The Nyungwe forest canopy walk stems out as the first tree-top forest canopy walk in East Africa. The activity is exhilarating and a must-do for guests visiting Rwanda; it can be done as an extension to a Gorilla safari or as a stand-alone safari. This canopy bridge hangs 60 meters above the forest floor, and walking 90 meters on the stretch can prove to be challenging if you are in the air. The shaky walkway serves to send your Adrenalin on a marathon, and for some people, if not all, the walk is intimidating. However, the memories you carry back home can be all you ever needed. Only when you walk through the first bridge do you realize that it’s an amazingly beautiful experience and easy to do. You will see several monkeys swing around in the tree-tops, plenty of birds flying above and below you, and an incomparably beautiful view of the huge Nyungwe forest. The mist clouding the bridge gives you a glimpse into heaven, that is, if at all you don’t think you are already there. The best part is seeing the huge forest from above. It kind of makes you feel like some huge nondescript monster is probably hiding somewhere beneath.
One of the things that set Rwanda apart is the landscape. The continuously rolling hills provide a view like no other place I have been to. It’s no wonder it was baptized the land of 1000 hills. As a discerning traveler looking for an immersive exploration of what planet earth has to offer, this land delivered way over my usual expectations. I’d combed Trip Advisor looking for reviews and recommendations on things to do, and I was pleased indeed to find that most folks thought visiting Rwanda was worthwhile, the Nyungwe canopy walk being among the top recommended activities a soul ought to embark on, thus impacting my decision to add tree-top walk to my bucket list and check it off.
Traveling in Rwanda can be a bit of a hustle if you don’t have a private car. Public transportation is available from Kigali to Nyungwe, however, the manner in which shuttle drivers drive when the traffic policemen aren’t looking is terrifying. For precaution’s sake I decided to repose all my trust in my good buddy Janvier to take care of the hustle and bustle of making this adventure possible.
With two other tourists onboard, Janvier regaled us with an itinerary that basically included the canopy walk and the chimpanzee trek in Nyungwe. The trip cost me not more than $300 inclusive of transportation, budget accommodation, breakfast, chimp trekking and the canopy bridge walk. Tour duration was slated for 3 days.
On the D-day, we had an early departure from Kigali to Nyungwe national park. The roads were tarmacked all through, making the journey a lot shorter than anticipated. Being a hilly region, it’s not hard to imagine our movements would be heavily comprised of “moving in circles”. Total journey time lasted us about 5 hours, with a brief stop for breakfast en-route. The journey took us through quaint rural villages and the twists around the hills found us exposed to more unfolding views; to say I was amazed is simply an understatement.
My lovely Uganda is beautiful and driving through it is refreshing as most places are so green and verdant, however I found Rwanda to be even more refreshing; the blend of the roads around the hills and the valleys left me speechless. The forest itself is beautiful and we did see a couple of L’Hoest monkeys playing by the roadside whilst driving through the park as we approached the eastern boundary of the forest.
Nyungwe forest has 3 reception areas which cover the 50KM road that traverses through the forest, each of these visitor-points offers different trails. The names are hard on the tongue, but they include Kitabi, Unwinka and Gisakura.
We got to Unwinka at about 2pm, about an hour before the next scheduled walk. Janvier went on to pay for our entrance tickets, a fee of about $10 for East Africans. I spent half the hour acclimatizing myself with the environment and acquainting myself with other travelers. Most importantly, I visited the place of convenience as such adventures have a way of playing tricks to my insides at the most uncalled-for hours. Janvier advised me to hire a raincoat since I forgot to pack my own when leaving Kampala, blame it on the excitement. It cost me $5. I thought that was expensive, I would get three raincoats at that very same price back home! At 3pm we gathered for a briefing with other walkers and were allocated to one guide.
With our guide at the forefront, we set off for the Igishigishigi trail, a 2.1 km, about 2-hour guided trail passing through large mahogany trees, tree-ferns and a waterfall. The walk down from the visitors’ offices was about 2500metres descending down into the valley 204meters on a mainly slippery ground but with a walking stick for protection, and good walking boots. I managed fine. The dense nature of the forest means that for the most part you see very little until you reach the occasional clearing where there are good views. Generally the walk was quite repetitive, fortunately we saw a few primates during the trek and several birds species.
Sooner we arrived at the bridge where a conflation of excitement and fear kicked in; the bridge was made of a metallic wire mesh, suspended on a net of very strong sisal; 3 bridges, with the first one boasting a length of 45 meters, then to the next one 90 meters, and the last 25 meters. I geared myself up, said a few prayers and, along with about 8 walkers, followed our guide on to the formidable bridge. We walked slowly and very carefully while the wind blew and shook the bridge upon which our very lives depended. It was scary the first time, I tell you, and I almost walked back, and then it hit me there was no guide to take me back to the beginning point. Our guide was immensely helpful; he cautioned me to keep my head up and look at the clouds since looking below the canopy would only stir my fears and cause my head to spin. After the first bridge I had gotten a hang of it, in fact, to the second bridge, I decided to play tour guide and lead the pack of tourists. I can say for certain by the time we were done with the third, I was gassed up to make a second round, but to my extreme sadness, it was already late for our next agenda.
Leaving the trekking point to head on to our accommodation was another adventure, the Nyunwe tea Plantation visits. I can best explain this in pictures.
Janivier made this trip super exciting, courtesy of A Step In To Nature Tours and Travel. And i’m happy to take you through it. All you gotta do is Holla! Until Next!!!!!