Virunga Mountain Range spans around the border of three countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC and it consist of 8 main volcanoes. Rwanda has 5 of those volcanoes and they are known to form the Volcanoes National Park. The Volcanoes National Park is known to be home to the rare and highly endangered Mountain Gorillas. The Volcanoes National Park is therefore one of the prime tourist destinations in the land of a thousand hills. Being made of highly steep volcanoes and mountainous forests, the Volcanoes National Park presents incomparable hiking adventures to be able to meet with these incredible Mountain Gorillas and to enjoy the breathtaking views from the summit of the volcanoes.
The five volcanoes found in Rwanda are Muhabura, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi. Very enjoyable hiking opportunities are available on all of these volcanoes with the exception of Sabyinyo, which has been declared dangerous for the time being because of the presence of so many craters around it.
For outdoor fanatics, the Volcanoes National Park’s breathtaking beauty is a must –see. The blossoming green forest, very rare mountain vegetation, crater lakes, abundant wild-life like forest elephants and buffaloes, golden monkeys, and the celebrated mountain gorillas create a magical view for tourists. Undoubtedly, the prevalent birds of the Albertine rift and the spectacular views of Rwanda’s mountainous landscape and extensive volcanoes offer one of the best scenery around the continent.
On the hikers’ way up hills, there are chances to meet with the adapted Mountain Gorillas families. Hikers are allowed to view them for a very small time and they are prohibited from taking any form of pictures or videos to be fair to the people who have bought the Gorilla Trek Tour permit. There’s also very high chance to meet Golden Monkeys on the way hiking.
Trails in the Volcanoes National Park
The popular trails in the Volcanoes National Park are:
- Karisimbi (4,507 m) – This hike takes 2 days and it starts from the Visoke departure point. The Volcanoes National Park authority require bookings to be made atleas 2 weeks before the actual hiking date. Please note that you will spend a night at a metal hut lieing about 3,660 meters. It can be very cold at night and therefore come with clothes that can keep you warm.
- Bisoke (3,711 m) – This is the second most popular hike in PNV. This volcano has a huge crater lake. The crater can be reached from the Visoke departure point in 4 hours. Hikes are possible from the Volcanoes National Park daily. The hike requires climbing along a steep path. The walk around the crater is highly recommended, the total hike will take 7 to 8 hours.
- Lake Ngezi (3,000 m) is a small shallow crater lake. The hike is the easiest of the entire area. From the departure point, the hike takes about 3 to 4 hours to walk there and back.
- Sabyinyo (3,634 m) – This is the most difficult climb. A hike takes about 5 to 6 hours up to the edge of the crater. The departure is from the main office of the park at Kinigi. You can spend the night in a metal hut near the lava fields.
Mount Karisimbi is one of the tallest mountains in Africa. It is over 4,500 meters high and is found in the Volcanoes National Park. The mountain is one of the 8 volcanoes within the wider Virunga ranges of mountains in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Hiking Mount Karisimbi takes two days. Though challenging, the hike rewards participants with beautiful views of the Virunga ranges, the lava-spewing Nyiragongo volcano, national parks in Uganda and Congo. Hiking mount Karisimbi is usually combing with gorilla and golden monkey trekking in the Volcanoes National Park.
The Karisimbi Hike is the most demanding as its the highest of all the eight Volcanoes in the massif and its the only one that takes two days to hike. Mt. Karisimbi hikers are rewarded by a spectacular aerial view of all the other volcanoes some with crater lakes at the very peak.
Mount Bisoke Hike takes roughly 6hrs to get to the crater lake peak and this makes it the most frequented summit. The most popular hike in the park is the Diann fossey hike named after the late Dian Fossey who fought and rescued the mountain gorillas from their sure extinction at the cost of her own life. This eye opening and inspirational hike leads to her tomb at an elevation 3,000m and it is highly recommended for conservation enthusiasts.
It takes only one day to get to the summit and back. Getting to the summit rewards hikers with an opportunity to explore a giant crater and also gaze at the other Virunga volcanoes and the volcanoes National Park. If you are lucky, you might encounter a gorilla or golden monkey group as you climb the lower slopes of the mountain.
Twin Lakes Hike
Twin Lakes Hike is the simplest of the four and the trail leads you to a point where you have the best view of the two almost intersecting lakes in a relaxed atmosphere ideal for a picnic.
Hiking is not only an upwards activity in the massif. You can choose to hike downwards through the the enormous openings of the Musanze Caves which were formed by centuries old eruptions of these volcanoes. These caves have stairs and walk ways that facilitate your movement through different channels. Bat roosts are a significant feature of the caves, as are massive roof openings that form many patterns of light spectrum beams.