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the virungasThe Virunga range which derives its name from a local Kinyarwanda word Ibirunga is positioned in the north of Lake Kivu in the east-central Africa stretching for 80km (50 miles) along the Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo boarder and is famously encountered by travellers undertaking safari holidays in Uganda and Rwanda. The Virunga range stretches from east to west direction perpendicular to the rift valley where Lake Kivu and Lake Edward thrive. The Virunga range is a big block that comprises of series of volcanic mountains that number to eight including; the highest Karisimbi (4,507m) shared by Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by Mount Mikeno (4,437m) in Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Muhabura (4,127m) shared by Uganda and Rwanda, Mount Bisoke (3,711m) shared by Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Sabyinyo (3,674m) shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic republic of Congo, Mount Gahinga (3,474m) shared by Uganda and Rwanda, Mount Nyiragongo (3,470m) and Mount Nyamulagira (3,058m) in Democratic Republic of Congo.
The six of these Volcanic Mountains that form the Virunga range are extinct with Sabyinyo and Mikeno being the oldest dating back to the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch about 2,600,000 – 11,700 years ago evidenced by the disappearance of their craters and the jagged peaks that have for long suffered the effects of denudation forces. In fact, Mount Sabyinyo is preferred for Volcano climbing by travellers on safari tours in Uganda due to its series of peaks. Mount Karisimbi, Gahinga, Muhabura and Bisoke appeared towards the end of the Pleistocene epoch approximately 900,000 to 130,000 years ago. Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira emerged about 20,000 years ago at the western end of the Virunga range thus being the last volcanoes to be formed and are still active with extensive craters. For example Nyiragongo has a crater of 1.2km with liquid lava pool which prompted the famous eruptions of 1912, 1938, 1948, the 1970s, and 2002 which destroyed the greater part of Goma city in the Democratic Republic of Congo leaving enormous people homeless.
Interestingly to note about the Virunga Volcanoes is that they are habitats to a range of the world’s endangered species including the critically endangered Mountain gorillas that form the basis for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda and the rare and endangered golden monkeys also famously encountered on golden monkey tracking activity. The Virunga range has been gazetted as a protected area by each country establishing a national park on the side that belongs to her territory. For example, the Ugandan side was gazetted as Mgahinga National Park; the Rwandan side was gazetted as Volcanoes National Park while the Democratic Republic of Congo was gazetted as Virunga Mountains. This has not only ensured the thriving of various species that find a refugee in these mountains but also has ensured the continued existence of these scenic landscapes whose fame has prompted travellers to plan safaris to Uganda and Rwanda.
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