Climbing Mount Bisoke – Mountaineering Tours & Trips: Rwanda Car Rental.

The most practical has to be Mount Bisoke. Mount Bisoke, whose other name is ‘Visoke’ is an active volcano found in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. It boasts of a height of 12,175 ft. and stands at the border between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The greater part of Mount Bisoke as well as its summit is found in Rwanda. Did we say it is an active volcano? Yes! However, there is no need to worry because its last eruption was in 1957. This eruption created one of the largest crater lakes in the Virunga ranges. The mountain already had a crater lake before reaching the summit known as Lake Ngezi.

Apart from the fact that this is an active volcano with two crater lakes, Mount Bisoke happens to be home to groups of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are one of Rwanda’s greatest tourism attractions. Mountain gorillas thrive along the slopes of the mountain because of the vast bamboo forests in the area. Mountain gorillas love bamboo shoots but the mountain slopes are a natural shelter from humans and any potential predators.

Hiking Mount Bisoke

How is climbing mount Bisoke like? Hiking mount Bisoke takes only a day but requires a certain level of fitness for one to have the best experience. Are you an experienced hiker? Well, it will take you 3 hours to climb! However, if you are new to climbing mountains and not fit enough, getting to the summit may take up to 6 hours. This is because you would have to take rests several times. Do not go hiking if you are in bad physical shape. There is a lot to deal with such as muddy trails which get worse when the rains are heavy. Stinging insects and thorny plants are also things you may have to deal with. The greatest thing you can have when hiking mountains is mental preparedness. Being resilient, determined and outright stubborn can help but mental preparedness is key. It is a fact the Mount Bisoke is steep and when climbing, oxygen and temperature levels can get really low.

However high altitude is nothing is you are fit enough and are mentally ready. If you are not a seasoned mountain climber, it is recommended that you start preparing by doing long distance working is high.

The day of climbing Mount Bisoke

Before climbing Mount Bisoke, all hiker gathers for briefing at the park headquarters of the Volcanoes National Park. Briefing is done in the morning hours at the same time as those who are have come for gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park. While at the park headquarters you will be registered, offered a hiking stick and taken to the starting point by armed rangers/Guides using your vehicle. It is important to note that you will be required to show your passport and Bisoke hiking permit before you can be registered for the activity. Before you leave for the starting point, it is recommended that you visit the washrooms as this is the last time one gets to use a proper toilet.

It takes about 40 minutes to reach the starting point as the road is very rough. The armed rangers are there to protect you from marauding wild animals and any armed rebels who might have crossed into the park from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels are almost never heard of in the area and animals never really attack hikers. The armed guards don’t want to take any chances with tourists. If anything happens, it can create a lot of negative publicity.

It is also important to point out that porters are available for hire at the starting point. Hiring a porter costs between $10 to $15. The porters will help you carry heavy luggage and give you a hand during the difficult sections of the hike by lending a hand. The porters live close to the park and have climbed the mountain several times. They know the terrain very well. It is said that some have been helping hikers since they were children. The start is rocky and rough at the foot of the mountain. You will notice that the park has stone walls that prevent animals from entering human gardens. These walls also stop humans from entering the park without permission. The Rangers will take you past the bamboo forests at the foot of the mountain and to the semi-alpine vegetation closer to the summit. Remember that you cannot leave anyone behind. It is why being fit and mentally prepared is so important. One hiker can slow down the entire team. The time taken hiking and how long you stay at the summit depends on the weather that day. If it is a sunny day, you might even be lucky enough to have picnic at the summit.  You might be interested in our 2 days Mount Bisoke hike and Gorilla trekking package.

What to see while climbing mount Bisoke

Earlier, we did mention that the mountain has two crater lakes and so, be sure to see these beautiful as well as fog at the summit. However, these lakes are not suitable for swimming. The alpine vegetation is something to look forward to as well. Did we say Mount Bisoke is also a home for mountain gorillas? Yes, and many other animals such as forest buffaloes, forest elephants, birds and golden monkeys. Unfortunately, if you are lucky enough to encounter mountain gorillas along the trail, you need to keep a distance (the group you encounter may not be habituated). The Rangers will limit your time with the gorillas to only 10 minutes to avoid wasting time. No photos are allowed except if you have registered for gorilla tracking. Hiking mount Bisoke also rewards visitors with amazing views of the Virunga volcanoes including Muhabura, Nyiragongo, Mikeno, Gahinga, Sabyinyo and Karisimbi.

Descending the mountain is relatively easier but you still have to go through the mud and steep sections of the mountain. You will find your driver waiting for you at the starting point. It is important to tip the porters and rangers before you start your journey back to your lodge or Kigali. It is done in the spirit of giving back to the community and also appreciating those who work hard but may not be paid that much.

Packing List for Bisoke Hiking

Here is a list of what you need before you get onto that trail to the summit of mount Bisoke.

The right shoes and stockings: You need to have shoes that are water proof, light but sturdy enough for trails that may be extremely muddy during the rainy season. These shoes need to be light so that you are comfortable enough to walk without getting tired too fast. The stockings are needed so that you can tuck in your trouser as a way of protection from the mud, sharp plants and stinging insects.

The right clothing: You need a long trouser, a long sleeved shirt, a warm sweater and headgear to protect you from the cold as you go higher up the mountain. The long sleeved shirt helps with the stinging insects

Hand gloves: One needs woolen gloves or better still, gardening gloves. These protect your hands when you need to hold on to trees with sharp branches.

Snacks and water: These you might need in case you get hungry along the way or get thirsty as you climb.

Hiking Stick: The park guides provide all participants with hiking stick to support them while going through steep terrain and the muddy trails.