The Virunga Mountains are a range of volcanic mountains spread along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda extending about 50 miles or 80km. The part of the great rift valley is among the world’s largest natural features. Virunga a derived from its original “ibirunga” which is in Kinyarwanda meaning mountains. The ranges constitute over 8 major ranges located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu. The 8 major ranges include Mountain Karismbi 4507 meters, Mountain Mikeno 4437 metres, Mountain Muhabura 4127 meters, Mountain Bisoke 3711 metres, Mountain Sabyinyo 3611 meters, Mountain Gahinga 3470 meters, Mountain Nyirangongo 3470 meters, and Mountain Nyamurangira 3058 metres. All the ranges are surrounded by bamboo forest cover. The Virunga are the other only place one can glimpse at the near to extinction Mountain Gorillas in the entire world, the other only place being Bwindi impenetrable in Uganda. Unlike most of the usual Mountains, the volcanoes among the Virunga Ranges are coned-shaped. The beautiful range of volcanoes comprises of eight major volcanoes most of them dormant except for Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. The biodiversity at Virunga is the greatest among all places in Africa and no wonder it was gazetted as a national park.

The Nyamuragira volcano is an active volcano at an estimated height of 3063m above sea level approximately 13km West of mount nyiragongo. As a result of its several eruptions and active volcanic activity, this is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and many other smaller volcanoes are emerging due to the activity of Nyamuragira.

The highest point of these series of giant volcanoes is Mount Karisimbi standing at 4507 m above sea-level. Karisimbi is named after a Rwandan word (amasimbi)meaning snow. This snow is found at the peak especially during the dry seasons as people trek up the mountain. Along with this are other peaks including Sabyinyo at 3669m, Gahinga at 3473m to mention but a few.

Virunga Mountains
Mount Karisimbi Hiking in Rwanda

However the pick of the bunch is the infamous Mount Nyiragongo which is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. This active stratovolcano standing at 3470m has erupted several times with the last eruption in 2021 causing global headlines. This mountain has a crater rabbit 2 kilometers in diameter which forms a lava lake during the rainy season

It is located within the pristine Virunga national park a home to one of nature’s most endangered species “the mountain gorilla”. The Karisoke research center founded for the purpose of  observing these gorillas in their natural habitat located between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. The peak itself is about 12km North of the town of Goma and lake Kivu just west of the border with Rwanda.

Mount Bisoke which is in the middle of two game parks, Volcanoes national park of Rwanda and Virunga national park of DRC. It is a dormant volcano and its rich soils are densely covered by equatorial rainforest which as mentioned above is home to the endangered Mountain Gorilla.

The mountains are part of the volcanic range of Albertine Rift mountains. The range runs from East to West between Lake Kivimu and lake Edward. The southern sector of Congo’s Virunga National Park includes those portions of the mountains that are within Congo; the southern flanks of the central and eastern mountains comprise Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda; and Gorilla National Park includes the Ugandan slopes of Mgahinga. Conservation protects the mountains’ alpine vegetation, as well as wildlife that includes the golden monkey and the mountain gorilla.

Movement to and from the mountain peaks can be by road and with residence at top hotels to accommodate tourists visiting these prestigious mountains.

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