Kamiranzovu Trail

Kamiranzovu : The Ancient Swamp
Kamiranzovu Marsh, Nyungwe National Park’s largest wetland,
is an impressive geological formation. With its nearly circular
rim of lush, forested mountains, it resembles a giant caldera and
drains through a dramatic gap between two peaks. On the
more elevated western side of the trail, hikers will reach several
good vantage points for taking in the whole marsh, including
its outlet. Through that gap, the tannin-rich, tea-colored marsh
water flows about 3 km, to Kamiranzovu Waterfall, then onward
to Lake Kivu, Lake Tanganyika, the Congo River and finally to the
Atlantic Ocean. The name is said to be derived from, kamira (to
swallow) and nzovu (elephant), and refers to the elephants that
used to roam Nyungwe occasionally becoming trapped in the
ooze of the marsh. The last elephant died in 1999 and its skull is
displayed in the Uwinka Interpretation Center.
There are two Kamiranzovu trailheads off the main road, 0.7 km
apart. Starting at trailhead 2, to the east, reduces the altitude
gain by about 37 m, unless you plan to do a complete loop.
This route also has a long, lovely descent to the marsh, with fine
views. Setting off from trailhead 1 means you reach the marsh
very quickly. If you want a shorter version of the trip, start at
trailhead 1 and explore only the section of trail bordering the
marsh or to view marsh birdlife or plant life, then return to the road.
From trailhead 1 to the far end of the Orchid loop and back would
be about 4 km round trip. Hikers who do the full Kamiranzovu Trail,
but bypass the Orchid Loop, will save about 0.5 km. For the end of
the hike, visitors can arrange a pick-up at either trailhead or walk
back along the road to a parked vehicle at either end of the loop.
Two of the endemic Albertine Rift bird species found by the marsh
are Grauer’s Rush Warbler and the Albertine Owlet. For the latter,
you can arrange a special trip to the marsh at night, with one of the
guides who has a recording of its call. Although not always seen,
the owlet can usually be heard.
Only a small section of trail actually reaches the very marsh itself,
and two stretches of boardwalk let the hiker enter with dry feet
– getting out with dry feet is the challenge! The wooden-planked
walkways are slimy, so walk with care. Wetlands in general are es-
pecially rich in organic life and visitors will find here a contrast to the
thickets and rainforest higher up on the trail. One of the boardwalks
spans a corner of the marsh where visitors can view a great variety
of wetland vegetation at close range. There are flowering herbs,
shrubs, small trees, orchids, grasses, ferns, mosses and giant lyco-
pods. Soon after stepping on the boardwalk, and in season, one
can see the large-flowered, pink, meter-plus-tall, foxglove orchid,
one of the most widespread orchids in Africa. Among many other
showy orchids one can find
Disa eminii
Calanthe sylvatica
, the
latter you may recognize from gardens back home in Europe or
The Orchid Loop has a short section of boardwalk into the marsh. If
you’re taking this trail especially for the flora, don’t miss looking into
the thickets, which begin at the wet edges of the marsh. In the warm,
humid air, the lianas, shrubs and small trees there are thickly laden with
mosses, ferns, lichens and other epiphytes or “air plants”. One of the
botanical specialties of this trail is an endemic, glossy, lemon yellow-
flowered begonia. While looking for it you may also see large, waxy,
white flowers of wild magnolia, which have fallen on the trail.
At the far northern point of the hike, the Uwinka trail comes in on the
left. This connects the Kamiranzovu Trail to the Uwinka Visitors Center
compound, many uphill kilometers away.
The trail climbs through humid thickets and eventually enters clas-
sic rainforest again. Along the way there are several views of the
marsh. As you stop to rest you can hear the diversity of frog, insect
and bird calls coming from the marsh and in the trees. If you think the
views of the marsh are lovely, consider doing the Uwinka Trail for

your next hike. It is a gorgeous trail, usually done one way, begin-
ning near the height of Uwinka ridge and ending at Kamiranzovu
Trail. The views of the marsh from the higher elevations offered by
the Uwinka Trail are some of the most satisfying in the park.