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The 8 Virunga Volcano Mountains

The Virunga mountains, otherwise called “Mufumbiro ranges” is a uniform chain of volcanic mountains in East Africa. The ranges overlap with the Albertine arm of Great East Africa rift and are fairly shared among the D.R Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. They are 8 giant volcanoes, namely Mt. Bisoke, Mt. Nyamuragira, Mt. Sabinyo, Mt. Nyiragongo, Mt. Muhabura, Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Gahinga and Mt. Mikeno. This name came from Kinyarwanda word ‘ibirunga’ which when translated to English means “volcanoes”. It’s the major conservation area for the popular Mountain Gorillas and other elusive primate species.

Mountain Gahinga.

A dormant volcano, standing between Muhabura and Sabyinyo along the Uganda and Rwanda border. Although it stands in-between her sister volcanoes, it’s visibly the smallest amongst all three giants. It attained its name from Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga”, a name which when translated into English refers to a “small pile of stones.” Mountain Gahinga, just like many volcanoes, has a caldera lake on its summit that fascinates numerous visitors to the mountain, due to its swampy nature and size – about 591 feet in width.

Due to the abundance of wildlife and flora here, the mountain is engulfed by a national park on the Uganda side, Mgahinga National Park, a name it attained from this mountain. It’s 11,394 feet above sea level. Gahinga has fertile volcanic soils along its slopes that have been a reason for the growth of mixed vegetation especially bamboo and rainforest vegetation.

It’s within this bamboo vegetation that mountain gorillas that reside on Gahinga’s slopes feed and form nests. Golden monkeys and other smaller wildlife species are also present here. Highland accustomed birds are similarly visible in abundant presence which is an interesting feature for the birders.

Mountain Karisimbi.

It’s still an active volcano, standing at 14,787 feet in elevation which crowns it as the highest standing volcano among the seven other sister volcanoes that make up the Virunga chain of mountains (11th highest elevated mountain in Africa). It’s situated at the D.R Congo and Rwanda border. This mountain is afforded extra features like its location close to the Albertine rift valley, a part of the Great East African rift. While on Karisimbi’s peak, Mount. Nyiragongo can be seen to the West, Mount Mikeno – North, Mountain Bisoke – East, and the far South gives off the stunning views of Albertine rift.

Snow is often seen during the dry season from June to August, and it’s from this that it attained its name from the Kinyarwanda word “amasimbi” which when translated to English, means snow. A combination of its name with Mountain Bisoke’s gave off the name “Karisoke” which later became a name to Karisoke Research Centre that was established by the American primatologist, Dian Fossey (R.I.P). The centre was founded to observe and research about the mountain gorillas that reside on Karisimbi’s slopes.

Mountain Muhabura.

The alternate name is ‘Muhavura’ is at the Uganda-Rwanda border. It’s grouped among the dormant volcanoes of Virunga and its height of 13,540 feet, puts it at the 3’rd spot of the highest volcanoes in Virunga. Just like Karisimbi, it’s on the edge of the Albertine rift. Similar to Gahinga, Mountain Muhabura has a small crater lake on its peak. It’s established that Muhabura last erupted hundreds of years ago, which makes it generally a safe area for tourists and locals who reside around it.

On the Uganda side, there’s Mgahinga National Park engulfing its land, while Volcanoes National Park is on the Rwanda side. This is because of the wildlife and flora on and around the volcano. It was used as a guide for the far distant travellers to enable them find their paths back to their homes, hence the name ‘Muhabura’ which means ‘guide’ in English.

Mountain Sabyinyo.

Like Mountain Muhabura, it’s a dormant /inactive volcano. It’s the closest volcano to Muhabura, and the two mountains are separated by a 20 meters crater. Its name means an ‘old man’s tooth’, a name attributed to its jagged summit that has much likeness to a worn-out tooth. It’s at the epicenter of D.R Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, standing at 12,037 feet ASL.

Mountain Sabyinyo has numerous mountain gorillas that reside on its slopes, and other wildlife especially forest antelopes and elephants. It has numerous crater lakes along its slopes, but highly rugged, a feature that triggers a complicated hike altogether. It’s only on the mountain’s Uganda side that hiking can be done because of the fair terrain.

Mountain Bisoke.

Alternatively known as “Visoke,” it’s one of the dormant volcanoes but still with chances of eruption in the Virunga ranges. It is on the linear border of D.R Congo and Rwanda although it has its protruding summit on the Rwandan side. It’s equally close to Volcanoes National Park. There have been recorded eruptions in recent times with the last one having happened in 1957.

The mountain’s eruption led to a formation of 2 cones on its northern higher slopes. Geologists predict more eruption in the near future, since the most part of this mountain is still potentially active. It’s the home of one of East Africa’s biggest crater lakes and has another smaller crater lake towards its summit. It’s within Volcanoes National Park which is a proud home to Rwanda’s endangered mountain gorillas.

Mountain Nyiragongo.

This is perhaps the most active stratovolcano in the Virunga region. It has a standing height of 11,385 feet above sea level, adjacent to the Virunga National Park in D.R Congo. It’s a few kilometers from both Goma town and Lake Kivu.

The most fascinating feature of Nyiragongo is its crater lake which instead of water, contains molten lava. Mountain Nyamuragira and Mountain Nyiragongo account for 40% of Africa’s recorded historic eruptions in the recent centuries. The volcano is also generally covered by cones all-round its slopes.

Mountain Nyamuragira.

Alternatively known as “Nyamulagira,” this volcano is still active and it fully stands in D.R Congo. It’s about 16 miles off Lake Kivu which can be clearly viewed while standing on top of the mountain. It’s often referred to as the most active volcano on the continent and it has a record 40 times eruption since the late 1800’s.

Its name means “to herd animals” derived from “kuragira nyamu,” a verb from the widely spoken ethnic language, “Bantu.” Nyamuragira peacefully lies in D.R Congo’s Nord-Kivu province.

Mountain Mikeno.

This extinct volcano is situated in D.R Congo in the forested part of Virunga national park. It stands at a height of 14,557 feet and follows Mountain Karisimbi as the 2’nd highest volcano in the Virunga (13’th in Africa). Mikeno volcano is fully circled by Virunga National Park and is a center residence of endangered mountain gorillas.

The mountain’s name means “poor,” a name that came as a consequence of its harsh slopes. It’s D.R Congo’s home of the yellow-crested helmetshrike Prionops alberti.

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