The diversity of life found in Nyungwe is due to a combination of several ecological factors. First, as the Ice Ages caused the drying of lower-altitude African forests as recently as 10,000 years ago, the mountainous backbone bordering the western branch of the great African Rift served as a moist refuge to forest plants and animals. Nyungwe constitutes a significant portion of this lush, central core, which subsequently served as a source for re-colonization of the central African lowland forests existing today.
The Albertine Rift forms the epicentre of Africa's montane rainforest circle. It is dominated by a series of mountain chains, originating on the Lendu Plateau in northern Uganda and Congo, running south through the Rwenzori Mountains, western Rwanda and Burundi, to some isolated massifs on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Albertine Rift eco-region is one of Africa's most endemic rich regions.
Nyungwe lies on an elevation of between 1,600 meters and 2,950 meters. The highlands are relatively cool with abundant rainfall, ranging from 1,800mm - 2,500 mm per year (71-78 inches). The rainy season is from September to May while the dry season June to August, with several dry weeks in December and January. Temperatures range from 0 - 30 C (32 - 85 F), average daytime temperature: 15.5 C (60 F). The highland forest covers an area of 970 sq km and has a unique habitat (rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs). It's the only place where we have seen troops of more than 300 colobus monkeys travelling in the trees. The park has over 25 % of the primates of Africa with its 13 recorded primate species. It's simply a primate nirvana!
The primate fauna includes: Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Rwenzori colobus (Colobus angolensis), l'Hoest's monkey (C.l'hoesti), silver monkey (C.mitis doggetti), golden monkey (C.mitis kandti), owl-faced monkey (C.hamlyni), Red-tailed monkey (C.ascanius), Den't mona monkey (C.mona denti), Vervet monkey (C.aethiops), Olive baboon (Papio anubis), Grey-cheeked mangabey (Cercocebus albigena) and three species of bushbaby.
Other animals include: three species of duikers, two species of flying squirrels, tree hyrax and Congo clawless otter, 120 species of butterflies and reptiles including three species of horned chameleons. The forest has 300 species of birds with 27 Albertine Rift endemics and 121 forest species. The birds are spectacular, though as in most tropical forests, you'll have to look hard for them. Giant hornbills, great blue turacos and red-breasted sparrow hawks are amongst the specials. The flora is particularly rich with over 200 species of trees and more than 100 species of orchids! The park has an extensive network of walking trails that leads you through various waterfalls and viewing points.