The Virunga Mountains cover three countries of Africa that includes the south Western part of Uganda which covers the Mgahinga National park, the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo covering the Virunga National park and the North Western part of Rwanda which covers the Volcanoes National park. The Virunga Mountains are also known as the Virunga Massif offering one of the most unique tourist attraction sites in Africa. Thus it is home to the world’s only mountain Gorillas and Golden monkeys. Many people come to the place to the place to trek the endangered gorilla and golden monkey species and also to view the unique Albertine birds that are found in the National parks surrounding the mountains and it is a good place for all those who love adventure.
The Virunga Mountain has 8 distributed volcanic mountains found in the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These mountains include Mount Nyamuragira, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Mikeno all found in DRC, Mount Bisoke, Mount, Mount Karisimbi located at the border of Rwanda and DRC, Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabinyo, Mount Muhabura at the border of Uganda and Rwanda. All the above mountains are very open to hiking and visitation apart from the Nyamuragira Mountain because it is an active volcano. When you visit the Virunga, you will be guided by a professional tour guide who will take you through the tour on the Virunga Mountains. Tourists should be able to carry necessary equipment and heavy clothes due to the cold temperatures in the Mountains. When you visit these mountains, you get to do a lot of activities like hiking, mountain gorillas trekking, birding and visiting the villages to mingle with the local people know as the Batwa where you will get to know the different cultures that they practice and get yourself some souvenirs which are sold by the locals.
There are two active volcanic mountains which include the Nyiragongo Mountain and Nyamuragira Mountain and they are both found in the Democratic republic of Congo. There are six dormant volcanoes and these include Mount Sabinyo, Mount Mikeno, Mount Karisimbi with the highest peak, Mount Muhabura and Mount Gahinga which are evenly distributed across the three countries. The different Virunga Mountains have been written about in detail below:
Mount Muhabura – Mount Muhabura located at the border of Uganda and Rwanda and is the third highest mountain in Virunga. This volcanic mountain has steep slopes and hiking on it is very hard but you will be able to see the other volcanic mountains found in Virunga, the mountain gorillas which are known to be endangered species, the Bulera and Ruhondo twin lakes and the view of the crater.
Mount Nyiragongo – Mountain Nyiragongo is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is known as one of the most active volcanoes on the African continent. A desired trek to this volcanic volcano is extremely safe even after it erupting in 2002. You can also get to see the lava lake and the best view of the lava lake is during the night.
Mount Karisimbi – Mountain Karisimbi is the highest among the Virunga volcanic mountains. It is high with 4507 meters above sea level and if you are planning on a hike to this mountain, it will take you two days to complete the hike. When you reach the summit of mount Karisimbi, you will be able to view the Nyiragongo Mountain and note that a hike to this mountain should be done during the dry season that is from June to August as you will avoid slippery routes and the temperatures that go to zero degrees during this period and at night. Therefore you are advised to carry heavy clothes to keep warm.
Mount Nyamurangira – Mountain Nyamuragira is the most active volcano on the African continent with many volcanic actions that have been seen taking place on this mountain and in more than 50 years, a lava lake has appeared at the mountain recently.
Mountain Sabinyo covers three counting and that is Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. The name Sabinyo means an old man’s teeth and this was given to the mountain by the locals because it has an indented summit. The mountain has a lot of forests surrounding it and you will be able to see the different Bird species known as the Albertine birds that are found in the area and not anywhere else in Africa and track the endangered mountain gorillas in the volcanoes National park.
Mountain Gahinga – Mount Gahinga is the smallest of the Virunga volcanic mountains and it is filled with volcanic caves. It has vegetation which is swampy in nature and it is also known to be a dormant volcano. If you are into hiking, the hike on Gahinga takes a day only.
Mountain Bisoke – This is another volcanic mountain in the Virunga. It is commonly known because of the Crater Lake which is found at its summit and it is largely covered with differ types of vegetation that is the bamboo forests which make up the largest part of the montane vegetation.
Mount Mikeno – Mountain Miheko is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is known to be a dormant volcano. Mikeno is the second highest mountain in the Virunga standing at 4437meters above the sea level with very steep slopes making it to be the hardest Virunga Mountain to hike. You will be able to see the different Bird species in the area and the endangered gorillas and other wild animals. The Virunga Mountains are surrounded by different National parks and there are various activities that you can carry out when it comes to these parks and these have been listed below:
Mgahinga National park is located in the South Western part of Uganda, Mgahinga is better known for gorilla trekking. the gorilla group that lives in the park is known as the Nyakagezi , you will also be able to view the various birds that are located in the area and the different animal species that are found in the park. The activities that can be carried out in Mgahinga include: gorilla trekking, bird watching, and Batwa Community trail tours.
Virunga National Park – Virunga National park is located in the democratic republic of Congo in the eastern part of the country. The park has more than 300 endemic plants and 3000 animal species some of which include the Gorilla and the golden monkey. The activities that can be carried out in Virunga include; hiking safari, bike riding, Gorilla trekking, birding, and watching the Golden monkeys
Volcanoes National park – Volcanoes national park is a 2 hour’s drive from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda and it has various flora and fauna which provides good scenery to look at. The different activities that can be done in this park include: Birding, gorilla trekking, Mountain climbing thus Bisoke hike, Kirisimbi hike and Muhavura mountain hike
Golden monkeys – You can easily view the golden monkeys on a guided tour and the local tour guides will tell you all you need to know about this primate. The golden monkey is endemic and can only be found in the Virunga region and they are in both the Mgahinga national park in Uganda and volcanoes National park in Rwanda.
The Dian Fossey’s grave – Diana fossey was an American conservationist who advocated for the conservation of the forests so that the mountain gorillas could be saved. The mountain gorillas had been turned into an endangered species due to the constant poaching that was being done by the locals in the area. She settled on the slopes of the Bisoke volcano in 1967 and started studying the way of life for the gorillas and this was done for about 18 years. She brought the mountain gorillas’ attention to the whole world by protecting them from poachers day and night until she was murdered by poachers in cold blood. She was buried in the Virunga and you can trek to her grave to give respect to the lady who risked her life to preserve the life of the gorillas.
The Batwa pygmies – When you visit the Virunga, you will be able to see the Batwa people who are pygmies and are believed to have stayed in the Virunga area for more than 300 years. You will be able to experience the Batwa culture and enjoy their lifestyle and their history. The Virunga Mountains are a sight to see and if you are coming from Uganda, you will be able to see them in the kanaba gap on Kabaale-kisoro road. You can view these beautiful volcanic mountains from any of the three countries and carry out the above mentioned activities especially for those who love adventure.