Gorilla Trekking & Hiking Virunga Mountains in Africa
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Virunga Mountains, Virunga also spelled Birunga, also called Mufumbiro Mountains , volcanic range north of Lake Kivu in east-central Africa, extending about 50 miles (80 km) along the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. The range runs east-west, perpendicular to the rift valley in which lie Lakes Kivu and Edward. Of its eight major volcanic peaks, the highest is Karisimbi, at 14,787 feet (4,507 metres). The name Virunga (“Volcanoes”), probably of Swahili derivation, has prevailed over the earlier Mufumbiro (“That Which Cooks”), which is still used in Uganda. Individual volcanoes bear Rwandan descriptive names, such as Sabinio (Sabinyo; “Old Man with Large Teeth”) and Muhavura (“Landmark,” or “Guide”).
The mountain range consists of eight major volcanoes. Most of them are dormant, except Mount Nyiragongo 3,462 metres (11,358 ft) and Mount Nyamuragira 3,063 metres (10,049 ft), both in the DRC. Recent eruptions occurred in 2006 and in January 2010. Mount Karisimbi is the highest volcano at 4,507 metres (14,787 ft). The oldest mountain is Mount Sabyinyo, which rises 3,634 metres (11,923 ft) above sea level.
The six volcanoes of the centre and east are extinct. Mikeno and Sabinio are the oldest of these, dating from the early part of the Pleistocene Epoch (the Pleistocene began about 2,600,000 years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago); their craters have disappeared, and erosion has imposed a jagged relief. Karisimbi, Visoke, Mgahinga, and Muhavura appeared, all but Karisimbi possessing a crater summit. The crater of Muhavura contains a small lake. Not more than 20,000 years ago Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira emerged at the western end of the chain, both with extensive craters.
The main crater of Nyiragongo is about three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) across and contains a liquid lava pool. The lava field of these two volcanoes has remained active, with notable eruptions occurring in 1912, 1938, 1948, the 1970s, and 2002. On several occasions a lava stream reached the shores of Lake Kivu. The 2002 Nyiragongo eruption destroyed much of the nearby city of Goma, Congo, leaving thousands homeless.