The Virunga conservation area is shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo and this is home to the magnificent Virunga Volcanoes. From the eight of these Virunga Mountains, six are inactive while two are very active and known among the most active volcanoes in the world.
The Virunga mountains are situated in the Northern part of Lake Kivu found in Rwanda’s north border, the stunning volcanic mountains are shared within three east African countries that are Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. The mountains are eight in number.
The name Virunga was derived from a local Kinyarwanda word “Ibirunga” meaning mountains. The most thrilling thing about this volcanic mountains is that its home to the remaining mountain gorillas in the world that can only be found in Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The Virunga volcanoes are also situated along the Albertine rift valley which is part of the great rift valley one of the worlds greatest natural features, The eight volcanoes include; Mount Bisoke, Mount Nyamuragira, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Mikeno.
The Virunga volcanoes offer great opportunities of gorilla trekking, bird watching, golden monkey trekking, wildlife viewing and also an encounter with the people living with this areas most interesting are the pygmies who are also known as the forest people believed to have lived in this forests for over 500,000 years before the area was gazetted into national parks.
List of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes
1 – Mount Muhabura
Mount Muhabura is shared by Uganda and Rwanda, the name is derived from a local word to mean Sentinel. Its one of the steepest to climb. The hike is worth as you can see a crater near to its summit and stunning views of Rwanda twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo. Muhabura stands at an elevation of 4,127 meters above sea level. Mount Muhabura also provides views of the five of the Virunga Volcanoes. Its usually takes tourists only one day to climb and back.
2 – Mount Karisimbi
Mount Karisimbi stands at an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level and it’s the highest of the Virunga Volcanoes. Mount Karisimbi is where the famous primatologist Dian Fossey constructed her institute Karisoke for the study of mountain gorillas. Mount Karasimbi also provides dramatic views of Mount Nyiragongo at its summit. Hiking mount Karisimbi takes two days.
3 – Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most famous of the Virunga Mountains. Its said that it had erupted at least 35 times since 1982 making it one of the worlds most active volcanoes. The last time the mountain erupted in 2002 causing damage and destruction as lava flowed to areas of the nearby town Goma.
4 – Mount Mikeno
Mount Mikeno is situated in Congo at the Virunga national park. It stands as the second highest of the Virunga ranges and the 13th tallest mountain in African continent standing at an elevation of 4,437 meters above sea level. The mountain is also said to date by to the Pleistocene Epoch. Its one of the toughest mountains to climb among the Virunga.
5 – Mount Gahinga
The word Gahinga is derived from a local word to mean “piles of stones”. Mount Gahinga is one of the beauties of the Virunga mountains characterized by bamboo forests and afro-montane forests. The mountain stands at an elevation of 3,474 meters making it the smallest of the Virunga massif. Mount Gahinga is well known for its volcanic caves that can be seen while trekking.
6 – Mount Bisoke / Visoke
Mount Bisoke is shared by Rwanda and Congo standing at an elevation of 3,711 meters above sea level. Mount Bisoke is endowed with a crater at its summit. The mountain is characterized by montane forests and bamboo forests providing breathtaking views.
7 – Mount Sabyinyo
Mount Sabyinyo is serrated at the top looking like a gum of an old man’s teeth therefore the name was derived from a local word “Sabyinyo” to mean “Old mans teeth”. The mountain is shared by Rwanda, Congo and Uganda meaning its summit provides views of three countries. However, Mount Sabyinyo can only be climbed from the Ugandan side as the side of Congo and Rwanda are steep.
8 – Mount Nyamuragira
Mount Nyamuragira is among one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the last eruption took place in November 2011, the mountain stands at an elevation of 3058 meters above sea level. Mount Nyamuragira is said to have erupted 40 times since 1885. Its said that an active lava lake on that summit. This lake appeared for the first time in 50 years.
The best time for hiking the Virunga mountains is in the months of December to February and June to September when the weather is dry and favorable though tourists will still be advised to carry warm clothing, good hiking boots, rain jackets and so much more as weather can sometimes be unpredictable especially at the top.
To explore the Virunga mountains one will need to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
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