Overview: Bird Walk in Nyungwe Forest
The forest habitatThe dense canopy of trees that dominate Nyungwe Forest is enlivened by many species of birds. Some – such as the Rwenzori turaco and a range of sunbirds – flaunt their colours among the treetops and are relatively easy to spot from the trails; others including the warblers, are more easily identified by their song. Included among the birds are several of the Albertine Rift endemics, though to spot the rarest species you’ll need time, patience and a degree of luck.
Planning & organising your walkYou can take a bird walk throughout the year, but the most popular times are during the drier months, between December and February, and from about June to mid-September. During the rainy seasons, April–May and in November, slippery terrain can make for more arduous walking. For more details, see Rwanda’s climate.
Guiding during a bird walkEach walking group, with a maximum of six participants, is accompanied by a specialist birding guide, with your own private driver-guide permitted to join you if you wish. Should you prefer to have your own private birding guide, let us know and we will make the arrangements.
Depending on the location of the walk, your birding guide may be accompanied by an armed park ranger.
What to take when walkingWe would advise that you wear light clothes in neutral colours, with long trousers and long-sleeved tops, and a waterproof jacket to hand. Although the paths are relatively even, they can still be slippery, so strong shoes are advisable. You might also find a walking stick or pole helpful.
A pair of binoculars is considered essential by most birders, and both the scenery and the birds may justify bringing a camera.
Do remember to carry plenty of water (your guide will take extra for you), and perhaps a snack, as no meals are included with this excursion.
For a small fee of around US$10 you’ll be able to hire a porter to accompany you on the walk. We would recommend this option, both for practical reasons and because you are in this way contributing to the local economy. The presence of a porter may also add to your understanding of Rwandan culture.
What to expect on your birding walkWalks take place either in the early morning or late afternoon. For a morning walk, you'll be woken early and offered a light breakfast before being driven to the the national park headquarters by your dedicated private guide. Here you’ll meet your birding guide and the rest of your group (a maximum of six participants), before heading down to the forest. On an afternoon walk, you’ll leave the park HQ at 3.00pm.
Typically you’ll spend around 2–4 hours walking, depending on the trail chosen and the birds you spot along the way. The forest has a network of trails popular with birders, from the level 4km Karamba Birding Trail to the 10.6km Isumo Waterfall Trail, which winds through a tea plantation before moving into the forest and on to the waterfall itself – where you may well spot the Rwenzori turaco. For the longer trails, such as the steep but rewarding Bigugu Trail, which rises to 2,950m and can take around six hours to complete, you would need to book a full day’s excursion.
How fit do I need to be?The walking on a birding excursion is gentle and slow paced, but it still helps if you have a reasonable general level of fitness, if only to enhance your overall enjoyment of the experience.
Photographing the birdsPhotographing forest birds can be challenging, with dense foliage and poor light – and no flash permitted. Equally, this isn’t an environment for a massive, tripod-mounted lens. It’s better to work with something that can be hand-held, or perhaps steadied with a monopod. We’ve found a zoom lens (80–300mm f2.8) works best, coupled with a high ISO setting.
Do also note that it’ll almost certainly be damp and, additionally, you might need to protect your camera against heavy rain.
Please note: Expert Africa arranges these excursions only as part of a full Expert Africa itinerary.
- Start location
- Any of Expert Africa's lodges in the vicinity of the Nyungwe Forest National Park
- End location
- Back at your safari lodge
- Meals included
- No meals included
- Two–four hours
- Maximum group size
- Six people
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