Famous Virunga Mountains
Famous Virunga Mountains: You have probably been hearing about the Virunga mountains and wondering why they are widely known and referred to. The Virunga Mountains are a chain of 8 volcanic mountains shared by 3 East African countries that is Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. These volcanic mountains are lined up along the Albertine Rift. The Albertine Rift is the western arm of the East African rift valley. This put all the 8 volcanic mountains in between the Lake Edward and Lake Kivu.
The 8 Virunga mountains are Mount Karisimbi, Mount Mikeno, Mount Muhabura, Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamulagira. The majority of these volcanic mountains are dormant. The only active volcanic mountain is the mount Nyiragongo.
What makes each of these Virunga mountains stand out?
Mount Karisimbi as one of the Virunga Mountains has the highest peak of all the ranges at an elevation of 4,507 meters. Mount Karisimbi is shared by both Rwanda and Congo as it lies on the border line of the two countries and can be hiked from both countries but is most famously hiked on the Rwanda side.
One outstanding fact about Mount Karisimbi is being the highest of the Virunga mountains making it Africa’s 11th highest mountain. The peak of Mount Karisimbi is usually covered by snow in the months of June, July and August thus its name Karisimbi from amasimbi which means snow in the local Rwandan language; Kinyarwanda. Mount karisimbi is currently a dormant volcano.
Mount Mikeno is another of the Virunga mountains and is the second highest after mount Karisimbi at an elevation of 4,437 meters. Mount Mikeno is fully in the Democratic republic of Congo and can be viewed from many points in the Virunga national park. Mount Mikeno was named after its harsh slopes and the little to no human habitation. Mikeno means poor and the region was considered poor. While at the Bukima ranger post where you are briefed before your gorilla trekking in Virunga, you get to view the Mikeno mountain at a close range. Mount Mikeno’s outstanding point is the mountain gorillas staying at the slopes.
Hiking Mount Mikeno is not a developed tourism activity but if you are interested it can be arranged.
Mount Muhabura is one other Virunga mountain that is third highest range of the famous Virunga mountains standing at an elevation of 4,127 meters. Mount Muhabura lies in both Uganda and Rwanda and can be hiked from both sides. A permit to hike Mount Muhabura goes for 75 USD per person. Mount Muhabura derived its name from the local language of the natives meaning guide. It can be seen from many points of Kisoro district in Uganda but is an extint volcano with a crater at the top. It lies partly in Mgahinga forest national park famously known for its mountain gorilla habitation.
Mount Bisoke is also one of the famous Virunga mountains and stands at an elevation of 3,711 meters and is a dormant volcano that lies in between Rwanda and the Democratic republic of Congo. Hikes up Mount Bisoke are done from the Rwanda side where the summit is in Rwanda and a permit goes for 75 USD. The only recorded eruptions of Bisoke where in 1891 and another in 1957.
Mount Bisoke has steep slopes but manageable and is one of the most hiked mountains and is considered as one of the mountains that are a home to the endangered mountain gorillas and is also where the research center of Dian Fossey was set up and can be visited. Mount Bisoke has two crater lakes at the top that you get to visit at the end of the hike with one of those crater lakes being the largest on the range. Mount Bisoke is entirely managed by the Rwanda Development board that runs Volcanoes national park on the Rwanda side.
Mount Sabyinyo is one of the forgotten volcanoes and is another extinct volcano among the Virunga mountains. It derived the sabyinyo name from the shape of the peak that looked like teeth and in the local language of the Rwandan people, teeth are Iryinyo. The summit’s serrated appearance won its self the nickname of the “Old Man’s teeth” thus the name. This is the oldest of all the mountains standing at an elevation of 3,669 meters. The mountain gorillas also stay on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo.
Mount Gahinga is a dormant volcano on the Virunga ranges standing at an elevation of 3,473 meters and lies in between Uganda and Rwanda. The mountain gorilla park, Mgahinga forest national park derived its name from this mountain and is one of the four national parks that you can visit the mountain gorillas.
Mount Gahinga is one of the smallest of all the mountains and can be hiked from Uganda. Its appearance like a pile of stones is where it derived its name Gahinga meaning stones in Kinyarwanda/ Rufumbira. A permit up Mount Gahinga goes for 75 USD and can be hiked from both Rwanda and Congo. Mount Gahinga has a swampy caldera at the top that is said to be 180 meters wide.
Mount Nyamulagira is one of the volcanoes of the Democratic Republic of Congo standing at an elevation of 3,058 meters and is an active shield volcano and one of the active volcanoes of the Virunga mountain ranges. Mount Nyamulagira has had a number of eruptions in the past with a few recent scares of earthquakes and is said to be Africa’s most active volcano making it impossible to hike.
Mount Nyamulagira has erupted over 40 times since 1885 with the most recent eruptions being on 2nd January 2010 and 8th November 2011. Mount Nyamulagira is located near Goma city just 25 kilometers from lake Kivu.
Mount Nyiragongo is another active one of the Famous Virunga mountains. Mount Nyiragongo is fully located in the Democratic republic of Congo and is under the management of Virunga national park and can be hiked with an overnight stay at the summit. It is an active stratovolcano standing at an elevation of 3,470 meters.
Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamulagira together are said to be responsible for 40% of the eruptions that have happened in Africa. Mount Nyiragongo has a crater that is about 1 kilometer wide open with a lava lake which can be seen boiling on your visit to Mount Nyiragongo. Book your 2 day hike up mount Nyiragongo or add it on your mountain gorilla trekking experience.