripe-breasted Tit.
Because the park is small, birding may be done on foot. It is essential to enlist the services of an expert Guide from the park office to assist with species identification and travelling to the finest birding areas.
In order to market the park as a high-end Eco-tourism destination, park administration collaborates closely with the communities that surround it. To that purpose, the park organizes a variety of cultural programs that help the community while also allowing tourists to experience local culture. Visits to local villages or individual homesteads are part of cultural interactions in Gishwati. Visitors can learn how to produce local crafts and prepare traditional cuisine while staying with a local community or individual farm.
You may visit the local farmers in their gardens or spend the night in one of the cottages to learn about the way of life of the people. Alternatively, you may attend local cultural acts such as dance, theatre, singing, and storytelling. If you are feeling more daring, you may pay a visit to one of the traditional healers and discover how herbs are gathered from the trees to treat common human problems. The Great Ape Trust collaborates with the Rwanda Development Board to encourage ethnic dances and plays, as well as to promote indigenous art.
The park’s management have developed various routes that allow visitors to explore the forest’s interior. A nature walk in the Gishwati Mukura National Park will allow you to experience the natural beauty of the forest and its inhabitants such as butterflies, chameleons, insects, birds, and primates.
You will be attracted by the forest’s calm setting, which is characterized by exquisite bird and monkey cries. Over 60 different tree species may be found here, including bamboos, ferns, Macaranga kilimand, mahogany, and orchids. New species added by the park officials include dombeya torrida, eucalyptus, hagenia abyssinica, macaranga, and polyscias fulva. The route that goes to the kazeneza waterfall in the center of the park is one of the nicest. Anyone who views this spectacular waterfall and the surrounding environment will be impressed.
The Congo Nile Trail offers one of the most enjoyable bike experiences in East Africa. The track was constructed to follow the shorelines of Lake Kivu before passing into Nyungwe forest. The Congo Nile Trail is adjacent to Gishwati-Mukura National Park, giving tourists the opportunity to see rural Rwanda and learn about life in rural Africa.
The park was established to safeguard the region’s extraordinary biodiversity as well as to provide returning tourists to Rwanda something distinct from the other Rwandan game parks. With the establishment of Gishwati-Mukura national park, it is hoped that visitors would remain in Rwanda longer because there will be more to do than just follow mountain gorillas.
It is worth noting that, in contrast to Volcanoes National Park, Mukura-Gishwati has better weather. The Volcanoes National Park may be exceedingly chilly during certain months of the year due to its mountains and high altitude. Gishwati-Mukura has two seasons every year: wet and dry. The dry seasons are December to June and June to August. Rain falls from March to May and October to November. Tours are available all year, although the ideal time to come is during the dry season. During the majority of the year, the park’s daytime temperatures vary from 25 to 26 degrees Celsius.
The nights are frigid, with temperatures dipping to 13 to 15 degrees Celsius. If you want to monitor chimps or other monkeys, go during the dry season to avoid mud, overgrown jungle, and treacherous routes. The wet season offers its own set of benefits. For the creatures in the forest, this is a season of plenty. Unlike during the dry season, monkeys do not venture far into the forest in search of food. It is also worth noting that rains may be expected at any time of year due to the extensive forests.
Consider visiting the park’s local communities for a more thorough experience of Rwanda and Africa. The locals are exceedingly welcoming and ready to entertain while displaying their culture via dance, music, and theatre. There are several benefits to visiting Gishwati-Mukura National Park. One reason is because the park is new and undiscovered. You may have a more intimate session and receive individualized care. You will also get the option to participate in animal conservation and forest repair projects.
The park is easily accessible from local cities as well as two big national parks in Rwanda. Gishwati-Mukura offers some of the greatest birding opportunities in Rwanda. The downsides are that certain areas of the forests have been damaged and that the majority of the activities are available elsewhere. Apart from the Wilderness Safaris-built lodge, the park’s lodging choices are limited.
As previously stated, the park is located in the country’s northeastern region, between the Volcanoes and the Nyungwe Forest National Park. It is approximately a 27-kilometer journey from the Volcanoes National Park to the park. The park is also easily accessible by car or chartered airplane from Kigali. A chartered aircraft to the park just takes 45 minutes. The road trip from Kigali is roughly 84 kilometers and takes about 2 to 3 hours. The distance from Rubavu is around 54 kilometers.
Gishwati Mukura National Park is also accessible via Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks in Uganda. Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be combined with a visit to Rwanda and the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. For the finest experience in the park, we recommend that you employ the services of a professional tour operator rather than a public bus or car. Tour companies may assist you plan every detail of your vacation, leaving you with nothing to do but show there. Tour operators usually know their way around the area and have connections with park authorities, which may be quite useful during your trip.
Apart from Gishwati Lodge, which is owned by Wilderness Safaris, the Gishwati-Mukura National Park has few high-quality hotels and lodges. As a new park, it receives fewer tourists than Rwanda’s more established national parks. As additional lodges are created, it is projected that more people will visit the park, providing more cash to the government and the ongoing rehabilitation programs.
It is crucial to highlight that, despite the few high-end housing alternatives, a you will always be able to locate a place to stay while touring the area. Because the park is so close to Nyungwe and the Volcanoes National Park, visitors can stay in these parks and just visit Gishwati-Mukura for activities. Budget and daring visitors can stay at one of the park’s campgrounds.
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