Geoparks Africa
World Heritage Sites

Feel like playing with Fire? Take a hike to Virunga Mountains

Anybody who ventures into the Virunga Chain of Mountains found in the Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to be playing with fire.

This is because the Virunga Mountains happen to be an explosive chain of eight active volcanoes found in the East-Central African region along the borderline onto which Rwanda, Uganda🇺, and DR Congo meet.

But the peaks are also perched within thick forested landscapes that bring Michael Crichton’s novel (and later film) ‘Congo,’ to life, complete with its beasts.

The Virunga Mountains are also known as Mufumbiro, a word in Lingala meaning ‘Volacano,’ or maybe Eruption.

Virunga is the mountain range that forms the branch of the Albertine Rift Mountains.

Albertine borders the western branch of the East African Rift.

They are located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu.

The name ‘Virunga,’ is an English phonetic version of the Kinyarwanda word Ibirunga, which means “volcanoes”.

The ranges extend for about 80 kilometers North of Lake Kivu perpendicular to the East African Rift Valley.

The eight peaks of Virunga are listed from highest to lowest starting with Mount Karisimbi which towers at 4,507 meters above sea level, followed by Mount Mikeno rising to 4,437 meters and Mount Muhabura which peaks at 4,127 meters.

 The fourth highest peak is Mount Bisoke which towers some 3,711 meters above sea level followed by Mount Sabinyo elevating to 3,674 meters, then Mount Gahinga standing at 3,474 meters; Mount Nyiragongo reaching 3,470 meters and the eighth peak of Mount Nyamuragira which reaches around 3,058 meters.

Most of the peaks happen to be dormant volcanoes except Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira that are both mapped on the Democratic Republic of Congo side.

Recent eruptions from the mountains occurred in 2006, 2010 and May 2021.

The oldest mountain in the Virunga range is Mount Sabyinyo.

The Endangered Mountain Gorilla species are endemic to the Virunga Mountains ecosystem.

Congo’s Mountain Gorillas are included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species due to among other reasons, poaching (for meat) loss of their habitat, emerging diseases, and war.