Rwanda’s Important Bird Areas- Volcanoes National park
Rwanda is internationally known for the 1994 genocide and the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. And statistics show that, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda attracts majority of the tourists in Rwanda mainly for mountain gorilla tracking, golden monkeys, hike to Dian Fossey Tombs near Karisoke research center, mountain Bishoke and Karisimbi hiking, Musanze caves tour and local community walk among others. On addition to gorilla trekking, Rwanda visitors come for genocide memorial museums located around different areas in Rwanda and these include Gisozi genocide memorial museum in Kigali, Bisesero genocide museum, Nyamata Church, Ntarama Church and Murambi technical school that were all gazetted into genocide museums after massive killings that took place in those places.
However, the world should not only know Rwanda for mountain gorillas but also for bird watching adventure, and below are some of the sites where one can go for birding.
The Rugezi Marsh also known as Ruhengeri Marsh is situated in the Northern Province within the Buberuka Highlands and it covers 6,735 hectares. The wetland is an Important Bird Area in Rwanda that was recognized by the Bird Life International in 2001 with a significant socio-economical, hydrological, ecological, recreational and historical role in Rwanda. The globally threatened species in the marsh and its surrounding Afro- tropical Highlands biome include Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. Some of the species of Least Concern on International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are the following; Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Slender-billed Starling, Baglafecht Weaver, White-collared Oliveback, Yellow-browed Citril, Papyrus Canary and Thick-billed Seedeater.
The Nyabarongo Wetland is located in Gitarama Rwanda (south-east) and comprises of swamps in part of the flood plain of the Nyabarongo River-the longest river in Rwanda. The Marsh is regarded as the protected area of great importance for biodiversity conservation covering 142.62 square kilometers with species such Madagascar Pond heron, Papyrus Gonolek, Grey Crowned Crane and the Sitatunga. Other key birds include Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Sharpe’s Pied-babbler, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary.
Akanyaru wetlands are located in Butare region Rwanda close to Rwihinda Lake Nature Reserve in Burundi with variety of marshy habitats and papyrus swamp. Birds of importance as listed by International Union for Conservation of Nature include; Papyrus Gonolek, Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Sharpe’s Pied-babbler, Red-chested Sunbird, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary. Migrant birds seen here include; Malagasy Pond Heron, Pallid Harrier and Great Snipe.
Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe forest is situated in south-west Rwanda with wide habitat diversity and altitudinal range. Nyungwe is the probably most important forest for the conservation of montane birds in the region; it is certainly the most important bird area in Rwanda and birds sited here include; Western Green Tinkerbird, Handsome Francolin, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, White-spotted Flufftail, Afep Pigeon, Dusky Turtle-dove, Ruwenzori Turaco, Congo Bay-owl, Red-chested Owlet, Scarce Swift, Bar-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Forest Scimitarbill, Dwarf Honey guide, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Black-tailed Oriole, White-bellied Crested-flycatcher, Dusky Tit, Chubb’s Cisticola Collared Apalis, Shelley’s Greenbul, Grauer’s Swamp-warbler, Red-faced Woodland, Red-collared Mountain, Slender-billed Starling, Red-throated Alethe, Equatorial Akalat, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Rockefeller’s Sunbird and Shelley’s Crimson.
On addition to bird watching, Nyungwe National Park is a home to 13 primate species that include Chimpanzees, Black and white colobus Monkeys, golden monkeys, Blue Monkeys, Grey Checked Mangabeys, Vervet monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, Baboons and L’hoest’s monkeys among others. Currently, the park has only Chimpanzees and colobus monkeys habituated for tourism purposes. However, during a birding, expect an encounter with some of the primates mentioned above.
Apart from birding and primate tracking, Nyungwe National park has become famous for Canopy walk adventure, forest walk through different trails, tea harvesting and community excursions among others.
Accommodation around Nyungwe National Park
While on a birding safari in Rwanda, below are some of the accommodation lodges around Nyungwe forest; The major one is Nyungwe Forest Lodge, a 5 star (Luxury) lodge on the edge of the forest with fantastic views of tea plantations and the forest. It offers accommodation at international level, and some bird species can be sited around the lodge. We also have deluxe Nyungwe Hill top view lodge, also with a very beautiful view of Nyungwe Forest, and basic Gisakura Guest House.
Akagera National Park
Akagera National Park covers an area of 100,000 hectares and is located in the north-east of Rwanda with the topography characterized by rolling sandstone hills, valleys, flood-plains and swamps. Key bird species include; Red-faced Barbet, Ring-necked Francolin, Madagascar Pond-heron, Shoebill, Pallid Harrier, Papyrus Gonolek, Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-winged Scrub-warbler, Sharpe’s Pied-babbler, Red-chested Sunbird, Northern Brown-throated Weaver and White-collared Oliveback.
Akagera National Park is also famous for game viewing that exposes tourist to animals such as Giraffes, Zebras, Oribis, Elephants, Buffaloes and Hippopotamuses among others. Also we have a boat ride along Lake Ihema that rewards you with water bird species and marine animals such as Hippos and Crocodiles.
Lodging around Akagera National Park Birding Site in Rwanda
Once you take a birding trip to Akegera National Park, you can stay at Ruzizi Tented camp or Akagera Game Lodge. These are currently the major accommodation options available. Alternatively, you can stay for overnight in Kigali and start early because it is only 3 hours drive from Kigali to the park.
Birding tour operators in Rwanda
A birding trip is successful if you choose a credible and experienced tour operator. Below is the list of some of the credible tour operators who can organize a memorable and wonderful birding trip in Rwanda;
Lets Go Tours Rwanda
Gorilla Trek Rwanda
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
Africa Adventures Safaris
Abacus African Vacations
Active African Vacations
African Jungle Adventures
Rwanda Eco Tours
Sunrise Eco Tours
International Tours and Travel (ITT)