Last February, I wrote about our stay at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge. Recently, however, I realized that I have never given you a look inside the forest.
The Nyungwe National Park, in the southwest of Rwanda, is 393 square miles of mountain forests, swamps, and moorland.
It has over 80 miles of constructed trails, but during our two-night stay at the lodge, we mainly wanted to relax — so we decided to walk the 1.3 mile Igishigishigi Trail, which includes a canopy walkway suspended 197′ above the ground.
The trail begins at the Uwinka Visitor Center, which was renovated three years ago with U.S. assistance.
The center’s interpretative display features panels on the mountain rainforest and Nyungwe’s biodiversity, its people, and its role in the Congo-Nile watershed. The text is in Kinyarwanda, English, and French.
Below are the steps leading to the Igishigishigi Trail. The shadow with the camera was me, the one on the left was our visiting daughter, who was wondering what she had gotten herself into.
The view near the beginning of the trail is wonderful. Uwinka is at one of the highest points in the park.
In the left lower corner above, you can just see one of the towers that support the canopy walk.
Below is the trail,
which includes several sections of steps. The trail begins at 8,038′ and descends to 7,530′.
It sometimes passes along more open woodland, below.
We came across benches from time to time, although this double arrangement, below, didn’t look very comfortable.
Several species of trees are labeled like this one.
The Parinari excelsa (or Umunazi in Kinyarwanda) grows to heights of 82′ to 131′ with a thick, cauliflower-shaped crown,
way up there.
An assortment of ferns, mosses, lichens, and orchids live on the magnificent trees
and on the forest floor.
One of the more common, and easily recognizable, plants along the trail is the giant lobelia, below.
There are two species of giant lobelias in the park. I think these are Lobelia gibberoa (or Intomvu in Kinyarwanda).
After the explorer Johannes Mildbraed first saw this plant in Nyungwe in 1907, he wrote:
[It] would have awakened the interest of the veriest dullard at botany. . . . When I first espied these strange shapes. . . my heart beat fast at the realization of a long-hoped-for sight, a feeling that is comparable only to that of a hunter at the first sight of some rare game.
The one above was only a few feet tall, but more mature specimens towered over our heads.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the canopy walk.
In the photo below, our guide was explaining to us how the suspended bridges can support two cars, or twenty cars, or five elephants, or something like that.
Oh, why not. . .
Below: looking down from the platform of the first tower. . .
Below, we started out onto the middle and highest section. . .
and began to look down.
It is unsurprisingly difficult to take pictures while standing on a 12″ wide swaying walkway.
Below, you can see the tops of tree ferns, for which the trail is named (in Kinyarwanda), and we could hear water from a hidden stream.
A park guidebook says, “The walkway is strong and secure but will provide the visitor with a definite burst of adrenaline.”
In the photo above, taken from the walkway, you can see what I think are the young reddish-rose leaflets of Carapa grandiflora. There is a wonderful full-color field guide on the plants of the park (here*), but, of course, mine was sitting back home on my desk during our trip. However, I’m sure this was the best thing for my relationships with my husband and daughter, not to mention the guide.
Although the forest is home to many species of birds and monkeys, we did not see any along this trail — possibly because the popular walk is a bit noisy with humans talking. But we saw both blue and L’Hoest’s monkeys along the road on the drive back to the lodge and from the balconies of our rooms. And there is another park trail that features groups of chimpanzees.
And the next day, when we were almost out of the park, we spotted this guy, below, and a friend walking along the side of the road (photo by M. Koran).
To scroll through larger version of the images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and on any thumbnail in the gallery.
*Sometimes you can find it here in Rwanda at bookstores or museum shops. However, they were not selling it at the park or lodge when we were there.