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The Bisoke Hike

Hiking Mount Bisoke in Rwanda is one of the top bucket list activities to do on a Rwanda Safari.

Mount Bisoke is one of the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, a chain of 8 volcanoes shared by Uganda, Rwanda and DR.Congo in the Virunga Conservation Area. Mount Bisoke stands at a height of 12,175 ft (3,711 meters), the volcanoes stands as one of the most accessible volcanoes in the region, offering an exhilarating hike experience.

One of the distinguishing features of Mount Bisoke is its picturesque crater lake known as Ngezi, this stunning natural wonder lies within the Volcano’s caldera and adds to the
mountain’s allure.

Mount Bisoke has two crater lakes – one at the very top and the other (Lake Ngezi) found midway.

Hike to the summit of Mount Bisoke presents mesmerizing panoramic views of the surrounding lush rainforests, rolling hills and neighboring volcanic peaks. Apart from its scenic beauty, Mount Bisoke hold a great significance for conservation efforts and research.

The volcano is home to a variety of endangered species including the critically endangered mountain gorillas, the conservation initiatives in the area contribute to the preservation of these remarkable creatures and their fragile habitat. Mount Bisoke is a perfect for adventure seekers and nature lovers as it offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the raw beauty of Rwanda’s landscape, immerse oneself in its rich biodiversity and embark on an unforgettable journey of exploration and discovery.

As the divergent border of an East Africa split emerges, Mount Bisoke emerges from rift activity on the continent’s tectonic plate. The volcanoes has recorded two eruptions which happened in 1891 and 1957

Hiking Mount Bisoke is an adventurous and exciting activity enjoyable to al hikers regardless of their hiking experience, hiking up to the summit takes 6 hours while coming down 2 or more depending on how frequently the hiking team stops for rest.

For seasoned mountain climbers, you can reach the summit in 3 hours. A Mount Bisoke hike is considered less demanding but hikers should be reasonably fit and prepare to
deal with the thorny plants, stinging insects and muddy trails especially during the rainy season.

The temperature/Oxygen level is one aspect hikers have to prepare to deal with, temperatures can get so low and make the hike tiring hence requiring frequent stops.

Because of the possibility of viewing the crater lakes, stunning views and rare alpine vegetation found nowhere else on earth, Bisoke hiking is a popular activity among visitors to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The volcano is also home to forest elephants, buffaloes, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and several bird species. During the hike one might get lucky and meet one of the gorilla families or golden monkey troops along the trail which would make for an even more fulfilling experience. In case of an encounter with gorillas, hikers are allowed only 10 minutes to see the gorillas and from a distance, taking photo of the gorillas during the hike is prohibited.

The opportunity to take photos and spend more time with the gorillas is only reserve for tourists who are registered for gorilla trekking.

Note: mountain gorillas and golden monkeys you spot on the way may not be habituated hence keep a distance.

Hiking Mount Bisoke usually starts in the morning with briefing from assigned ranger at the park offices/headquarters. The office is usually busy in the morning because it is where all tourists gather before heading out for activities like gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking and the Dian Fossey Grave Hike.

All hikers are required to show your hiking permit, passport and other documentation during the briefing. This is the last time you will get chance to use a proper toilet and snack until you come back from the summit. After registration and briefing, hikers are then transferred from the park fees to the starting point by your guide, the journey to the head trail and starting point takes 40 minutes through rough road.

At this point, you will be provided with hiking sticks from the park officials. You will be met by armed Rangers to escort you up to the summit and have a chance to hire porters to help with extra luggage. The armed rangers are there to protect you against threats from wild animals.

For travelers with stuff to handle can hire porters to help hikers navigate difficult sections by pulling them up or down. The porters live close to the park and are also very
knowledgeable about the mountain.

The porters are from the local community and will cost you about $15.

The hike starts with navigating through leveled but rocky and rough ground at the foot of the volcano, you will pass through several local gardens and plantations before reaching the park entrance. Some parts of the park are protected by stone walls to stop animals from raiding farms and humans, you will be able to spot the great landscape and vegetation that surround the Virunga Region including the Mount Visoke Crater Lake, Mount Karisimbi and Mount Mikeno in Congo.

The lake at the summit of Mount Bisoke is not suitable for swimming. The time taken on Mount Bisoke Hike is dictated by the weather, during the hike you will have a picnic lunch at the mountain top (on a sunny day).

The descent back to the starting point is easy except for having to deal with the mud- filled trails again. Expect to find your driver or company guide waiting for you at the
starting point.

We recommend that you tip the porters and rangers, this is one of the way of giving back to the community living around the park.

In order to prepare well for hiking Mount Bisoke, you need to first ensure that you are fit enough and up to the adventure. You need to prepare mentally with the intention of completing the hike regardless of the challenges you encounter.

Prepare to carry the following items:

  • The right clothing – come with along trouser, a sweater, a long sleeved shirt and headgear. The long sleeved shirt will protect you from stinging insects like beetles while good headgear will keep you warm when it gets cold
  • Hand gloves – woolen or garden gloves will protect your hands while holding sharp tree branches
  • Light hiking shoes (water-proof boots) and stockings – they should be sturdy and able to help you comfortably and effectively hike through the mud filled trails especially during the rainy season. The hiking socks should be tucked to your trouser to keep insects away, mud and sharp stems
  • Walking/Hiking Stick – this will be provided to you by the park guides to supports you while navigating through difficult and steep sections of the trail
  • Packed snacks and water – You might need to eat and drink something along the way, water is a must for quenching your thirst.

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