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There is so much to do at One&Only Nyungwe House, both on and off the property, one of the most popular activities in the area – chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park!

Chimp Trekking in Nyungwe National Park

On my recent educational trip to Rwanda, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of nights at the beautiful One&Only Nyungwe House which is nestled on a working tea plantation right on the border with Nyungwe Forest – one of the oldest rainforests in Africa.

There is so much to do at One&Only Nyungwe House, both on and off the property, and during my stay I was able to go on of the most popular activities in the area – chimpanzee trekking! Having done the gorilla trekking a few days before, I was very curious to see how these two different experiences compared.

Fun fact:

Nyungwe Forest is the tropical rainforest that remained green during the ice age.

Gear for Chimp Trekking

As was the case with Bisate lodge at Volcanoes National Park, I was able to borrow hiking boots, gators, a backpack, poncho, water bottle and walking stick. Please let your travel manager know what you need ahead of your trip so that they can arrange with the lodge. The friendly guest experience team will also check with you when you are there and make sure that you have everything you need. Shoes with a good tread are recommended over standard trainers as the rainforest floor is slippery so a good grip helps a lot.

Holly’s tip:

Dress in layers and wear long socks as there are fire ants along the trail and tucking your trousers/leggings into your long socks prevents them from crawling up your pants!

Chimp Trek Day

The evening before your chimp trek, the guest experience manager at the lodge will give you a quick briefing of what to expect the next morning. It’s an early start so please request a wake-up call if you’re worried about over sleeping.

Here’s how my day went:

4:15 am
Time to get up! I wore a thick pair of leggings with a pocket on the leg for my phone, long socks and borrowed hiking boots on the bottom half. On the top half I wore a sleeveless gym top/t-shirt, a lightweight jersey, a rain jacket and a cap. It was surprisingly warm & humid later in the morning and for the most part of the trek, I was down to my t-shirt/vest.

4:30 am
Coffee & snacks served up in the Tea Lodge. I struggle to eat so early in the morning but I managed a banana and a croissant. Do try to eat something as it can be a long day of hiking ahead. They also have a variety of snacks on offer and you can pack your own takeaway bag to bring with you: sandwiches, nuts, dried fruit, crunchies etc. They can do coffees in a takeaway cup to take with you for the drive and the staff will help you put your gators on before you leave.

5:00 am
Your driver guide will collect you from the lodge and take you to the starting point – the drive is about an hour from the lodge through local villages and tea plantations.

6:00 am
Arrive at the starting point and wait for everyone who is joining the trek, sign an indemnity form and use the restroom (this particular restroom could have been a bit nicer so remember to bring along some tissues and a mini hand sanitizer).
Your guides will introduce themselves and you will introduce yourself to the rest of the group – there were six of us plus the guides. Here they will give you walking sticks for the hike.


As with the gorilla trekking, definitely get a porter to help you. The ground is slippery (think damp rainforest) and as the chimps are mobile, you are walking quickly through dense forest which can be very steep both up & down and the helping hand was much appreciated! For just $10, it’s worth it.

6:40 am
We were off! The guides are in constant communication with the trackers as to where the chimps are located. This was not a leisurely stroll through the rainforest but a brisk march as to keep up with the ever moving chimps. It wasn’t long before everyone was sweating! We made a couple of brief stops to have a sip of water and to regroup before continuing the pursuit. The rainforest is breathtakingly beautiful and is just bursting with life. You can hear constant birdsong and there a few different types on monkeys that also live in the forest that are jumping in the trees above you.

You can hear the chimps long before you spot them, and their screams are incredibly loud and shrill in the peaceful surroundings. We hiked for about two hours before we first spotted them as they were on the move through the forest and are very mobile. Our initial visuals weren’t great as the chimps were high in the canopies of the trees – about 40-50m above us.

Holly’s tip:

Definitely bring your own pair of binoculars!

At this point, we were deep in the rainforest and off the path. You have to move quickly to keep up with the chimps and so there is a fair amount of scrambling involved. We stopped for a while to try and get some pictures but we were just too far away (my pictures were terrible, I was using my phone on the maximum zoom and I managed to capture some black blobs!). Our group started to get a little bit restless so we asked if we could get going. It was about 10am at this point (3 hours in) and sensing our frustrating, the guide was determined to get us a better sighting so off we went on the chase again. About half an hour later, we managed to intersect their path and got a lot closer and I was able to get a decent video of them. The gorillas are typically just relaxing when you see them but the chimps seemed constantly on the go and spent very little time on the forest floor. We saw one chimp right in front of us on the path but by the time you get your phone out, he’s long gone!

10:30 am
At this point and after a well-deserved break, we started to make our way back to the vehicles. This was my favourite part of the day, as we could finally slow down and enjoy our surroundings. Forests make me incredibly happy and there is just so much life wherever you look – I was in my element walking at a slower pace and taking pictures of the many different types of fungi and moss that were growing all around me. There were waterfalls and tiny forest flowers, it was exceptionally beautiful and food for the soul.

It was a long hike back up and at some point along the way we had a fire ant invasion where nobody was spared! They were everywhere – in boots, in trousers and jackets and even in sports bras! We must have been quite the spectacle slapping ourselves, dancing ridiculously and randomly shouting out swear words. It was very funny and even though the bites sting, we were all laughing at the silliness of the situation.

12:00 pm
We finally reached our vehicles around 12pm making it just over 5 hours that we were in the rainforest. It was a tough hike so moderate fitness is recommended and the chimp sightings are unpredictable as they are a lot more mobile than the gorillas and spend a lot of time high in the trees. Nonetheless, I had an absolutely brilliant time and when you aren’t focused on looking up and can look down at all the life brimming around you, you’d be amazed at what you can find.

Holly’s tip:

Don’t plan anything in the afternoon after your trek other than a well-deserved massage!

In this article
  • Chimp Trekking in Rwanda
  • Gear
  • Chimp Trek Day

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