The Virunga Mountains are also referred to as the Mufumbiro Mountains/Virunga Massif; is made up of 8 volcanoes found in three countries; Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. The word “Virunga” comes from the word “Ibirunga” which means “Mountains”. The 8 volcanoes include; Mount Gahinga, Mount Nyamurangira, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Mikeno, Mount Sabinyo, Mount Muhabura, Mount Bisoke and Mountain Karisimbi which is the highest among them.
The Virunga mountains/massif is made up of several of Africa’s finest and unique wildlife attractions such as the remaining population of mountain gorillas left in the world lives in the gazetted national parks found in these mountains such as Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, Virunga National Park of DR Congo and Mgahinga National Park of Uganda. Most of these volcanoes are dormant; 3 of them are active and among the 8, 5 of them are found in Volcanoes National Park.
The fact that these volcanoes have lots of attractions; a number of activities can be enjoyed such as mountain climbing/hiking, gorilla tracking, birding, visiting the Batwa communities which are on the mountain slopes, nature/forest walks, golden monkey tracking among other activities. Basically, all these volcanoes no matter their location, they are open for the tourists into volcano climbing; truth is all they will have are unforgettable and remarkable experiences. Each volcano is explained below;
This is Virunga Massif’s highest volcano standing at 4,507m above sea level. There is no special skill required to hike this mountain though of course people with good physical and health conditions are the ones advised. The best time for hiking is during in months June and August which is the dry season and it takes you only 2 days to get to its top, on the first day you sleep over at a camp.
At its peak you can clearly view another volcano; Mount Nyiragongo. Be advised to carry enough warm clothes because since it tends to be too cold in the mornings and evening.
This is a dormant volcano and second highest after Karisimbi, located in the remote area of DRC. Standing at 4,437m above sea level; it is regarded as one of the toughest volcano to hike in the Virunga due to its steep and forested slopes. It is where some of the endangered mountain gorillas and a few wildlife species stay. One to hike need to have good health and physically fit.
A hike to this volcano gives you a remarkable experience as when you get at the top all you get are great views of twin lakes; Ruhondo and Bulera. It is at the border of Rwanda and Uganda offering amazing attractions such as the unique vegetation, the crater and also the mountain gorillas which can be spotted while on the hike; this mountain is also steep and hectic to climb hence requires a full day to hike.
Hiking this mountain starts very early in the morning from the park headquarters. It is famously known for its crater lake at its top, hiking it is a unique experience as you get to see various vegetation types such as the montane forests, bamboo and also bushes along the volcano.
Found in three countries; it lies along the border of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. The name “Sabinyo” is local word meaning “Old man’s teeth” and this was so because the locals said its summit just looked like an old man’s teeth. On this forested mountain you can easily track gorillas in the Sabinyo gorilla group. Also an array of Albertine birds live here and some are unique to this area alone.
This is the smallest volcano in the Virungas and also a volcano one should hike because the hike takes one day and in this your eyes are fed with spectacular views of the beautiful vegetation. Also there is an added experience of you visiting the caves on this volcano, it’s a dormant volcano and its crater is filled with swampy vegetation.
It lies in DR Congo and one of Africa’s active volcanoes with its last eruption in 2002. Among the Virungas it is one of those that are popularly hiked, hiking to its summit is safe, secure and adventurous and gives you an opportunity to hear the exploding volcanic gasses and watch the lava lake.
Those interested in hiking start from Kibati patrol post in the morning and how long the trek takes depends entirely on the physical condition and speed of the trekkers. So those that are fast can ascend and descend the volcano in one day, but the lava lake can be best watched during the night, the view is so great.
This is Africa’s most active volcano and over time there have been a number of different volcanic actions and recently for the first time a Lava Lake appeared. This same lava lake is said to have disappeared by 2016 by a group of researchers. Mount Nyamuragira is also located in DR Congo just neat Mount Nyiragongo.
In conclusion; all the eight volcanoes can be visited by tourists. On each volcano there are porters who can help you carry your luggage to the volcano summits and downhill. As you trek you are guided by experienced, skilled and well-trained ranger guides whom you can ask anything concerning the volcano and also about various wildlife species you find during your trek.
It is advisable to hike all the volcanoes during the dry season because when it rains the trails are so slippery and inaccessible, also carry lighter things during the hike. Also you will need raincoats, sweaters, long sleeved trousers, sturdy hiking shoes, enough drinking water among other few thing you might need on this trek.