Travel to Virunga Mountains – Home to Mountain Gorillas
The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes in East Africa, along the northern border of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda. The mountain range is a branch of the Albertine Rift, a part of the Great Rift Valley. They are located between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu.
The bustling market town of Ruhengeri has a memorable setting at the base of the Virungas. On the outskirts of town, the natural bridge at Musanze – a solidified lava flow – is a fascinating relic of the volcanic activity that shaped this scenic area.
The mountain range consists of eight major volcanoes. Most of them are dormant, except Mount Nyiragongo (3462 m) and Mount Nyamuragira (3063 m) in the Congo. These volcanoes erupted most recently in 2006. Mount Karisimbi (4507 m) is the highest volcano. The oldest mountain is Mount Sabinyo (3634 m).
The Virunga Mountains are home of the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla, listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species due to habitat loss, poaching, human disease, and war (Butynski et al. 2003). The Karisoke Research Center, founded by Dian Fossey to observe gorillas in their native habitat, is located between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Visoke.
The Rwandan side of the mountains has been made into the protected Volcanoes National Park and it is possible to visit the Mountain Gorillas within the park.
The main activity in the mountains is to visit one of the habituated gorilla families within the Virunga National Park. For something different a trek to the summit of Mount Karisimbi is a major challenge that is well worthwhile.
Visit Karisoke, where Dian Fossey’s grave and the graves of her favourite gorillas can be found by her former research station.
Private transport by 4WD or an organised tour is recommended for a thorough discovery of this area.
- For something different a trek to the summit of Mount Karisimbi is a major challenge that is well worthwhile.
- Head out on foot in search of magnificent mountain gorillas.
- Witness one of the most dramatic chains of volcanoes in East Africa.