Guide to Volcano Hiking in the Virunga Massif

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The Virunga Massif includes; mount Karisismbi, Mikeno, isoke, mount Nyiragongo as well as Gahinga mount. This Virunga Massif is famously known as the Virunga Volcanoes range or the Virunga conservation area that is comprised of many of some of Africa’s unique and finest wildlife attractions. This region ranges from northwestern Rwanda that covers volcanoes National park, in southwestern Uganda covering Mgahinga gorilla National Park and eastern Congo covering part of Virunga National Park. The region though is known for the endangered mountain gorilla tours that take place in the forested mountains of three above mentioned national parks as well as golden monkey tracking.

There are many other outstanding authentic experiences those nature lovers and the adventurous tourists that can enjoy while on an African safari in the Virunga. These also range from forest walks, volcano hiking, and birding among others. There is always more on exploring about hiking the many volcanoes in the region since its one of the less known but very interesting activity.

The Virunga massif has 8 volcanoes that are distributed in three countries. These also include; Karisimbi, Mikeno, Muhabura, Mount Bisoke, Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Nyiragongo, mount Nyamuragira in DRC. All the volcanoes are very open for the tourist’s interested in volcano hiking and also offer very remarkable experiences. Mount Kirisimbi is the highest in the Virunga massif volcanoes standing at 4507m above sea level. Hiking of this volcano doesn’t need any experience in mountain hiking however it’s always good to be done when in good health and physical conditions. This takes 2 days to be completed.

On day one, the trekkers climb and set up a camp for an overnight and on the second day, they hike to the summit where they will view mountain Nyiragongo and then start their descent. This mountain can also best be hiked during the dry season especially from June to August when the weather is so favorable easing the hike. The temperatures especially at night and early in the morning however freeze to zero degrees and hikers are therefore advisable to have suitable coats that can help them withstand the coldness.

Mount Mikeno is also a dormant volcano that is located in the remote DRC and is considered the toughest volcano to hike. This is the second highest volcano in the Virunga massif at 4437 meters above sea level. It has got steep forested slopes and which inhabit the endangered mountain gorillas and many wildlife species that include; birds. It also needs someone in a very good health and physical condition to hike this volcano.

Muhabura volcano found in Rwanda – Uganda border, it’s a hike to the top of this volcano offers great views of the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo just near volcanoes national park and the five volcanoes in the Virunga massif. The other attractions on the volcano include the crater which is filled with unique vegetation and the endangered mountain gorillas that can be even bumped into while on the volcano trek. Hiking mount Muhabura is also a little hectic because of its steep slope. Treks of this incredible volcano start at 7:00 am and it takes a full day to ascend and descend the Volcano.

There is mount Bisoke commonly known for its crater lake on the summit and is yet another interesting volcano to be hiked in the Virunga massif. This mountain is covered with montane vegetation at the different levels of the mountain featuring bamboo forests, bushes among others. Hiking to the summit and descending takes the whole day but needs some level of physical fitness. Treks usually start at 7:00 am after a briefing at the national park headquarters.

Mount Sabyinyo also lies at the border of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. The mountain was named that name because of its indented summit, which to the locals look like an old man’s teeth. This mountain is also home to mountain gorillas and is famous for the sabyinyo gorillas group that is among the easiest groups to be tracked in volcanoes National park. This volcano is home to many Albertine bird species that are found in no other places in Africa.

Mount Gahinga is also the smallest of these volcanoes and is also very outstanding volcano to hike. Hiking to this volcano and descending takes a day and gives great scenic views of the vegetation on the slopes. What’s more great on the mount Gahinga hike are the volcanic caves that are explored while trekking. This is also a dormant volcano with a crater at its summit with swampy vegetation on the floor of the crater.

There is also the Nyiragongo mount that is most trekked in the Virunga massif. It’s located in DRC and is among the active volcanoes on the continent. The volcano is safe for many visitors and offers them a chance to view the fluidly lava lake and hear the sounds of exploding volcanic gasses. The treks to the summit of Nyirangogo starts in the morning at the Kibati patrol in DRC and gets three depends on the speed and physical conditions of the tourists. Those who don’t have time can hike and descend the volcano in a day however those with keen interested in the lava lake are also recommended to have an overnight at the rim since best of views of the lava lake can be at night.

There is also mount Nyamuragira that is the most active volcano on the African continent. The volcano has had many volcanic actions and there was an active lava lake that appeared for the first time in more than 50 years. Apart from mount Nyamuragira, there are always porters for hire and can help carry one luggage up and down hill. The tourists are usually led by well experienced ranger guides who give detailed information about the history of the mountains most especially regarding the wildlife species and any other related issue in case asked by the tourists. All these volcanoes can be hiked during the peak dry season from June to August because the rains make tracking trails very slippery and impassable. The tourists are recommended to carry the necessary equipment they need on the hike like the hiking shoes, rain coats or the ponchos since the rainfall is unpredictable, strong jackets and sweaters among others.

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