Virunga Mountains Hike is one of the activities that interest travellers to be part of the Virunga Mountains trek in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Virunga mountains in Rwanda are one of the major tourist attractions in Rwanda because they are the homes to the endangered mountain gorillas which are the most sought after wild animals in Rwanda. The mountains are also home to the endangered golden monkeys which are the second sought after animals in Volcanoes National Park where the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda are found.
It has a lot to offer to different types of tourists interested in different attractions and activities. For tourists interested in Rwanda birding. The park is the right national park to visit with over 200 bird species both migratory and the Albertine endemic species which can be seen while at the park these include the blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, coqui Francolin, long-tailed cisticola, bubbling cisticola, Miombo wren warbler, Chubb’s cisticola Archers ground robin, red-faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, Collared Apalis, Ruwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, strange weaver like Archers ground robin, red-faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, Collared Apalis, Ruwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, strange weaver and many others.
Apart from the Virunga Mountains and the bird species, Volcanoes National Park has a number of animal species which can interest the nature lovers while on their Rwanda tours these includes animals like include buffalos, black-fronted duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs, spotted hyenas, black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, red-tailed monkeys. Butterfly Species like the cabbage white, monarch butterfly, old-world swallowtail, mourning cloak, peacock butterfly which can all be seen when the park is visited.
Among the different attractions in Volcanoes national park, tourists interested in adventure tourism will find the park interesting because it has a variety of activities that will be engaging for them, for instance, Virunga Mountains Hike in Rwanda being one of the most interesting activities that will help a tourist to see a variety of tourism attractions.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a park in Uganda located in the south-west of the country in Kisoro district that is well known for the mountain gorillas. The National Park is home to a number of different bird species like Ruwenzori turaco, road throated alethe, kivu ground thrush, Ruwenzori dark collared sunbird, mountain sparked Apalis, Regal Sunbird, stripe breasted tit and many more different animal species like golden monkeys, mountain gorillas, elephants, buffalos and many more. Different vegetation zones like the Ruwenzori Virunga Montane moorlands, tree heath and bamboo forests which is home to the mountain gorillas, and the golden monkeys which use the bamboo trees as a source of food.
Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the park two of the Virunga Mountains are included in the park that is mountain Nyiragongo and mountain Nyamuragira. The park is home to over 2077 plant species, 264 tree species, 196 mammal species, and over 109 reptile and amphibian species. Tourists are able to see the African elephants, African buffalo, blue duiker, yellow-backed duiker, hippopotamus, Hamlyn monkey, De Brazza monkey, central African red colobus, mantled guereza and many more.
Virunga Mountains Hike
The Virunga Mountains comprise of eight mountains that are found within the Albertine rift that is mount sabyinyo, karisimbi, Gahinga, Bisoke in Rwanda, Muhabura which is shared by Rwanda and Uganda, with Mikeno, Nyiragongo, and Nyamuragira in Congo all of which are dormant mountains apart from mountain Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo which have experienced volcanic activity.
For tourists on a Rwanda tour that choose Virunga mountains hike will not be disappointed because the mountains have a lot in store for them if they take on the challenge which is rewarding once completed because of the different attractions like the wildlife, different plant species, bird species that are seen while carrying out the hikes.
- Mount karisimbi
Among the Virunga Mountains, mount karisimbi is the highest one of them all with an elevation of 4507 metres above sea level making it the highest mountain in Rwanda, the highest among the Virunga Mountains and the 5th highest in Africa. This will be an accomplishment to the tourists once they finish up. The mountain is bordered by mountains, Mikeno in the north, Bisoke in the east and Nyiragongo in the west. In Kinyarwanda, the mountain’s name was derived from its top shape being in the form of a shell which in the local language is amasimbi which later was called karisimbi.
Mountain karisimbi hike: The mountain is characterised with dense vegetation cover and this makes it a good habitat for bird, butterfly and animal species and by this tourists while they hike along the different trails, they will see various bird species like the blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, coqui Francolin, long-tailed cisticola, bubbling cisticola, Miombo wren warbler, Chubb’s cisticola Archers ground robin, red-faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, Collared Apalis, Ruwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, strange weaver, Archers ground robin, red-faced woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double collared sunbird, Collared Apalis, Ruwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, strange weaver
Butterfly species like the cabbage white, monarch butterfly, old-world swallowtail, mourning cloak, peacock butterfly and animal species like buffalos, black-fronted duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs, spotted hyenas, black and white colobus, white colobus, baboons, and red-tailed monkeys among others.
Tourists can also see the Karisoke research centre that was set up by a primatologist Doctor Dian Fossey is also near the mountain it should be remembered that the primatologist established her research station in between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains and for tourists interested in seeing the research station it can be easy while carrying out the hike on mountain karisimbi.
Mountain karisimbi is also a home to the karisimbi and Susa gorilla family groups which are major tourists attractions to nature lovers interested in gorilla trekking the groups are habituated groups that are used to humans living around them so even if the tourists come into encounter with the gorilla families, they will not be able to go into hiding which will be a wonderful experience for tourists who might have never seen the primates before.
On the Virunga mountains hike while on the karisimbi hike, tourists have very many chances of seeing the golden monkeys which is another endangered ape species in the world and these can only be found in East Africa that is Uganda, Congo and Rwanda in volcanoes national park and recently there have been some sightings of the golden monkey in Nyungwe National Park.
For a tourist on mountain karisimbi hike, they should be well prepared because of the fact that during the rainy season the trails can be slippery and also the fact that the mountain is on a high altitude and with thick vegetation there is a possibility that it can rain at any given time of the day even if it’s the dry season.
Because of the height of the mountain, Tourists are able to camp at some point of the mountain in order to restore their lost energy and because the mountain is tiring, it can take two to three days for the tourists hike up to the summit. Hiking Mountain Karisimbi will pay a total amount of 300 however the price is not inclusive of the meals, porter’s fees and other expenditures. The price only caters for the park guide and the ranger and for tourists interested in hiring a porter who will help with their luggage; the fee is USD 20.
The fees for the karisimbi hike permit is USD 400 foreigners, 250 USD foreign residents, 200USD Rwanda and East African community citizens.
2. Mountain Sabyinyo
Mount sabyinyo stands at an altitude of 3645metres, interesting about the mountain is that at its peak lies within three countries that is Uganda, Congo and Rwanda and it is considered as the centre of Virunga Mountain. The mountain is one of the dormant volcanoes in the Virunga mountain ranges. Another interesting part about the mountains is the fact that its name is from the word Iryinyo which means teeth in Rwanda and the mountain was named sabyinyo because its peak looks like the teeth of an old man hence the name and if a tourist is able to reach the peak, they will be able to see the different indentations at the peak looking like worn teeth.
Mount sabyinyo hike: Mountain sabyinyo Mountain sabyinyo hike as part of the Virunga Mountains hike is one of the hardest hikes because of its nature of the landscape the rugged terrain is comprised of many crater lakes, ridges which makes it hard for tourists to reach the peak because of the challenging trail. Handmade ladders have been put at the steep slopes to enable tourists to hike through the steep slopes. The hike to the peak takes about 4 hours and 4 hours back to the headquarters however mountain Sabyinyo hike can take up to a full day. The hike through mountain sabyinyo can be done on the Ugandan side only because in Congo and Rwanda the terrain is impassable.
Interesting about the hike, is the fact that during the hike tourists will be able to see the sabyinyo gorilla family whose silver back Guhonda is the heaviest and largest among all the gorilla families in the park. Still on the hike between 2400-2800metres above sea level tourists are likely to see the golden monkeys, the Ruwenzori turaco can also be seen along which is one of the endemic species of the Albertine rift other animals which are rarely seen but once a tourist is lucky, they can see the elephants and buffaloes, different vegetation zones like the bamboo, shrubs can also be seen and many more.
The price of the hiking permit from Uganda is 80 USD
Mount Gahinga is the smallest of all the mount sabyinyo and Muhabura where it lies in between the two and it encompasses of three countries Uganda, Rwanda and Congo and it stands at an elevation of 3474 metres above sea level. The word Gahinga means a small pile of stones which can be seen on the Ugandan side while tourists go to Mgahinga National Park on the road leading to the park, tourists can see the small pile of stones which were as a result of volcanic eruptions that happened many years ago however it is now a dormant volcano.
Mountain Gahinga hike: Mountain Gahinga is one of the most interesting mountains to hike because of its terrain compared to other Virunga Mountains. However much it is the smallest mountain, it offers breath taking views and interesting bird species to look at while on the hike. At the peak of the Mountain, tourists are able to see a caldera which can be used as a picnic area, people taking pictures and many more.
The bamboo trees can are also a habitat for numerous bird species animal species also be seen like the Hirwa Rwanda mountain gorilla Family which is also an interesting family whose dominant silverback Munyiga was chased away from his previous group because he was mating with females yet he was not the dominant male in the group so when they chased him away he had to form his own group. Another interesting fact about the hike is the chance for tourists to see the endangered golden monkeys jumping from one tree branch to the other and also seeing their daily activities like wrestling and so much more.
Mount Bisoke stands at an elevation of 3711 metres and the mountain is shared by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and the mountain is also found in two National Parks that is Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park. The mountain is home to the endangered mountain gorillas on either side of the countries in Rwanda it is home to the Ugenda Rwanda mountain gorilla family. Different bird species in the afro Montane Vegetation of the Mountain can also be seen while on the hike.
Mount Bisoke hike: The hike on mountain Bisoke can either start in Rwanda or Congo at either of their reception centres. And the hike is very memorable because a number of vegetation zones as a tourist proceeds higher while hiking, to steeper slopes and then to the peak. The dormant volcano covered by green vegetation covers for instance the Hagenia forest, sub-alpine and alpine.
Among the different animal species that can be seen while on the hike, include the Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys which are very common in the bamboo forests of the mountain and they are among the most common animals in the area however tourists can also see the Forest Elephants, Buffaloe’s waterbucks and many more.
Tourists will also have a chance to see the biggest Crater Lake in Lake Bisoke which is a habitat of water birds like the African fish eagle, African grey hornbill, heron and many more the hike.
While at mountain Bisoke, tourists can see the Karisoke research centre which was set up by Dian Fossey in order to study the mountain gorillas and also to protect them from human and environmental hazards for example poaching, diseases that were affecting them like flu which was later known by the researcher Dian Fossey that human encounters with the animals led to the gorillas contracting the diseases.
Mountain Bisoke hike permit goes for75USD For foreigners, 60USD for foreign residents, 55USD for the Rwanda/ east African community residents and 65 for the east African community foreign residents.
Also known as mount Muhavura, Mountain Muhabura is the third-highest of the virunga mountains at an elevation of 4127 metres. The mountain is bordered by two countries Rwanda and Uganda and it is located within volcanoes and Mgahinga National Parks
Mount Muhabura hike: Just like other Virunga mountains, the hike on Mountain Muhabura is quite interesting and rewarding however a tourist on their Rwanda tour who have chosen hiking the Virunga mountains. It is important for hikers to put in mind before they hike is the fact that mountain Muhabura is the steepest among the Virunga Mountains.
The mountain is home to the Amahoro gorilla family in Rwanda and this is the most peaceful gorilla group among the Rwanda gorilla groups. Muhabura Mountain can be found in Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga national park and tourists can start the hike at either side that is from Uganda and Rwanda and the experience are quite the same interesting and worth the hike.
The hike takes about 6 hours that is 3 hours to the peak and down to the reception area which is considered the starting point of the hike in Uganda it starts from Ntebeko reception area and from Rwanda the Kinigi reception area. The hike is divided into 3 different stops the first the second and the third stops that is 3116, 3855 and 4127 metres respectively. Due to the steep slopes tourists are unable to finish the hike but once finished the tourists are able to see beautiful views.
From the Ugandan side, the cost of hiking is 100 USD for foreigners 75 USD for foreign residents, 60USD for Rwandan/ EAC citizens and 80 USD for EAC foreign residents
Important to note is that for tourists interested in multiple hiking for instance; mountains karisimbi, Mount Gahinga, Muhabura, Bisoke tourists on their Virunga mountains hike can pay USD 1500
6. Mountain Nyiragongo
Mountain Nyiragongo is one of the active Volcano among the Virunga Mountains and it is found in the democratic republic of Congo within Virunga National Park. While on the Virunga mountain hike, a tourist should not miss out on mountain Nyiragongo because of the fact that it’s an active volcano with an elevation of 3175 metres above sea level. The mountain is surrounded by 2 volcanic mountains Baratu and Shaheru and a number of different cinder cones which were as a result of the volcanic eruptions.
Mountain Nyiragongo hike: The Virunga mountains hike will give a tourist the chance to hike mountain Nyiragongo an active volcano whose last eruption was recorded in 2006. When tourists reach the park, they present their hiking permits to the park rangers and guides for verification at the Kibati Ranger Post and a able to brief tourists about the rules and regulations of the hike and because there can be encounters with the wild animals like buffalos and many others armed rangers follow the tourists to avoid attacks from the wild animals.
One of the most interesting parts of the Nyiragongo hike is the fact that tourists are able to see the lava from the earth’s crust. The tourists below 12 years are not advised to take part in the hiking of the mountain. The mountain has a lava lake which is one of the most fascinating lakes within the Virunga Mountains.
There are different tourist attractions that can be seen for instance the mountain gorillas, the golden monkeys, bonobos and many more. Mountain Nyiragongo hike permit goes for 300 USD and tourists are able to get the permit from the park headquarters at the day of the hike.
Among the Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mountain Mikeno is the only dormant mountain. The Mountain is bordered by Mountain Karisimbi, Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo which is the second-highest mountain among the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. The Mountain stands at an elevation of 4,437metres and it offers exceptional views of the different mountains the bird species, animal species and so on.
Mountain Mikeno Hike: Mount Mikeno hike is one of the hardest hikes while on the Virunga mountains hike because of the steep nature of the mountain however once hiked it is rewarding because tourists are able to see the Congo mountain gorillas, the East African rift valleys and so on which offer breathtaking views.
Tourists hiking mount Mikeno will be able to see the different attractions like the hagenia forests, the buffaloes, coffee plantations and while tourists proceed hiking on, they will meet a grave of a nature photographer and conversationalist who was killed because he had fever and went on to hike mountain Mikeno known as Carl Akeley whose graveyard was vandalised by either Rwanda or Congolese people with people thinking that the photographer was buried with gold which is in a poor state.
Carl Akeley is a very important person in the history of the Virunga National Park because when he came on his African expedition, he came to Congo in order to carry out his research on the gorillas that were killed and put into museums in order to attract tourists so when Carl Akeley came into Congo he fell in love with the animals and by this he talked to King Albert of Belgium to protect and preserve the mountain gorillas and this led to the establishment of the Albert National Park which is now known to be the Virunga national park.
Tourists while on their Virunga mountains hike they will have a chance to be opened up about the history of the park and the different attractions as explained by the guides.
8. Mount Nyamuragira
Mount Nyamuragira is the most active volcano among the Virunga Mountains and in Africa at large; it stands at an elevation of 3058 metres. In the north east of the volcano, tourists are able to see Lake Kivu which offers a spectacular view while on the hike. The mountain is a habitat to many animal species like the chimpanzees, monkeys, bird species like African King Fisher, hornbills and so on. Mountain Nyamuragira in the recent years has experienced 40 times of volcanic eruptions the mountain erupted in 2010, 2011 and 2014 where the eruption that formed a lava lake however in 2018, the lake hardened and it is no more.
Mountain Nyamuragira hike: Tourists carrying out there Nyamuragira hike, as part of their Virunga mountains hike will have a chance to see different relief features, for example, the once the lava lake that hardened tourists on their hike should be really careful while hiking because of the lava that can be seen underneath the earth’s crust. Because of the eruptions that have been present in the early years, many animals have migrated and because the lava threatening to both animals and humans, they are no settlements along the mountain.
Accommodation facilities while on the Virunga Mountains Hike
While tourists are on the Virunga Mountains hike, can choose from a variety of the accommodation facilities that are able to offer different services to the tourists while on their Rwanda tour, Uganda tour and the Congo tour. Some of the services include excellent room service, WIFI connectivity, 24-hour room service, swimming pools, outdoor activities and many more.
In Uganda, the tourists can go to Mt. Muhabura Climbers Rest Camp, Gorilla Backpackers camp, Lake Muhele Safari Lodge, Virunga campsite and Backpackers all of which are within the proximity of the Mgahinga National Park where mountains such as Muhabura, sabyinyo and Gahinga which are Park View Lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge, Danita House, Gorilla volcanoes, La Palme hotel. In Congo, La Locanda, La Paillote Gorilla Palace, Isange Paradise Hotel, Amahoro guest house, volcano view and many more.
Equipment to carry while on the Virunga Mountains hike
- Hiking boots for tourists in order to pass in impassable areas of the mountains, for example, the steep slopes, slippery trails etc
- Insect repellents because the mountains are habitats to a number of insects like mosquitoes that can cause irritation.
- Raincoats because the weather in the Virunga Mountains is unpredictable because they are in high altitudes.
- Drinking water and something to eat because the hike to the different mountains can be tiresome and this can take time.
- Cameras can be carried to capture the beautiful moments while on the Virunga mountain hike.