VIRUNGA CONSERVATION AREA.
The Virunga Conservation Area is one of the popular tourism circuits in East Africa. The area covers an area with three countries which includes Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. This is also referred to as the Virunga massif which includes a chain of 8 massive volcanoes. Out of these 8 volcanoes, two of them are active i.e., Mount. Nyamuragira and Mount Nyiragongo both located in eastern D.R. Congo. The Virunga Mountains are located in between two lakes – Lake Edward and Lake Kivu which is along the Western branch of the Great East African Rift. Mountains derive the name “Virunga” from a Kinyarwanda word “Ibirunga” which is translated to mean Volcanoes.
Virunga Conservation Area is home to different wildlife which makes it a popular tourism destination however it’s more famous for being habitat to one of the world’s most endangered apes the mountain gorillas. Other wildlife include; leopards, giant forest genets, duikers, bush pigs, white and black Colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, antelopes, forest elephants and so many others.
The earliest known inhabitants of Virunga Conservation Area are the indigenous Batwa commonly known as the pygmies. They adapted to living within the forests and depended on the forests for their livelihood inclusive of shelter, medicine and food. Visiting these people is a whole new experience you shouldn’t miss out.
The Virunga Conservation Area covers national parks to a number of four and these are in the three different countries i.e., the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, the Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park and Mount Rwenzori National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the four national parks, gorilla trekking is available in three of them with Virunga National Park available for Gorilla trekking in D.R. Congo, Mgahinga National Park for Gorilla trekking in Uganda and then Volcanoes National Park for Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Much as gorilla trekking is available in these national parks, the price for gorilla trekking permit is different depending on each country.
The 8 mountains within Virunga Conservation Area include:
- Mount Sabyinyo
- Mount Nyamuragira
- Mount Bisoke
- Mount Nyiragongo
- Mount Gahinga
- Mount Mikeno
- Mount Karisimbi
- Mount Muhabura
This is an extinct volcano which stands at an elevation of 11,959 feet high making it the second tallest amongst the triplet volcanoes inclusive of Mount. Gahinga and Mount. Muhabura. Mount Sabyinyo is located at a point where the three counties of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo meet. Sabyinyo is one of the hardest to hike but providing an enormous and adventurous hiking experience to visitors. This volcano derives its name from its appearance of with an irregular shape and rugged slopes that are said to resemble the shape of “an old man’s teeth” which is the meaning of the word “Sabyinyo”.
Nyamuragira is located in about 25 kilometers north of Lake Kivu in D.R. Congo which is close to Goma and Virunga National Park. This is one of the two active volcanoes within the Virunga Conservation Area and one of the most active volcanoes in Africa. The mountain has an elevation 3,058 meters above sea level with a caldera on its summit which is 2 kilometers wide and walls that are 100 meters high with a lava lake.
The last eruption at the mountain occurred in 2011 having at least 40 recorded eruptions ever since 1885 with the last eruption believe to be the largest eruption in 100 years. It’s advisable to visit the mountain in the dry season as the paths are not muddy. The Volcano derives its name Nyamurangire from a local dialect “Kuragira Ngavu” which is translated to mean “head of cows”
The volcano derives its name from a Swahili word “Bisoke” which means “soaked with water.” In D.R. Congo the Mountain is known as Visoke. It’s elevated on 3,711 meters above sea level along the Rwanda D.R. Congo border as it borders with the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and then the Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo which are all famous for gorilla trekking.
It has a beautiful crater lake at its summit with a diameter of 400 meters. The mountain also has another crater lake on its slopes which is known as Lake Ngezi having been formed in 1957 after an eruption and 11km away from the mountain summit.
The mountain has a height approximately to 3,470m above sea level with crater on its top that is 2 kilometers wide. Other than Mount. Nyamuragira, Nyiragongo is the other active volcano within the Virunga Conservation Area having had its last eruption in 2002. It has a lava lake in its crater with lava that flows at 97 kilometers per hour.
The mountain is believed to have erupted 32 recorded times from 1982 and contains the most fluid in the world. The volcano is located in D.R. Congo within Africa’s oldest national park which is Virunga National Park.
It’s elevated at 3,474 meters above sea level having a swampy caldera approximately 180 meters wide at its summit. The mountain is perhaps the easiest mountain to hike among other mountains in the Virunga Ranges.
Gahinga is located between Mount. Sabyinyo and Mount. Muhabura, in the southern part of Mgahinga National Park. Mount. Gahinga is a dead volcano and has a crater at its top. There are craters on its slopes that are as a result of lava formed years ago with the most famous being the Garama Cave which is located near the park headquarters at Ntebeko.
The mountain derives its name from a local word that is translated to mean “poor” as the mountain’s slopes are so rugged and have a harsh terrain that cannot enable human settlement. It’s located in D.R. Congo in the Western part of Virunga Conservation Area, north of Kivu Province.
This is a dormant volcano which has an elevation of 4,437 meters above the sea level which makes it the 13th highest mountain in Africa and the 2nd highest within the Virunga ranges after Mount Karisimbi.
This is the highest mountain within the Virunga Ranges and the 11th tallest mountain in Africa as it is at an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level. The mountain is located in the North Western Rwanda with its slopes covered with lush vegetation inclusive of tropical rainforests making it a prime home for mountain gorillas.
It’s the 3rd highest within the Virunga Ranges standing at an elevation of 4,127 meters above sea level. Bordering Uganda and Rwanda alongside Gahinga and Sabyinyo volcanoes, Muhabura has smoky slopes creating an adventurous scenic view like no other. It’s good for hiking providing an adventurous experience like no other.