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Life Reflections

Nyandungu Eco-Park: the saviour sights, sounds and medicinal herbs of Mother Nature

By July 15, 2022June 6th, 2023No Comments

July 15, 2022

Last July 8, Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco-Tourism Park opened to a mammoth crowd, exploding my mythical belief of yesteryears that Rwandans didn’t give a hoot about nature parks. Naturally, the crowd wasn’t allowed to ‘invade’ the park en masse. For the environment’s sake, they thronged in and out in controlled groups.

The park is a feast for your eyes, nostrils, lungs, legs…generally, your health.

Why my mythical belief of those years? Having resided in neighbouring countries with city parks and gardens (hardly any today), I despaired on returning to my motherland to witness a city loath to host any nature reserves.

Many were the times I bemoaned Kigali’s lack of any garden or park, in this daily.

Imagine the excitement when green gardens started to make their steady appearances in many areas. Kimihurura, Kicukiro, Nyarutarama and then bang! Umusambi village was here, with some crested cranes and intentions to populate the park with more birds, my favourite being the shoebill. And when the City Hall garden and the new Imbuga Walk happened, with their free Wi-Fi, grumbling mouths were sealed.

But the eyesore of the 1990s…. Nyandungu Valley, surrounded by hillslopes, served as an individual’s grazing land for their cattle. Beyond that grazing area was a helter-skelter of homesteads. When somebody got a spot of wisdom and turned the area into a silkworm rearing field, it didn’t help matters.

Like all Kigali wetlands, Nyandungu Valley was miserably degraded and had been reduced to a dump-yard for muddy flood water and human waste from the villagers uphill. Talk of green and biodiversity was a sick joke and a journey along today’s RN3 road to Kabuga was one ugly stretch. My imagination may’ve been running away with me, but that was my take.

Then in the late 2000s word floated around that some beauty was going to replace Kigali’s sorry swamps. And a few years later, an idea had been concretised of making Nyandungu Valley a tourism park “that allows sustainable travel…to enjoy natural areas and wild animals….”

Today, that onetime dump-yard is a visitor’s gem beyond the wildest of its conceivers’ imaginations. And so, Kigalois, old fox that I am, I’ve stolen a match on you!

Uti how? Long before the park was opened, my greybeard friend and I smooth-talked the concerned agency officials into allowing us to regularly shuffle our way around the park and offer opinion, if any was needed. None was but, still, graciously they obliged. 

And truly, we’ve learnt loads. Especially, that we knew near-to-zero about medicinal herbs when we prided ourselves in knowing all, after our Tarzan cattle-herding childhood in exile! 

All the same, today, Greybeard and I are connoisseurs of some sort on this nature park.

It’s in that capacity that we invite visitors to sample every bit of its varied offers. Not only for picnics, as was mostly the case when it opened its gates. In your picnics, you’ll enjoy Nyandungu Restaurant and the recreational areas around and near artificial ponds Muhazi and Kivu, alright, but you’ll have missed out on many pleasures.

On the other hand, if you like cycling, jogging or walking for sport or leisure, take the wide paved Sector 3 walkway from the main gate and past the wide parking area, the top-class washrooms and towards the airy high-class restaurant, as you observe different Rwandan plant species whose names are spelt out for you, on guide boards.

Meanwhile, different bird species will be entertaining you with different songs.

This mostly takes you through some kind of savannah-land, much as the wide swampland to your right will accompany you all the way to the information centre, again equipped with everything classy. To your left, you’ll have passed a tortoise home and then a sanctuary of newly introduced crested cranes. Near the information centre, after a swamp of giant reed forest, there sits the medicinal garden whose many herb species would leave even Dr. Rutanga Rwamaboko befuddled!

From there, take the twin Umugano lanes that will take you round the bamboo forest and back to the information centre, still in Sector 3. From where you’ll take Umwungo lanes in Sector 4 that’ll take you through a forested area, past Pond Ruhondo and on to the road to the Economic Zone. Past the road, you’ll take Umugote lanes that lead you into a round trip of the Sector 5 forested area, where you’ll get a glimpse of Pond Ihema in a wide swamp.

After the round trip, take Umugeshi Lanes that’ll take you back round to the other side of the whole park and along Umuduburi lanes, then back to the wide walkway and the main gate.

Landscapes, plants, animals and birds galore, no? Well, personally, I’d wish for the majestic peacock, the giant ostrich, a massive goose-like bird that even Google cannot find on the quick, some small antelope species but how many animals can you pack in one urban wetland? Luckily, this is only the beginning of many nature parks to grace Kigali.

Nyandungu’s sectors 1 and 2, you may ask.  I am positive they’ll join the others later.

Anyway, will my mythical belief truly be exploded? Shall we see many nature park enthusiasts? 

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