Umugote trail : South View
Distance: 1.3 km, alone, 0.6 km longer than remaining on the
upper Umugote TrailI isolated from the rest of the Uwinka trail
system on the south side of the Huye-Rusizi Road, the upper
and lower Umugote Trails descend the southeastern side of the
Uwinka ridge. The trail was renamed in 2008 after the beauti-
ful syzygium tree which appears along this trail in abundance.
Wandering in and out of two ravines, the lower Umugote Trail
drops an extra 70 m in elevation. Many sections of path have
dense vegetation on the uphill side and an exhilarating open
vista on the steep downhill side. Clearings in the deep ravines
give you a chance to look at different levels of the forest from
the canopy to the forest floor or to admire the steepness of a
mountainside that you just descended. The rainforest here is
pristine and hikers can enjoy many fine views framed by giant
old-growth trees. On a clear day you can count as many as a
dozen ridges, as far as the mountains of Kibira National Park in
Burundi which is contiguous with Nyungwe. In the foreground
you can look south across the valley to neighboring Busozo
Mountain. Just behind it, to the right, you’ll see Bukamba Moun-
tain and to the southwest on the same ridge, Rugazi Mountain. Im-
mediately beyond those peaks, there is a steep descent to a broad
valley, which contains the second largest marsh in the park.
The Umugote Trail has three junctions with the main road. Trailhead
1 is used as a starting point for the purpose of this description. Tak-
ing this route, you leave some of the altitude gain for your return trip
along the main road; this saves a little of your energy since the road
has an easy gradient. As soon as you take a few steps down the
path from the road, the first fine landscape comes into view. In the
foreground, there is a Hagenia abyssinica tree, easily recognized
by the old brown leaves which seem to remain on the tree longer
than you would think necessary. However, this is a secondary spe-
cies. Pretty quickly, you’ll enter pristine rainforest with the usual wide
variety of trees found throughout the Uwinka trail system. Some of
the special specimens of this trail include impressive strangler figs.
When in fruit, these trees attract primates, birds and other wildlife.
There is a good chance of seeing monkeys on the Umugote Trail,
especially blue or mountain. If you keep still, some primates will ac-
tually move closer to investigate their human visitors. You may no-
tice some of their narrow paths disappearing into the bush. Other
mammals sometimes seen along this stretch of trail include bushpigs
and duikers. Listen for cicadas, crickets, tree frogs, birds and other
primates. Watch the swirling flights of butterflies, brightly colored or
camouflaged to blend right into the forest itself.
Birders love this trail for the wide array of species that inhabit this
part of the forest and are easily visible from many of the intersects
with the main road. Some guides say there is a 95% chance of see-
ing a Great Blue Turaco. You may also see Red-collared Mountain
Babblers, a Mountain Buzzard, Handsome Francolins, Crowned Ea-
gles, and, if you’re patient and can wait about 30 minutes, your’re
nearly guaranteed to see a Purple-breasted Sunbird. Listen for
Blue-headed Sunbirds, Mountain Orioles and the ever-present
Chesnut-throated Apalis, which sounds a little like a telephone.
The many clearings on this trail, compared to those on the other
side of the ridge, provide more sunlit space for flowers to bloom.
Soon after starting on the trail there is a dense bank of begonias
by the trail, thriving effortlessly, without a gardener in attendance.
Look up into the trees for flowers too. Using binoculars, you’ll spot
orchids, ferns and other epiphytes. One of the more showy species
found on this trail is
– a cousin of the Canary Island
bellflower – with large orange bell-shaped flowers; you may spot
these on the ground or up in the trees – quite unusual behavior for
a flower of this type. Some of the more spectacular tree species
on this trail include waterberry, welcome trees,
, and East African
yellowwood. Your guide will tell you about their traditional uses
as food, medicine, and in crafts and magic. Speaking of big
things…if earthworms are any indicator of soil health, visitors will
be impressed by Nyungwe’s giants. These worms are half a me-
ter long and as thick as a man’s finger!
When the trail reaches the road, a right turn takes hikers 0.7 km
back to the starting point. Alternatively hikers can turn left on
the road, walk along it for 130 m and cross the road to a third
Umugote trailhead. This short spur of the Umugote Trail ascends
steeply to a junction with the Irebero Trail. If you’re feeling ambi-
tious, turn right onto the Irebero Trail to go higher up on the same
side of the mountain. From the Irebero Trail, you’ll get some of the
same views but from a higher elevation. Alternatively, for those
who like to see what is just around the next corner, walk ahead
a few minutes to the junction of the Imbaraga Trail to see what
lies on the opposite side of the Uwinka ridge.