Mount Bisoke Crater Lake Hike in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

The Hike to Crater Lake Bisoke (also popularly known as Crater Lake or Lake Ngezi) in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda is a challenging one and can be reached only with a guide and armed escorts. I trekked with a guide, yet almost by myself and here is my story :) 

Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Pic credit: Grace Chan

Preparation for Bisoke Trek

Before the Trek it's important to book the 4x4 vehicle which will take you early in the morning to the Park reception, then to the base of trek and finally back to Musanze. The cost of these vehicles is fixed at $80. I traveled with Enamuel, a very friendly dude who also spoke good English. His number is 07830-03353 if you need to book. If you are traveling with a tour operator (which is how most people travel), they will do all arrangements and you don't need to worry about these logistical things.

After paying a fee of $75 at the reception, you will meet your assigned guide for the trek and other trek members, if any. In my case, I was the only one trekking that day so it was just me and my guide.

After a quick briefing, we both took off to the base in my 4x4, a drive of about 45 minutes. We were greeted by four forest Rangers at the entrance of the park and they were with us through the trek.

The trek 

I had read a few reviews of Bisoke Trek before I decided to do it, and most had categorized it as medium to tough. In a way I was prepared for it, but not completely.

It had rained a couple of days ago, and so the mud trek had converted into a slush trek, of which we covered large sections in knee deep in this slurry. It's tough to walk on a flat ground like this, and when you are constantly trekking up, the challenges are even more. I was always slipping on the steep climbs and my only support was the trekking stick.


Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
The beginning...
Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Walking through the slush
Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Thick green foliage at the base of the volcano 

My guide had declared pretty early on that he didn't like trekking at all and did it only as part of his job. Thereafter he was rather grumpy, often complaining that I needed to pace up so that we could come down early. I generally make good friends with my guides, but he was least interested in any conversation or bonding, and I decided to give him some space. I tried talking to our armed escorts and they were quite friendly. Unfortunately they didn't speak any English and all we could do was exchange names. I also took a few selfies with them, but that was the end of our interaction.

As we climbed higher, the terrain changed and the last quarter was mainly walking on rocks. I remember complaining so much on my last trek which was mainly rocky at Mulanje, but for now the rocks were a welcome relief. With terrain, the vegetation also changed dramatically. From the thick green foliage at the base, now the volcano peak was a much more naked with completely different kinds of trees. The weather had changed as well, with clouds all around us. We could neither see the base nor the summit. I could almost feel slight drizzle which was bad news. Thankfully it never rained though the fog stayed with us this point onward.


Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Vegetation as we climb up...

Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Selfie with an angry soldier :)

Reaching the summit was quite sudden. Unlike most other mountains, the volcanoes are quite flat on top and due to the fog I never saw it coming. It was really really cold on top and I could barely prevent myself from shivering. After four hours of trekking, we were on top but I could not yet see the lake. Where was it?

The fog had hidden the lake completely and I saw it only for a few seconds when sun showed it's face for a while. I could not take any picture so borrowed one from my friend Grace who trekked to the top a day after I did.


Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Foggy day on top!
Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Resting near the lake with the dirty shoes!

The trek down was no better. We were faster but the risks of slipping were dramatically higher. I almost slipped at every steep descent, but somehow managed to save myself. Wearing gum boots saved my feet from muck, but took away the much-needed traction that trekking shoes had.

As we touched the base of the volcano and walked through the fields of flowers, the view in front of me was breathtaking. I didn't want to go back early anymore...


Mount Bisoke Visoke Crater Lake Trek Hike Volcanoes National Park Rwanda Lake Ngezi
Ah! The view...

All good things come to an end, and so did this trip. The one trek I couldn't do this time was the one to the highest volcano here - Mount Karisimbi. This just means that I will have to come back to the Volcanoes of Rwanda once again :)

Tips and suggestions 

  • Reach the reception of Volcanoes National Park early in the morning before 7am
  • The fee for the trek is $75 and the fee for the 4x4 vehicle that you need to take you to the beginning of the trek is  $80 
  • You need to book the vehicle yourself and as you trek to the summit, this waits for you at the base and then takes you back to Musanze 
  • If it's rainy season, gym boots are a must as you will walk through quite a bit of muck on the trek 
  • A rain jacket is also good to always carry as it can rain anytime during the rainy the season  

Video Tour

Here is a video of the trek. If you like what you see, do subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more reviews and fun travel videos :)


Comments

  1. Hi
    The place seems amazing.
    Great experience.
    Wish could visit it.

    Swati
    http://dreamerswati.blogspot.in/

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  2. Hey Sid, nice to read your posts after long time :) loved the pune street murals very much in your older post. Btw you had a grumpy guide, I too have a different story of my guide in Addis Ababa, and how somehow it ruined my further plans, will share with you on email. Now I know how passionate you must be to visit so many places and enjoy it the way you wanted. I Enjoyed the trek!

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  3. Seems like a nice trek, Sid. Great captures!

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  4. Great photos combined with an excellent narrative make for a fantastic article. Great job Sid!

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  5. Siddhartha, must have been a great hike though that grumpy guide spoiled the fun! The green forest looks like a heaven!

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  6. Do share your grumpy-guide story :)

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  7. I was there and just asked around for treks...this was the most recommended ones by the locals :)

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  8. Thanks a lot Pat...also so good to hear from you :)

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  9. It was great and that's why I could ignore the grumpy guide :)

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  10. NatureTrails EAfricaJune 27, 2015 at 2:03 AM

    I rate Bisoke Crater Lake the best hike in Rwanda. Personally I did it last year in May, my group was so lucky it was a shiny day and were even able to picnic at the crater lake for some minutes till the weather drastically started to change. The crater lake was so beautifully clear though we were unable to rim it because it is quite large and the weather looked like it could change any time soon. Could also see the peak of Mt. Mikeno Volcano in the Congo. Got many nice pics of the crater lake and the breathtaking scenery.


    If you don't mind I wish to leave here a package I developed from my hike that our company now offers as one of the many adventure trips we do in Rwanda and Uganda.
    http://www.eastafricantrails.com/2-days-bisoke-crater-lake-hike/

    Thanks Sid

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  11. hoi Siddhartha,
    A wonderful trek! I lived for 3 years in Rwanda (from 1991 till 1994). I climbed several times the Karisimbi volcano (a to days trek), which is 4507 m tall and the highest of the volcano chain, and two times the Bisoke.
    And yes, the guides are'nt that friendly at all. They are just doing it for the money.
    Greetings from Belgium, Hilde

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    Replies
    1. I really wanted to do Karisimbi but it was rainy weather and everyone advised me against it! Ah...maybe I need to revisit Rwanda again :)

      Btw in three years you must have seen so much of the country...I feel jealous :)

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  12. You got a new fan Sid. I have also recently started my journey as a Solo Traveler and all I can say that I am just loving it. If possible, please like my facebook page www.facebook.com/devstravelbag. Cheers.

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