Giswata Mukula National Park

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Rwanda’s Hidden Gem

Gishwati-Mukura National Park, established in 2015, stands as Rwanda’s fourth national park, a testament to the government’s dedication to position the country as a leading tourism destination in East and Central Africa. In tandem with the launch of the Congo Nile Trail, restoration of royal heritage sites, and the introduction of professional bird watching, this new addition further fuels the growth of Rwanda’s thriving tourism sector.

Spanning over 13.2 square miles in the western districts of Rutsiro and Ngororero, the park emerged from the merger of Mukura and Gishwati forests. Nestled between the Akagera and Volcanoes National Park, this union birthed a haven of biodiversity, harboring diverse creatures such as Red river hogs, bush bucks, serval cats, tree hyraxes, and black-fronted duikers. Noteworthy primate species like chimpanzees, baboons, golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys call this park home. With over 100 bird species, including the Old World Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, and White-headed Woodhooper, Gishwati-Mukura National Park has solidified itself as a premier birding destination in Rwanda.

Gishwati and Mukura Forest

Gishwati Forest, the larger of the two, historically connected a vast network of forests stretching from Nyungwe to Uganda and central Africa, until human activity severed these ties, leaving it isolated.

Activities that can be carried out in the park

Gishwati-Mukura National Park, established in 2015, stands as Rwanda’s fourth national park, a testament to the government’s dedication to position the country as a leading tourism destination in East and Central Africa. In tandem with the launch of the Congo Nile Trail, restoration of royal heritage sites, and the introduction of professional bird watching, this new addition further fuels the growth of Rwanda’s thriving tourism sector.

Spanning over 13.2 square miles in the western districts of Rutsiro and Ngororero, the park emerged from the merger of Mukura and Gishwati forests. Nestled between the Akagera and Volcanoes National Park, this union birthed a haven of biodiversity, harboring diverse creatures such as Red river hogs, bush bucks, serval cats, tree hyraxes, and black-fronted duikers. Noteworthy primate species like chimpanzees, baboons, golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys call this park home. With over 100 bird species, including the Old World Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, and White-headed Woodhooper, Gishwati-Mukura National Park has solidified itself as a premier birding destination in Rwanda.

Gishwati and Mukura Forest

Gishwati Forest, the larger of the two, historically connected a vast network of forests stretching from Nyungwe to Uganda and central Africa, until human activity severed these ties, leaving it isolated.

Tourist Attractions in Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Mukura forest, though smaller, holds its own charm. Encroachment has reduced its forest cover to 1,200 hectares from an original 2,000, but efforts are underway to restore its vitality. Though lacking chimpanzees, a forest corridor linking Mukura, Gishwati, and Nyungwe may soon grant them access. After the 1994 genocide, both forests faced near-destruction due to illegal logging, poaching, and farming activities.

Activities in Gishwati Mukura National Park

While the government intervened to halt the degradation, Coltan mining poses a new threat to Mukura’s integrity. Despite stringent measures, the allure of profit drives individuals and communities to seek this mineral, reinforcing the Rwanda police’s vigilance.

Management and Conservation Efforts

Although boasting a rich ecosystem, it sees fewer international visitors compared to Nyungwe or Akagera. The aftermath of the 1994 genocide saw refugees settling in the forests, leading to extensive deforestation. To reverse this trend, the government collaborated with local and international organizations. The Gishwati Area Conservation Program (GACP), initiated in 2007, worked closely with President Paul Kagame and the Great Ape Trust to address the crisis. In 2012, Forest of Hope Association succeeded the GACP, carrying forward the mission of restoration.

Partnership with Wilderness Safaris

In a bid to ensure effective management and visibility, the Rwandan government inked a 25-year agreement with Imizi Ecotourism Development Ltd, operating under the brand Wilderness Safaris. This partnership aims to develop tourism and conservation initiatives within the Gishwati-Mukura National Park, reinforcing Rwanda’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

Attractions in Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Boasting diverse attractions, Gishwati Mukura National Park is a must-visit. With Rwanda ranked as one of the safest countries globally, the high-end eco-tourism project adds another layer to its allure. Activities range from primate watching, birding, and guided nature walks to cultural encounters and hiking expeditions.

When to Visit Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Unlike the Volcanoes National Park, Gishwati-Mukura enjoys more temperate weather. The dry seasons from December to June and June to August offer optimal conditions for exploration. The rainy seasons, from March to May and October to November, provide a lush backdrop for wildlife. Regardless of the season, a visit to the local communities offers a deeper understanding of Rwanda’s culture.

How to Reach Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Located in the northwestern province, Gishwati Mukura National Park is easily accessible from Volcanoes and Nyungwe Forest National Parks. Chartered flights, though available, are often unnecessary given the proximity. Roads from Kigali and neighboring cities offer a scenic drive to the park.

Accommodation in Gishwati-Mukura National Park

While Gishwati Lodge, operated by Wilderness Safaris, stands as the premier option, other lodges and campsites cater to different budgets and preferences. With ongoing development, more accommodation choices are expected to emerge, bolstering the park’s tourism potential.

In summary, Gishwati Mukura National Park emerges as an exciting addition to Rwanda’s tourism landscape. With its pristine beauty, diverse wildlife, and commitment to conservation, it promises a unique experience.

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