Hiking Mount Bisoke in Rwanda

Hiking Mount Bisoke should be on your bucket list when visiting Rwanda. Mount Bisoke is one of the active volcanoes found within the Virunga ranges of mountains. With a height of 12,175 ft, Mount Bisoke lies within the borders of Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and DR Congo (Virunga National Park). The summit and greater part of the mountain is in Rwanda.  Mount Bisoke was formed as a result of a rift that is gradually dividing sections of East Africa. It has two crater lakes – one at the very top and the other (Lake Ngezi) found midway. It’s last eruption in 1957 left behind one of the largest Crater Lake within the Virunga mountain ranges.

Mount Bisoke is a home to mountain gorillas. These primates are by large Rwanda’s most valuable tourism attraction. The rich bamboo forests and other vegetation surrounding the mountain provide ideal shelter and food for Mountain gorillas. However Hiking Mount Bisoke is also a favorite activity for many visitors to the Volcanoes National park. In fact, most tourists combine Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park with hiking Mount Bisoke.

Climbing Mount Bisoke

Hiking Mount Bisoke is an adventurous and exciting activity which is not restricted to experienced hikers. Hiking up to the summit takes 6 hours while coming down 2 or more depending on how frequently the hiking team stops for rest. Seasoned mountain climbers 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 levels is one aspect hikers have to prepare to deal with. Temperatures can get so low and make the hike tiring hence requiring frequent stops.

Bisoke hiking is popular among visitors to the Volcanoes National park in Rwanda because of the possibility of viewing the crater lakes, stunning views and rare alpine vegetation found nowhere else on earth. The volcano is also home to forest elephants, buffalo, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and several bird species. One may get luck 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 photos of the gorillas during the hike is prohibited. The opportunity to take photos and spend more time with the gorillas is only reserved for tourists who are registered for gorilla tracking. It is important to note that the 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 an assigned Ranger at the park offices. 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. You will be required to show your hiking permit, passport and other documentation during the briefing. This is the last time you will get a chance to use a decent/proper toilet and snack until you come back from the summit. After registration and briefing, hikers are then transferred from the park offices to the starting point by their company guide or a hired taxi for those traveling on their own.

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. Porters also 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. Some have been helping hikers since their childhood. Hiring a porter will cost you about $15.

Mount Bisoke Hike

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/plantations before reaching the park entrance. Some parts of the park is protected by stone walls to stop animals raiding farms and humans entering the park. Once you reach on top of the summit, you will be able to spot the great landscape and vegetation that surround the Virunga region including the Mount Visoke Crater Lake, Mount Karisimbi volcano and Mount Mikeno in Congo. The lake at the summit is not suitable for swimming.

The weather will dictate how long hikers will stay at the summit. A picnic lunch can be arranged 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 give tip to the Porters and Rangers. This is one way of giving back to the community living around the park. If you are planning to track Mountain gorillas and hike Mount Bisoke, our 2 Days gorilla trekking and Bisoke hiking package may be what you are looking for. For a more relaxed trip, you could go for the 4 days gorilla tour and mount Bisoke hike package.

Requirements and equipment for hiking Mount Bisoke

In order to prepare well for hiking Mount Bisoke, you need to first ensure that you are fit enough and up to the task ahead. We hear of many hikers abandon the climb at the beginning of the trail just because of the mud. You need to prepare mentally with the intention of completing the hike regardless of the challenges you encounter. Prepare to carry the following items:

  1. The right clothing: Come with a long trouser, a sweater, a long sleeved shirt and headgear. The long sleeved shirt will help protect you from stinging insects like beetles while good headgear will keep you warm when it gets cold.
  2. Hand gloves: Woolen or gardening gloves will protect your hands while holding sharp tree branches.
  3. 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 away insects, mud and sharp stems.
  4. Walking/Hiking Stick: This will be provided to you by the park guides to support you while navigating through difficult and steep sections of the trail.
  5. Packed snacks and water: You might need to eat and drink something along the way. Water is a must for quenching your thirst.

The cost of hiking mount Bisoke

The permit for hiking Mount Bisoke can be bought on the day of the hike from the park headquarters. The Mount Bisoke permit costs $75 per person. This doesn’t include transportation as you will need to hire a vehicle to the park and also to the head trail. Lux Gorilla Safaris can help you arrange the entire trip by helping you acquire the Bisoke permits, arrange transportation and book accommodation if necessary. Thank you for reading.


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