Besides climbing Mount Karisimbi Volcano, tourists can also engage in Mount Bisoke Hike. This hike is sometimes referred as the “Crater Lake Hike” because of the famous Crater Lake that is found on its summit. Mount Bisoke is one of the 8 volcanoes that form the extensive Virunga Massif that span in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Mountain is shared by two National Parks that is Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda (with the largest portion) and Virunga National Park in DRC. Of all the 8 volcanoes, Mount Bisoke is the 4th highest, standing at 12,180 feet/3711 meters above sea level. Mount Bisoke is homed in Volcanoes National Park, about 3 hours drive from Kigali town.
Due to its height, it is always not so challenging to climb this Volcano compared to others like Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura and Mikeno. It usually takes just one day (approximately 6 hours) to climb to the summit and back, with 4 hours for ascent and 2 hours for descending. The experienced hikers need just 5 hours (3 hours going up and 2 hours coming back down). Surprisingly even hikers that are not so physically fit can climb it easily. But do not ignore the fact that you should be physically fit. (You just need basic physical fitness). Hiking fee is just $75 per person (include $50 for the guided trip and $25 for the Park entrance fees excluding the cost of hiring the porter).
Bisoke is a Swahili word meaning “soaked in water”. The highlight of the hike is usually the Crater Lakes especially on summit of this Volcano. The Crater Lake on the summit measures 400 meters in diameters. The other lake is Lake Ngezi situated in the midway (about 11kms) to the peak. One of the interesting things about the Mount Bisoke hike that is unlikely of the other hikes is that if you are lucky, you can see a gorilla group, golden monkeys, several bird species and elephants on your way to the summit.
Just like most tourist activities in Volcanoes National Park, hikers are expected to arrive at the Park headquarters by 7am for briefing by knowledgeable guides on the hiking guidelines. You will be driven (for 30 minutes on a rough road) to the starting point and you will be accompanied by a tour guide, an armed ranger and a porter (it is not a must to hire one but is highly recommended and hiring a porter costs from 5-10 dollars). Not only will the porter carry your luggage and support you when climbing, but you also support a local family when you hire them. You will then start the hike at about 8am, by passing though local villages and farm/gardens.
You will be a victorious person to have completed the hike till the summit/peak because few people are able to reach the end. The summit provides a breathtaking view of the DRC side of Mount Bisoke and other areas. Relax, take photographs and even enjoy your packed food as you prepare to descend the mountain.
Before you participate in the climb/hike, make sure to wear strong rainproof hiking boots with enough grip to make it easy for you to climb especially in the rainy season. A rain jacket is also handy because the possibility of raining or not cannot be predicted due to the fact that the area lies within a tropical rainforest and the high altitude. Tourists are also advised to wear long trouser and long sleeved shirts to protect their arms and legs from being scratched by tree branches or grasses. It is also important to carry snacks and drinking water to rejuvenate the lost energy during the hike. Much as the activity is an all year adventure, tourists are however advised to book for it during dry season when the trails are not muddy and slippery. The most important tip for this activity is to be keen and open your eyes because you might encounter some mountain gorillas.
Therefore, Mount Bisoke is another important tourist activity that tourists can add on their package when they visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking safari. Those who had not put it on their bucket list should add it to have a complete and ultimate memorable experience.