Bigugu : The highest summit in the park
Hikers who like to take on the highest peaks or biggest
challenges will put this mountain on the top of their list.
Birders come here to see the Red-collared Mountain-bab-
bler among others. While Bigugu Trail is rated as difficult,
the return trip is downhill.
Bigugu is a great mountain for enjoying the incredible ar-
ray of flora offered in Nyungwe. Ascend the summit in the
dry season and you may be rewarded with three fiery
blossoms to light your way to the top — the large, coni-
cal, orange flowers of the orchid,
flowers of Red-hot Poker and the scarlet flowers of the
endemic Nyungwe Jewelweed. The latter two might look
familiar as they’ve found their way into gardens across Eu-
ropean and North America. Also special to Bigugu is the
, which occurs only between
elevations of 2,400 and 3,000 meters. When
, an invasive indigenous weed, blooms every 14 to
15 years, the mountain appears white from so many flowers.
Your guide will tell you about the significance of this plant in
traditional lore and honey production.
The trail begins by climbing steps, and gains 150 m of eleva-
tion in the first half-km of steep mountainside. At this point, a
mossy, old roadbed appears which contours around shallow
prominences on the long shoulder of the mountain. This section
of trail, being relatively flat and very pretty, provides some of
the most pleasant three km of hiking in the park and is a wel-
come relief after the steep start. Eventually the trail leaves the
old road for a moderate gradient to the broad, heath-covered
dome of the summit. This is partly occupied by a radio relay
station, staffed by RDB which has an important role in keeping
trackers, guides and rangers in touch so that the chimps are
tracked and poachers are kept out of the forest.
From the summit, you are rewarded for the climb with a fantas-
tic overview of the whole park. If the weather behaves, you
can see the shimmer of Lake Kivu beckoning in the distance,
the hills and islands of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and
the extension of Nyungwe’s forest in Kabira National Park in
Burundi. If you’re lucky, you may even see the proud summits
of Volcanoes National Park, home to the majestic mountain
Not too far from the summit there is a bench for a well-
deserved picnic, overlooking Banda village, a peninsula of
densely populated and cultivated land, surrounded by buffer
zone and park on three sides. Your guide may even be able
to point out his own fields and home. The ridge beyond Banda
is Kigogo Mountain and Gisakura is hidden just on the other
side. You may just want to call Bigugu home for the evening. If
so, you’ll find a campsite just below the summit.
The lower slopes of Bigugu are a home range for chimpanzees.
When they’re busy feeding on their favorite food trees at the
higher elevations, it becomes easier to observe them since the
trees diminish in size with altitude. Not far below the summit,
the trail leaves the rainforest for shrub zone on rocky soil. This
vegetation community is also typical of other summits in the
park, including Mts Muzimu, Ngabwe and Ruhindu.