Mount Bisoke (also known as Visoke in D.R. Congo) towers to 3711m above sea level. It is a dormant volcano located within the Virunga ranges, astride the Congo-Rwanda boarder. In Rwanda, it boarders with Volcanoes National Park, while in Congo it boarders with Virunga National Park – all prime homes for mountain gorilla trekking. A hiking permit for this mountain costs $75 per person.
The Virunga massif is a huge volcanic block consisting of up to 8 free standing mountains, crossing three east African countries, namely Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo. Bisoke Mountain lies largely in Rwanda including its summit which has a crater lake on top. This beautiful crater with a diameter of 400meters is what makes Bisoke an extremely exciting mountain.
On its slopes there lie another scenic crater, Lake Ngezi which is 11km away from the summit and was formed after the 1957 eruption.it is from these lakes, that the volcano was named “Bisoke” – a Swahili word that translates as “soaked with water”. Another unique attribute of Mount Bisoke is that it is fully covered with lush vegetation. This vegetation cover divides into 3 zones, from Hagenia on the lower slopes, to the semi-alpine vegetation and the summit is characterized with alpine vegetation.
An array of wildlife call Bisoke home, including the elusive golden monkeys and mountain gorilla that inhabit the neighborhoods in Volcanoes National Park. Others include several primate species, forest mammals like elephants, forest duikers, buffaloes, and an impressive count of bird species, some endemic to the Albertine rift and others migratory that harbor the lower slopes of the mountain.
Hiking Mount Bisoke
Bisoke Mountain doesn’t present an extremely strenuous and adventurous hike, but a relative climb that even the most novice climbers can manage. But nevertheless, it requires some average level of fitness, both physically and medically. One is asked to at least seek for medical advice from their doctor to confirm whether they are truly fit to engage in this hike.
The higher altitude of the mountain require extra strength, and may seem difficult for inexperienced hikers. The entire expedition may last for 5 – 6 hours depending on the speed of the hikers, frequency of stopovers and general weather conditions. However, a typical ascent takes about 3 hours, while a descent takes 2 hours.
Remember to carry with you a perfectly crafted hiking stick from the base camp before the start of the hike because climbing through very steep and muddy slopes can be strenuous and difficult and may require extra support. The mountain has two major climbing trails, every trail leading to each of the crater lakes – Lake Ngezi and the summit crater lake. Of the two trails, the most popular is doubtlessly the one leading to the summit crater. This trail takes a maximum of 6 hours – 4 hours and 2 hours of ascent and descent respectively.
The second trail is the shortest, taking you to Lake Ngezi and this may last for only 5 hours, including 3 hours of ascent and 2 hours of descent. During the hike to Bisoke’s summit, climbers traverse a series of vegetation types, beginning with bamboo forests on the slower slopes, through the Hagenia forests, into Senecio – Lobelia bush and to the alpine vegetation at the peak.
Descending to the starting point is not hectic, unless during bad weather when hikers have to deal with mud-filled and slippery paths. Hiking fees for Bisoke Mountain is currently 75$ per person, including the guide and there’s no advance booking required, a hiking permit can be purchased on ground. For those who need porters to help carry their extra back pack, can hire them at the base camp – for a fee ranging between 10-20$ per person.