Karamba Trail

Karamba : The Western Birding Trail
This easy stroll reaches a 360-degree viewpoint with little physi-
cal effort and is the premier bird walk in the park. It is short, rela-
tively flat, and has excellent traction. If you’ve spent a few days
hiking on rainforest trails, you will notice the dearth of big trees.
Most of this trail is open to the sky due to substantial human
influence in the relatively recent past; first as a gold mine and
market; then as a quarry for road building material; and more
recently as an army camp. Although such disturbances are now
kept to a minimum, it is gratifying to see the degree to which even
severely degraded habitat can recover. The open habitats, low
young trees of secondary vegetation, and the forest margin are
all conducive to good birding.
The hike begins by an army camp and, except for the final brief
climb to a knoll with a view, follows an abandoned road, which
still appears on old maps. The first few hundred meters of trail
are in very early stages of forest regeneration. The pebbly trail,
made up of sparkly quartz, is a nice change from slippery trails
elsewhere at Nyungwe but it doesn’t drain well and becomes a
mini stream in the rainy season.
Half a kilometer into your trip, in the midst of the environmental
disturbance, you’ll be startled to find a large, deep, hole in the
ground, rather like a well-kept terrarium, with a perfect cutaway
view of all the layers of a typical, lovely rainforest. Its steep sides
must have offered it some protection. The forest layers include a
low, herbaceous ground cover, shrubs, tree ferns, saplings and
fully mature trees. Notice the variety of leaf shapes, greens and
Not far beyond, the trail passes an inactive quarry. Still somewhat
raw-looking, its thin, stony soil is slowly being improved by a num-
ber of brave, hardy plants, including a common, white-flowered
ground orchid in the genus Satyrium. If you find one, look closely
at one of the flowers for a pair of little white horns, typical of
the genus. These are spurs, which usually contain nectar for the
purpose of enticing and rewarding potential pollinators. The name
Satyrium may have been inspired by the two-horned satyrs of
Greek mythology.
Soon the trail passes through a small colony of beautiful, giant tree
ferns normally seen in moist, rainforest valleys. Your guide will tell you
about the traditional use of giant tree fern fronds – they may save
your life! Ahead, on the hillside, you can see some relatively pristine-
looking rainforest edges, in addition to second-growth forest, both
ideal for spotting birds.
At 1.9 km, there is a sign on the right, which says, “Point de
Vue”. Before proceeding, continue straight a few meters to the
rocky outcrop on the left. Try to look just behind it, where there
is a precipitous drop down into beautiful rainforest. The area
where you are standing appears to have been blasted out of
the mountainside. It is much rockier than most of the other trails
at similar altitude in the park. Returning to the viewpoint sign,
the trail climbs a few short switchbacks through a small patch
of forest to the summit. Alongside the trail are the pretty heart-
shaped leaves of the white-flowered
Cincinnobotrys oreophila
a true rainforest flower. Even these very small pockets of remain-
ing forest harbor the seeds and plants of the stock needed to
replenish the rainforest.
The small summit looks back down the trail, to a deep valley in the
middle ground and beyond, to many layers of overlapping ridges.
There is a viewing bench with a narrow table where you can sit for
a light snack or a full picnic. While resting on the summit, listen for
blue monkeys and turacos or watch for the red flash of a turaco’s
wings. Early risers, and especially birders, may want to arrange to
come here with flashlights before dawn one morning, to watch the
sunrise over the hills, and to listen to the morning chorus of birds and
other diurnal species come to life.