Hiking Mount Bisoke in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park
Hiking Mount Bisoke should be on your list of things to do in Rwanda. Mount Bisoke, also known as “Visok”, is one of the active volcanoes found in the Virunga Mountains in East and Central Africa. Mount Bisoke is 12,175 feet above sea level and is located on the border between Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park). The summit and most of the mountains are in Rwanda. The mountain was formed as a result of a rift that gradually divided parts of East Africa. It has two crater lakes – one at the very top and the other (Lake Ngozi) in the middle. Its last eruption was in 1957, making it the largest crater lake in the Virunga Mountains.
Mount Bisoke is home to the endangered mountain gorilla, a more valuable tourism resource in Rwanda. Dense bamboo forests and other vegetation around the mountain provide perfect shelter and food for these monkeys. However, hiking and summiting Bisoke is also a popular activity for many visitors to Volcanoes National Park. Many visitors to Volcanoes National Park combine gorilla tracking with hiking on Mount Bisoke.
Mountain Climbing Adventure to Mount Bisoke
Hiking on Mount Bisoke is an adventurous and exciting activity that even inexperienced hikers can do. It takes 6 hours to hike to the top and 2 hours to descend, depending on how often hikers stop to rest. Experienced climbers can reach the summit in 3 hours. Mount Bisoke treks are considered demanding, but hikers should be fit and ready to deal with thorny plants, stinging insects, and muddy trails, especially during the rainy season. The hill is steep but manageable for most hikers. The temperature and oxygen levels can get so low that you get tired without stopping and resting as often.
Gorilla Hiking and Mount Bisoke Hiking Adventure
Treks are popular with visitors to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park for their chance to see misty peaks, crater lakes, breathtaking views, and alpine vegetation found nowhere else in the world. The volcano is home to forest elephants, water buffalo, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and several species of birds. On the trail, it is possible to meet a family of gorillas or a herd of golden monkeys, which will make for a more pleasant experience. However, visitors can only see the gorillas from a distance for a maximum of 10 minutes. It is forbidden to photograph the gorillas during the tour – this option is reserved only for tourists who come to track the gorillas. The mountain gorillas and golden monkeys you see on the road are probably wild (not habituated), so keep your distance.
When to Go Hiking Mount Bisoke?
Mount Bisoke treks usually start in the morning at the Kinigi Park Headquarters with a briefing by the designated ranger. The office is full of tourists as it is here for other activities such as gorilla Hiking, tracking golden monkeys, and visiting Diana Fossey’s grave. You will be asked to present your Hiking permit, passport, and other documents. This is your last chance to use decent/proper toilets (bush toilets during the trek) and snacks until you return from the summit. After registration and briefing, hikers will be taken from the park office to the starting point by their company’s guide, or they will hire a taxi for those who come on their own.
It takes 40 minutes to travel to the destination and the starting point on rough roads. At this point, park staff will provide you with hiking poles. An armed ranger will meet you, escort you to the top, and have the option of hiring porters to help with extra luggage. Armed rangers are there to protect you from possible threats from wild animals and armed rebels who may cross into the Congolese side (rarely).
Hiring a Porter to Help to carry Luggage
The porter also helps you navigate difficult parts of the mount Bisoke hiking trail by pulling you up or down. The porters live near the park and, like the rangers, are very experienced and knowledgeable about the mountain trails.
Some people help climbers from a young age. Hiring a porter will cost you $10. The trek begins by crossing flat but rocky and rugged terrain at the base of the volcano. Before you reach the park entrance, you will pass several native gardens/plantations. The park is protected by stone fences that prevent animals from entering the garden and people from entering the park. Once you reach the top, you will be able to see the stunning scenery and vegetation that surrounds the Virunga region, including Vysock Crater Lake, Kalisimbi Volcano, and Congo’s Mt Mykonos.
How Long can you stay at the top of Mount Bisoke?
The weather determines how long you stay at the top. On a sunny day, you can even have a picnic on top of the mountain. The lake at the top of the hill is not suitable for swimming. Besides having to deal with muddy trails again, it’s easy to go back to the beginning. Your driver or company guide will meet you at the starting point, where you will be separated from porters and armed rangers.
We recommend tipping porters and rangers. It’s a way to give back to the community around the park. If you’re planning to track mountain gorillas and trek to Mount Bisoke, our 2-Day Gorilla Hiking and Bisoke Hiking Package could be just what you’re looking for. For a more relaxed trip, join the 3-day Gorilla Tour and Bisoke Mountain Hiking Package.
Requirements and Equipment to Hike Bisoke Mountain
To prepare for a hike on Mount Bisoke, you must first ensure that you are fit and ready for the task ahead. We see many hikers abandon the climb at the trailhead just because of the mud. Regardless of the challenge, you must be mentally prepared to complete the trek. Be prepared to bring the following:
- Suitable clothing: combine with trousers, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and headwear. A long-sleeved shirt will help protect you from insect bites such as beetles, while a good hat will keep you warm when it gets colder above.
- Hand Gloves: Fleece or gardening gloves will protect your hands when working with sharp branches.
- Lightweight hiking shoes (waterproof boots) and socks: These should be durable enough to help you hike on muddy trails comfortably and efficiently, especially during the rainy season. Hiking socks should be tucked into your pants to protect you from bugs, dirt, and sharp stems.
- Walking/Hiking Poles: Park guides will be available to help you traverse difficult and steep sections of the trail.
- Pack snacks and water: You may need a snack or water along the way to refresh and quench your thirst.
How Much Does Climbing Mount Bisoke Cost?
Permits to hike Bisoke Mountain can be purchased at park headquarters on the day of the hike. Visitors who plan to hike mount Bisoke Mountain must pay $75 per person. This does not include transport as you will need to hire a car to get to the park and the main road. Deks Uganda Safaris can assist you with the entire itinerary, including permits, transportation, and accommodation reservations.