Rwanda is a highly populous and extremely scenic and mountainous little country in central Africa. Unfortunately, best known for the 1994 genocide, the country has tried very hard to move on and the shadow cast is no longer so overwhelming.
The main reasons to come here is to visit the mountain gorillas to the north of the country. There is also a good deal of very pretty mountain and lake scenery, plus the opportunity to see chimpanzees in the south.
Rwanda takes the biggest share of the Virunga Mountain volcanoes which is 5 out of the main 8 that span the three neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 5 volcanoes are Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi, all of which lie in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda’s prime tourist destination and the home of the endangered Mountain Gorillas.
Hiking adventures the back packing safaris are available on each of these volcanoes apart from Mt. Sabyinyo which has so many craters and thus has been declared dangerous to climb, for now. It is however available for hiking from the Ugandan side and presents arguably the best views of the Virunga volcanoes chain.
For the nature enthusiasts, the Virunga Mountains are a true paradise filled with lush green forest, rare mountain vegetation, crater lakes, plenty of wildlife such as forest elephants and buffaloes, golden monkeys and mountain gorillas, endemic birds of the Albertine rift, breath-taking views of Rwanda’s mist shrouded mountainous landscape and sprawling volcanoes. They offer an unrivalled African jungle experience and one of the best sceneries on the African continent!
During the hikes, you are chanced with encountering the habituated Mountain Gorillas, for which you shall be permitted only a minute to view them minus taking any pictures to keep it fair for those that paid for the pricey gorilla trek tour permit. Golden Monkeys are also a high possibility encounter during the hike.
Take an example of Mountain Bisoke (3711m) which lies on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. A dormant volcano, the mountain has a massive crater lake at the summit measuring about 400m in diameter and lies on the Rwandan side. This is the most popular of the trails and a must do for hiking enthusiasts. It is relatively strenuous but absolutely doable even for inexperienced hikers or climbers, requiring some basic fitness. There is a good number of habituated Mountain Gorillas in Mt. Bisoke and you stand a good chance of encountering these on your way up. You should encounter the Golden Monkeys as well. At the summit, the view of the Crater Lake is simply amazing! You also view the peak of Mt. Mikeno in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On average the hike takes a total of 6 hours, 4 hours going up and 2 hours coming down.
Lake Ngezi trek – Mt. Bisoke Volcano
Lake Ngezi is a beautiful crater lake on the side of Mt. Bisoke, adjacent to Mountain Gahinga. This is a much shorter and easier hike that takes about 3 hours, 2 to the lake and 1 to make it back.
Dian Fossey grave site (tomb) trail hike
Fossey is a renowned wildlife researcher and primatologist that dedicated her life to conserving the Mountain Gorillas. She paid the ultimate price for these gentle giants and was buried with them, at her research center, Karisoke Research Center, along Mt. Bisoke – adjacent Mt. Karisimbi. The trail leading to the research center is beautiful yet challenging too. It requires up to 2 hours, and will reward you with a possible encounter with the Mountain Gorillas, golden monkeys, birds and orchids.
Karisimbi, 4507m, is Africa’s 5th highest mountain that receives snow during some months of the year. Mt Karisimbi involves a 2-day hike which sets off at 7am, with the meeting of the ranger guides at the park headquarters at Kinigi, thereafter driving for approximately forty-five minutes to the starting point of the trek in the park and up the mountain. After 6 hours trek you will set up camp at 3700 for the overnight. The following day you hike up to the summit before embarking on the return trek back to the starting point and end of the Mt. Karisimbi Hike.