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Exploring the Virunga Conservation Area – Uganda, Rwanda, & DR Congo

The Virunga Conservation Area is where the Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes, is located. This area is shared by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda.

It consists of eight volcanoes, with Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira being active.

The name Virunga is derived from a local word, “Ibirunga,” meaning Volcanoes.

The Virunga Mountains are situated between Lake Kivu and Lake Edward along the western branch of the great East African rift valley.

The slopes of the Virunga volcanoes are home to some of the last remaining mountain gorillas.

The Virunga Conservation Area is not only home to mountain gorillas but also to other wildlife, such as forest elephants, leopards, bushbucks, giant forest genets, bush pigs, duikers, antelopes, and various other primate species like golden monkeys, black and white Columbus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, De Brazza monkeys, and bush babies, among others.

The indigenous Batwa, also known as pygmies, were the earliest inhabitants of the Virunga Conservation Area.

These hunter-gatherers adapted to living in the ancient forests and depended on them for shelter, food, and medicine.

Visiting the forest people while in the area is a great experience.

The Virunga Conservation Area is also home to four national parks: Mount Rwenzori National Park and Virunga National Park in Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

You can trek gorillas in three of these parks.

Congo safaris take place in Virunga, Volcanoes is home to Rwanda gorilla trekking tours, and Mgahinga is one of the places where Uganda gorilla trekking safaris take place.

Please note that the price for gorilla permits in each of these countries is different.

List of Mountains in the Virunga Conservation Area

Below are the eight Virunga Volcano Mountains spread across three countries.

1. Mount Nyamuragira

Your Guide to Climbing Mount Nyamuragira - Costs and Permit Details

Mount Nyamuragira is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, located in Congo, similar to Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

The volcano stands at an elevation of 3,058 meters above sea level, with a massive 2-kilometer-wide and 100-meter-high caldera at the summit.

The mountain has erupted at least 40 times since 1885, and the last eruption occurred in 2011.

2. Mount Sabyinyo

Mount Sabyinyo

Mount Sabyinyo is believed to be the oldest of the Virunga Volcanoes. It is located at the border of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo.

The name Sabyinyo is derived from a local word meaning “worn out teeth.”

The peak of this mountain indeed resembles worn-out teeth.

The mountain offers an opportunity to stand in three countries at one point but can only be climbed from the Ugandan side due to its rugged nature on the Rwanda and Congo side.

The hikes commence from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

3. Mount Bisoke

Mount Bisoke Trekking Guide - Costs, Permits, and Essentials

Mount Bisoke is located at the border of Rwanda and Congo and stands at an elevation of 3,711 meters above sea level.

The summit of the mountain lies in Rwanda with a beautiful crater lake.

The mountain also has another crater lake, Lake Ngezi, which is 11 kilometers away from the summit crater.

The name Bisoke is derived from a local word meaning “soaked with water” because the mountain top is always filled with fog.

4. Mount Gahinga

Explore Mount Gahinga in Uganda - Hiking Guide and Lodging Info

Mount Gahinga is found between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Muhabura, right at the border of Uganda and Rwanda.

The name Gahinga is derived from a local word meaning “pile of stones.”

The mountain got this name because of the small piles of stones from the farmlands.

The mountain stands at an elevation of 3,474 meters above sea level with a beautiful swampy caldera at the top.

5. Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo Hiking Guide - Costs, Permits, and Insights

Mount Nyiragongo, alongside Mount Nyamuragira, is one of the active volcanoes in the Virunga ranges.

Mount Nyiragongo stands at 3,470 meters above sea level and is renowned for its devastating eruptions.

Its lava lake flows at 97 kilometers per hour. The last eruption occurred in 2002, and lava flowed into parts of Goma town and Lake Kivu.

It destroyed a lot of properties within Goma.

The eruption lasted for a whole day.

6. Mount Mikeno

Scaling Mount Mikeno

Mount Mikeno is the second highest of the Virunga massif, standing at an elevation of 4,437 meters above sea level.

This mountain is located in Congo near the Rwandan border.

The name Mikeno was derived from a local word meaning “poor.”

Mount Mikeno got its name because of the harsh slopes on the mountain that make human settlement difficult.

Mount Mikeno is the steepest of all the Virunga Volcanoes.

Climbing it requires experienced and technical hikers.

7. Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi is the highest of the Virunga Volcanoes, standing at an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level.

The name is derived from a local word meaning “white shell” because of its snow-capped summit.

The lavas of Mount Karasimbi date back to 0.24 ma to 0.010 ma, indicating that the Volcano is very young.

Hiking Karisimbi requires 2 days.

The hike begins from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

8. Mount Muhabura

Climbing Mount Muhabura

Mount Muhabura, also referred to as Mount Muhavura, is found at the border of Rwanda and Uganda.

The mountain is the third highest of the Virunga volcanoes, with an elevation of 4,127 meters above sea level.

It can be seen from many parts of Uganda and Rwanda because of its slopes.

The mountain derives its name from a local word meaning “guide” because of the historical use of the mountain to aid navigation.

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