Irebero Trail

This moderate length trail loops around one of the two highest
summits on the Uwinka ridge. It has the highest altitude view-
points of any trail in the Uwinka trail network and overlooks
the park and beyond from both sides of the ridge. To the south,
you’ll gaze all the way across the Rwandan border to the first
ridge of Burundi, about 15 km away, as the crow flies. On the
northwestern side, you’ll see Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu, 30 km
distant. In fact, the name Irebero means ‘place to observe from’
and that definitely describes the path’s many viewpoints that
invite you to pass the time taking in the beauty of Rwanda.
Like all trails in the area, there are large rainforest trees, wild-
flowers and good birding. Handsome francolins are commonly
sighted here. Visitors fresh from low altitudes might choose this
trail as their introductory hike.
There are several options for starting the hike. (Refer to the map
of the Imbaraga Trail to see how the whole Uwinka network of
trails interconnect) Hikers may park at Uwinka overlook, meet
the guide, and walk to the Irebero Trail either by road or by
taking the Imbaraga Trail spur down to the main Imbaraga Trail.
Walking by road from Reception to Irebero Trailhead # 1 makes
the round trip hike 4.6 km. Taking the Imbaraga Trail spur makes the
total round trip 5.4 km long.
We’ll take you on a loop beginning and ending at Irebero Trailhead
# 1. The trail sets off from the road and quickly reaches the Im-
baraga Trail, with which it will coincide for about 2 km. This segment
of the hike is on the north side of Uwinka ridge, which overlooks the
beautiful Bururi Valley and beyond to the DRC. The trail contours
through pleasant forest and the air is full of bird song, with tree frogs
chiming in. Listen for turacos and even to the sounds of small insect
life. In David Livingstone’s account of his travels in Africa he says,
“In the quietest parts of the forest there is heard a faint but distinct
hum, which tells of insect joy. One may see many whisking about
in the clear sunshine in patches among the green glancing leaves;
but there are invisible myriads working with never-tiring mandibles
on leaves, and stalks, and beneath the soil. They are all brimful of
enjoyment. Indeed, the universality of organic life may be called a
mantle of happy existence encircling the world…” (Livingstone, David.
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa). Some of this
“mantle of happy existence” may seep into receptive visitors to the
lush rainforests of Nyungwe.
When the Irebero Trail turns left from the Imbaraga Trail, it starts to
cross over to the southern side of Uwinka ridge. In minutes, at the
next junction, you’ll hit Umugote Trail junction on the right. Those
who stay faithful to the Irebero Trail will soon be rewarded with a
gorgeous view across the hills of the southwestern side of the park
and beyond to Burundi.
Much of the higher sections of the trail are characterized by dense
thicket in the undergrowth. One of the special shrubs of the Irebero
Trail is the relatively rare and strongly aromatic Mimulopsis arbo-
rescens. The flowers are white or cream colored with violet-brown
nectar guides and can be seen in mass bloom only once every eight
years or so. You’ll also find it around Kamiranzovu Marsh. Also on
this trail, in season, you may see the strange, red, tubular flowers
of mistletoes, fallen from parasitic shrubs in the tall trees. Catch a
glimpse of it up in the high branches and lean over to surprise your
hiking partner with a quick kiss!
Although you’re almost done, there is a clearing with another daz-
zling view of Lake Kivu. Stop here to soak in the sights and mentally
plan for a canoe trip across the lake later on in the week. At the
road, turn right and bird-watch along your ½ kilometer walk back to
the reception at Uwinka if no vehicle is there to pick you up.