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Volcano Mountains

The Virunga Mountains In Volcanoes National Park

The Virunga Mountains also popularly known as the Virunga Volcanoes range are a chain of eight volcanoes created by violent eruptions in the Albertine Rift region. These ranges consist of eight major volcanoes in Uganda, Congo with five of them located in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

The name “Virunga” is an English version of the Kinyarwanda word “ibirunga”, which means “volcanoes”.  Most of these mountains derived their names from the geographical characteristic of their appearance, they include;

  1. Mount Karisimbi (4507m)

Mount Karisimbi derived its name from the word ‘amasimbi’ in Kinyarwanda which means “white shell”, referring to the white-capped summit of this volcano.

The mountain stands at 4507meters (14,787 feet) above sea level and it is the highest point in Rwanda, the highest of the eight Virunga Mountains, and the 6th highest point in Africa.

A hike to Karisimbi summit is not an extraordinary one, but also affords sights of several bird varieties and primates including monkeys and gorillas.

It is also known for its exotic plants in its four belts of vegetation, from the dense forest at its base to the barren volcanic core at the summit.

  1. Mount Muhabura (4,127m)

Muhabura means “The Guide” in Kinyarwanda local language. Mount Muhabura was historically used to aid navigation since the mountain can be seen from many parts of Rwanda and also in Uganda because of its high slopes.

At 4,127 meters (13,540 feet) Muhabura is the 3rd highest of the Virunga massifs. It is an extinct volcano and a hike to its top offers breathtaking views of the twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo.

Other major Rwanda tourist attractions on the volcano include the crater, which is near the summit with its unique vegetation cover as well as the endangered mountain gorillas that can be even bumped into while on the Volcano trek.

  1. Mount Bisoke (3,711m)

Bisoke is a Swahili word which means ‘soaked with water’ because of a large crater lake on the summit of this mountain. Mount Bisoke is a dormant volcano and it last erupted in 1957. Its peak rises to 3,711 meters (12175 feet) above sea level.

The mountain features different types of montane vegetation at different levels varying from bamboo forests, to Hypercom forests. Aside from visitors to the parks searching for gorillas or other wildlife, the peak is popular with mountaineers.

It can be climbed in a day from the Rwandan side, and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) leads two-day excursions to it. The climb is considered steep but walkable.

  1. Mount Sabyinyo (3,669m)

Sabinyo volcano has its name derived from a local term ‘Iryinyo’ which means “old man’s teeth” in reference to the mountain’s unique summit with peaks which look like an old man’s spaced teeth.

The summit of mount Sabinyo at 3,669 meters (12,037 feet), marks the intersection of the borders of the Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

It harbours the endangered mountain gorillas including the Sabyinyo gorilla family, which is one of easiest gorilla groups to trek in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.

The mountain is also home to several Albertine Rift endemic bird species such as the Rwenzori turacos and the handsome francolins.

  1. Mount Gahinga (3,474m)

Gahinga means a small pile of stones in the Kinyarwanda. At 3,474 meters (11398 feet) above sea level, this volcano also features a swampy caldera on its peak which is believed to about 180m wide.

It has afro-montane bamboo vegetation that hosts several mountain gorilla groups, golden monkeys, and a variety of bird species.

Its great place for hikers and offers great scenic views and has volcanic caves that can be explored by travellers on Rwanda hiking safaris in Volcanoes National Park.

The Twin Lakes Of Burera And Ruhondo, Volcanoes National Park

Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo are the two most beautiful lakes you will see while on the safari in Rwanda. The lakes share a combined surface area of 28 square kilometres. Because of their location in the same area and their physical connection, these lakes are called twins.

They are the examples of lava dammed lakes in Africa, formed as a result of magma that erupted from the volcanoes block the flow of River Nyabarongo which was flowing towards the northern part of Rwanda.

They are cantered in the suburbs of Volcanoes National Park at Ruhengeri, just on the foothills of Mountain Sabyinyo, Muhabura, Bisoke and Gahinga.

The Twin Lakes are surrounded by beautiful woodland and only separated by 1 km wide strip of land; the experience of seeing these lakes is worth telling stories.

Their waters look green due to the green vegetation that encloses them.  The lakes and the surrounding wetlands are inhabited by a wide variety of colourful water birds including;

  • Baglafecht Weaver,
  • Great White Pelican,
  • Yellow-billed Stork,
  • Yellow-backed (Black-headed) Weavers,
  • Grosbeak Weaver,
  • Common Moorhens,
  • Pied Kingfisher,
  • Grey Heron,
  • African Spoonbill and many more.

Interestingly, the two lakes also have islands which can be visited by a boat.  The island is inhabited by locale people with unique cultural practices and norms which increase the traveller’s understanding of Rwanda. They are great spots to be visited after your Rwanda gorilla tour in Volcanoes National Park.

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