This chain of volcanoes runs along the borders of Rwanda, the DR Congo and Uganda. The word Virunga corresponds to the word volcano in Kinyarawanda, the first language of the people who live nearest to the park.
Seven of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga range stand within Virunga National Park’s boundaries. Most of the volcanoes are dormant, but two of them – Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira – are active and responsible for two-fifths of Africa’s volcanic eruptions.
The massive tectonic movements that produced the volcanoes also created the park’s enormously varied topography, which in turn gave rise to the diverse habitats and abundance of animal and plant species we see today. This unique landscape has helped Virunga to gain recognition as a World Heritage Site.
The volcanoes have also brought devastation. It is a cruel paradox that people have been tempted by the fertile volcanic soil to build their homes in the likely path of future lava flows. Goma, the natural destination for lava flowing out of the park, was badly damaged by the eruptions of 1977 and 2002.
The Virunga Volcanoes
Six of the eight Virunga Volcanoes are found in the Virunga National Park. The Virunga National Park also protects the Congo part of the Rwenzori Mountains.