Besides the renowned Gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda that most tourists who visit the country are conversant with, more is yet to be discovered about this unique, adventurous and refreshing mount Karisimbi hike. Come have the enthralling opportunity to unleash your jollity in this activity and be among the few lucky people to have participated in this riveting hike. Mount Karisimbi is a dormant composite/stratovolcano located in Volcanoes National Park astride the Border of Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, standing at an attitude of 4507m (14,787feet) above sea level. This makes it the highest and most enormous of all the eight (8) volcanoes in the Virunga Mountain complex and the 6th highest mountain in the whole of Africa after Ras Dashen of Ethiopia (which is the 5th in Africa and stands at 4,533 meters above sea level).
The name Karisimbi originated from the word “Amasimbi” which is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “White Shell”. This is because of its White-capped summit especially sighted in the months of June to August and December to March. Surprisingly, the cap is not because of snow but sleet and hails that accumulate from the recurrent storms.
Another fascinating thing about this mountain is that it is comprised of a spectacular pit crater located South of the summit called “Muntango”, more than 100 cones that extend to the shores of Lake Kivu and a 2km wide caldera named “Branca” which contains numerous explosion breccias, pumice and tuff. All these add up to the attractiveness of the Volcano. This Mountain is bordered by Mikeno in the North, Nyiragongo and Bisoke in the West and East respectively. January to March and July to October are considered the best times to participate in this hike because they are the dry seasons. However due to the unpredictability of the weather, possibility of it raining or not cannot be 100% guaranteed and certain.
How the Mount Karisimbi hike is done
Due to its height, hiking this mountain is quite grueling (exhausting) hence it is a two day hike to and from the summit and requires for the hiker to be in a good physical condition (being physically fit). It is adventurous regardless of it being strenuous because of the wonderful scenic views of the surrounding volcanoes that your eyes will be fed with, the interesting sounds of the singing birds, primates including the marvelous Giant Apes and golden monkeys, the superlative exotic plants and the barren volcanic cores that you will view at the peak.
The hike on day one starts in the morning at 7:00am by reporting to Kinigi Park Headquarters for pre-hiking briefing. After which you will be driven for 30-45 minutes to the trailhead (starting point) which is about 16 km from the park offices. The climb starts here at an area of about 2600m above sea level. In rainy seasons, the trails are usually muddy and slippery. The magnificent ascent is for 6 to 7 hours as you go through different vegetation zones including the bamboo, wild celery, Hagenia forest, giant groundsel, and Giant lobelia. Interesting attractions including the Dian Fossey Tomb (but visiting it will necessitate paying an additional fee) also exist. Camping for an overnight takes place at an area of 3700m before proceeding the next day. You will be required to set your tent, prepare meals and have ample rest to relax your jaded body and prepare for the second phase of your pleasure, as you finish the remaining journey up the summit of the mountain.
On the second day, you wake up at 6:00am for breakfast then proceed up to the summit (through the remaining 807 meters to the summit) which is about one hour to 2 hours away. Going up becomes steeper and more challenging as the hike proceeds, at 4000m you feel the effect of higher altitudes and it is advisable to go slowly to avoid panting. Nonetheless, once you reach the summit of this mountain, the invigorating feeling of reaching the top makes you forget the challenges you faced reaching there.
Once you see a Radio/TV antenna, know you have reached the peak. While at the summit, you can relax, take photographs, and enjoy the cool breeze and the sensational views of various volcanoes including Nyamulagira, Muhabura and Nyiragongo. The descent is quite easier than its ascent though it takes about 6 hours. You will descend up to the camp which is at 3700m.After which you will proceed to the starting point.
Requirements for Mount Karisimbi Hike
When you are planning to hike, do not forget the following; First and foremost you will need a hiking permit which can be acquired from the Park Headquarters at least two days prior to the actual activity. The permit is priced at $ 400 and this cost includes the guide (without porters).
Have a rain proof hiking boots and walking stick which will support you especially during raining seasons when the surfaces are muddy and slippery.
Carry with you a tent that will be used during camping since the hike is for two days and hence you will need to camp on your way up the summit. If you don’t have the tent, you can hire from the park office at $10.
Hiking this mountain is strenuous; you will require to hire a porter to help carry your luggage, hiking equipment and watch out for you. The porters can be hired at $20 to $30 depending on the size of your luggage.
Have sweaters and rain proof jackets to protect you from the unpredictable rains and the cold weather that you will experience as you ascend the mountain. Hand gloves and hats are also required to provide you with warmth.
Carry food that you will need to prepare during your overnight camping. Also you will need to be of good health and with a good stamina to be able to endure the slippery and muddy trails as you climb and descend the mountain.
Due to the coldness you are likely to experience in the night, you will need a sleeping bag for your outdoor sleep (camping) and some warm clothes preferably heavy for covering yourself because the coldness becomes unbearable at night.
In conclusion, the mount Karisimbi hike is an important tourist activity around Volcanoes National Park. Regardless of it being strenuous, it is adventurous because you will transverse areas of different vegetation zones and can come across the wonderful mountain gorillas, the golden monkeys, interesting bird species, the Dian Fossey grave on top of the refreshing feeling you get after participating in the activity.