Just 20 years ago, Gishwati-Mukura National Park was on the fast track to extinction alongside its wildlife and primate residents. Much of the forest had been stripped of its trees as local communities flocked to the region after the 1994 Genocide in hopes of resettling the land with farms and homes. Subsequent soil erosion, landslides, and floods would later take their toll on the forest and cause conservationists to sound the emergency ecological alarm. It is their vocal advocacy that has paved the road for the Gishwati-Mukura National Park wonderland of today.

Still relatively unknown on the international tourist circuit, the Gishwati-Mukura ecosystems have recently been granted joint national park status, thus ensuring the future of this remarkable habitat and the inevitable growth of Rwanda’s prestige on the eco-tourism map. Restored and thriving, Gishwati-Mukura National Park now boasts a buffer zone of trees and a long-term plan for a wildlife corridor connecting it all the way to Nyungwe Forest. There is also the possibility of a Canopy Walk and nature hiking trail system mirroring that of Nyungwe. If all goes as projected, these efforts are set to more than triple the Gishwati-Mukura National Park’s hallmark East African Chimpanzee population—undoubtedly the most popular draw in these parts.

Outside of the habituated chimpanzees, Gishwati-Mukura National Park is a world of biodiversity boasting everything from Golden Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, and L’Hoest’s Monkeys to red river hogs, black-fronted duiker and serval. Conservationists have also reported sightings of the Black and White Colobus, as well some 58 species of trees, including hardwoods and bamboo. Between its five primate species and 84 confirmed bird species, Gishwati-Mukura National Park promises a surprising and formidable wildlife experience in the heart of Rwanda. Chimpanzee tracking and guided scenic nature walks through its rich canopies open up a domain of primary, degraded, and regenerating forests and a fascinating story behind the impressive conservation efforts still at stake.