In the north of Rwanda is home to the Mountain Gorilla. This stunning backdrop is host to over half the world’s wild mountain gorillas. The exhilarating climb to the gorilla’s natural habitat of shady bamboo foresters fantastic views in all directions and explores the rich ecosystems of blending evergreen and bamboo forests, open grass-lands, swamps and health. Hiking in Virunga takes one through an ecosystem composed of four major vegetation zones: bamboo, Hagenia and Hypericum forest, sub-alpine and Afro-alpine. There is nothing more joyful than encountering a fully grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable, playful and tolerant of human visitors.
The Parc national des Volcans (Rwanda), situated in the far northwest of Rwanda protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the rare mountain gorilla – and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Hike two of the Virunga volcanoes, accessible from the Rwandan side, through the cultivated foothills: Karisimbi (4.507m) and Bisoke (3.711m). The climb to the peak of Karisimbi requires two days, with clients sleeping in a tent on the mountain. It does not require technical skills, but clients have to be fit and healthy as the walk is quite arduous and conditions can be wet, cold and muddy. Bisoke is a day’s walk and although less steep than Karisimbi still requires walkers to be fit. The paths go through afro-montane forest, bamboo, and woodland. Higher up there is Afro-alpine moorland, grassland and marsh, giant lobelia and senecio.
Visits to “Old Karisoke” Dian Fossey Research Centre are available as one of the activities in the Virungas. Old Karisoke is located in a beautiful meadow between the Karisimbi and Visoke volcanoes with the Mikeno volcano in the distance. Remains of the old buildings can be seen as well as graves of some of the research gorillas that have died over the last 30 years, including the famous Digit which was killed by poachers, as well as that of Fossey herself.
Mount Karisimbi is an inactive volcano in the Virunga Mountains on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At 4,507 metres (14,787 ft), Karisimbi is the highest of the eight major mountains of the mountain range, which is a part of Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Karisimbi is flanked by Mikeno to the north, Bisoke to the east and Nyiragongo to the west, on the other side of the Rift Valley. Karisimbi is the 11th highest mountain of Africa.
The name Karisimbi comes from the word ‘amasimbi’ in the local language, Kinyarwanda, which means snow. Snow can mostly be found during the dry season in June, July and August on the top of the volcano.
Between Karisimbi and Bisoke is the Karisoke Research Center, which was founded by Dian Fossey in order to observe the mountain gorillas living in this area.