Mount Karisimbi is the highest of the volcanoes found within the Virunga region and is the eleventh highest in Africa. This inactive volcano is found in the Volcanoes National Park and on the border between Rwanda and the DR Congo. Rising up to 4,507 meters, Mount is surrounded by other neighboring volcanoes like Mikeno, Nyiragongo and Bisoke. The mountain gets its name Karisimbi (Kinyarwanda for “White Shell”) from the snow that usually covers the top during the dry season. Karisimbi has a caldera Branca and two craters in the summit with the largest being Mutango.
Mount Karisimbi Hike
Visitors to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda usually combine Gorilla trekking with a Karisimbi mountain hike. Climbing mount Karisimbi can be a strenuous but special experience. Because of its location within the Volcanoes National Park, visitors should expect to come across several bird species, see golden monkeys, occasionally mountain gorillas and passing close to the grave of Dian Fossey – the famous researcher on Mountain gorillas. The trail and path towards the top of the volcano contains great physical features/landscape, volcanic features, dense forest and vegetation which are beautiful to behold. However the hike may involve navigating through thick jungle, steep slopes and muddy trails in the rainy season. It’s for this reason that hiking Mount Karisimbi is best done during the drier periods between January – March and July – early October.
You need to be in good shape, have the endurance and stamina which is required to navigate through steep and difficult sections of the mountain slopes. This is especially important if you are hiking in a group – You wouldn’t want to keep your fellow hikers waiting for you. You also need to prepare mentally for the high altitude conditions which can be distressing hence slowing you down. Porters are available for hire at a cost of 20USD. They will help you with extra luggage, tents and other hiking equipment.
A hike to and descent from Mount Karisimbi is usually completed in 2 days starting very early in the morning – 7:00 am to be exact. Hikers need to first go to the park headquarters to register and get briefing from the park warden and guides. After the briefing, hikers are driven to the starting point at the foot of Mount Bisoke. Ascending to the summit lasts 7 hours at most but hikers need to stop midway at an altitude of 3,700 meters for the night. A camp is set where dinner is prepared as everyone takes a rest while preparing for the final climb the nest day. After enduring the cold night and taking early morning breakfast, hikers should be fresh and ready to start ascending to the summit which takes an hour. The trail from the camp to the summit is steeper and more difficult to navigate as the mud gets thicker, winds stronger and fog reduces visibility. Once on top of the summit, the scenery is spectacular and beautiful to behold. Hikers should have great views of the Muhabura volcano, the Nyamulagira volcano, the Nyiragongo, the vast and great forests and vegetation within the Virunga ranges and the Congolese border. After getting enough of the great views, Hikers should get ready for the 6 hour descent back to the starting point and then to the park office.
Parking List and tips for Hiking Mount Karisimbi
The Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks usually provides guides to help with navigating the different trails but trekkers should come with:-
- Good hiking shoes, a sweater/warm clothing, a waterproof heavy jacket, a hat and walking stick
- A tent for camping overnight
- A sleeping bag
- Packed food for the overnight stay before reaching the summit
- Porters to help carry your backpack, tents, cameras and other equipment
Karisimbi Hiking Permits
Hiking permits for Karisimbi are usually acquired from the park headquarters. It is possible to acquire the permit on the day of the hike but it’s highly recommended that you book in advance just to make sure they are expecting you. Hiking Mount Karisimbi costs 400USD per person. Mission Africa Safaris will help you arrange the entire tour by providing transportation, booking accommodation and securing hiking permits. Our team of experienced office staff and field guides are always available to help you plan an adventurous hike up to the top of this beautiful volcano. We highly recommend hiking the top of this volcano alongside gorilla tracking for those with endure and stamina.