Igishigishigi Trail – Rwanda Safari Trails

Igishigishigi and The Canopy Walkway
Would you like to view the forest from the top of the trees
instead of from the forest’s floor? Looking for an exhilarating
walk across a series of bridges reaching nearly 60 meters
above the ground? The Igishigishigi Trail is the trail for you.
The Igishigishigi Trail, named for the majestic giant tree ferns
along the trail, was selected in 2008 as the site of a canopy
walkway. This canopy walkway site was selected because it
could be reached via a short, relatively easy trail in close prox-
imity to the Uwinka Overlook. The canopy walkway is situated
about halfway down the Igishigishigi Trail. Hikers leave the
trail and cross three bridges and connect to the trail across a
ravine. The canopy walkway can be planned as a short 2.1
km roundtrip hike or combined with the longer Imbaraga or
Umuyove Trails.
The trail begins at the north end of the Uwinka Overlook. This
is the starting point for all of the Uwinka trails with the excep-
tion of the Umugote Trail that starts on the south side of the
Huye-Rusizi Road. Take a few minutes to enjoy the view to the Uwin-
ka Ridge from the trailhead and listen to the Park guides introduce
the Park and the hike. After dropping down a flight of stairs, the trail
follows a series of switchbacks until it connects to a relatively flat
section of the Buhoro Trail. Turn right and continue to the junction
with the Igishigishigi Trail which forks left from the main trail.
Along this part of the trail, the birding is good, there are wildflow-
ers year round, and hikers have a good chance of hearing and
spotting numerous species of monkeys and other primates. There are no gorilla safaris here. At the first bench in a grove
of scented begonias, there is a great cutaway view of the forest,
where you’ll see all the layers from the ground to the “air plant”
world of the upper canopy. In the latter, a rich assortment of ferns,
mosses, lichens, orchids and other flowering species thrive. It is well
worth examining through binoculars.
Nearby, there is a magnificent strangler fig which nearly encases
an endemic
Beilschmiedia rwandensis
tree. Along this stretch of trail
you can also see handsome examples of the umbrella tree which
is sometimes cultivated in public gardens for its aesthetic branching
and large leaves. Scattered along the trail, hikers may see the fall-
en red flowers of the welcome tree, which has a mottled trunk and
odd, 45-degree-angled branching, as if conducting a symphony.
And speaking of sounds, hikers may hear the telephone-like call of
the chestnut-throated apalis.
About 100 m beyond the first bench there is a fabulous view of
Uwinka ridge. Shortly after this viewpoint, you will reach the start-
ing point for the canopy walkway. Leave the trail to the left and
climb the tower close to the trail with views of the ravine below the
canopy walkway. Park guides will talk about the construction of the
canopy walkway and safety in walking across. After this orientation,
you will descend from the tower and walk across the first of three
bridges, ending at the top of the forest canopy at the second tower.
Here, the park guides will describe the birds and monkeys that fre-
quent the higher branches of the forest. This is a good viewing point
and affords the hiker a chance to get ready for the walk across the
90-meter bridge that spans the ravine.
You will likely be hiking with other visitors and the park guides will recom-
mend that you walk at a steady pace across the bridge to the third tower,
then grab your camera and walk back out on to the bridge for photo-
graphs. From the bridge, there will be spectacular view of the Uwinka
ridge and deep valley as well as the forest canopy at eye level. Look
down to the floor 57 meters below if you dare. Returning to the tower,
Imbaraga trail
Umu
yove
trail
Imbaraga and
Buhor
o trai
l
Butare

Cyangugu Road
Igishigishigi trail
100m
0.
00
.5
1.
01
.5
2.
02
.1
2200
2400
2600
Elevation (m)
the final bridge will take you down to the trail to continue your walk.
Back on solid ground, you will have three options for continuing
your hike. For those returning to Uwinka Overlook, reverse direc-
tion and head downhill toward the head of the ravine. After a
short distance, you will come to a solid bridge that crosses the
stream in the ravine. This is a great time for refreshments and pho-
tos of the canopy walkway high above you and looking down at
the geometric patterns of the tree ferns growing along the banks
of the stream. It is easy to confuse these with palm trees but they
are true ferns, belonging to an ancient group of plants that are
ancestral to conifers and flowering plants. After your rest, the
trail will continue past the start of the canopy walkway to Uwinka
Overlook.
You can also return to Uwinka Overlook via the spur trail to the
right, but you will miss the tree ferns and spectacular views from
the bridge. For those hikers who plan to continue on the Imbara-
ga or Umuyove trails, you take the trail to the left. Of course, you
won’t want to miss the short detour to the bridge and tree ferns.
This will only take a few minutes and add a few hundred meters
to your walk.