Hike one of the world’s active volcanoes
Mount Nyiragongo has an elevation of 3,470m above sea level and is a famous active strato-volcano. Also among the Virunga Mountains, Mount Nyiragongo is situated inside Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, this is approximately 20km North of Lake Kivu and Goma town and west of DR Congo’s border with Rwanda.
On this volcano is a main crater which is about 820ft deep (still varies considerably) and 2km wide containing a lava lake. Other craters on the volcano are covered mainly with plant life. Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s dangerous volcanoes where by it is known for the overwhelming eruptions that have occurred over the years such as the one that happened in 1977 where over 2,000 people lost their lives, and the other in 2002, this also mainly destroyed Goma because of its lava and hence led to the displacement of people forming a refugee crisis.
The 1977 eruption is recorded in history and was so sudden that the walls of this crater burst out open hence letting the lake pour it self-down the villages at a very terrible speed of about 60mph. The number of deaths are said to be in thousands. There is no clear information of how long this volcano has been active but reports say that since 1882, it has been so busy and has erupted about 34 times.
After reading all this one would think that Nyiragongo would be the last place on the face of the Earth where people would want to stay, but interestingly, along the slopes of this same mountain there are highly populated communities. But still up to today, Mount Nyiragongo is still active.
With all that, still hiking Mount Nyiragongo should not miss out on your to-do list, because it gives you the adventurous unforgettable experience. The lava lake at the top is best viewed at night, hence it will require the hiker to spend a night at the top. At night, Nyiragongo glows and boils, this makes it so attractive and breathtaking.
During the day the mountain top is surrounded with a heavy mist sometimes obscures its crater. The residents in this area have learnt to leave with this active volcano.
Getting to Mount Nyiragongo
Located about an hour’s drive away from Goma town in DR Congo. Most tourists access this area by flying into Kigali-Rwanda’s capital, especially when they are on a safari to track gorillas there and enjoy other activities in Rwanda after which most of them drive to Gisenyi, spending a night there or in Goma town before proceeding with the hike the next day.
The hike is so adventurous but hard also; it starts at a steady pace as you walk through the shaded forest and as you go on you will find treacherous paths covered with lava rocks which are slippery in most cases hence you should ensure that you are careful as you hike.
It can take 4 to 7hours to hike, this is based on how fast and able the group is at hiking. The remaining 45 minutes involve the extremely steep incline. In most cases it is hard to find that 100% of the group gets to the summit hence the hikers should be in good physical shape.
You can purchase a walking stick or hire one because you need it, some of these strong sticks are sold at the base by the local people, make sure that your hiking shoes are strong enough. In what you pack ensure you have enough warm clothes because the temperatures during the day are warm but at night it is very cold, so carry gloves, scarves, hats.
Also have with you a great camera (with battery) as well as enough water and snacks. There is no need for you to bring a tent since at the top of the volcano there are permanent cabins for accommodation. There are porters at the base to help you carry the luggage to the summit and descend back but thy do this labor at a fair price.
When you get to the summit, as guided by your guides listen to every instruction give like “keeping a distance and not leaning closely to the walls of the crater”, why they insist it is because you can fall in. At a very safe distance you will enjoy Mount Nyiragongo, you will be in line still to take different photographs as you enjoy the red volcanic glowing of the lava lake.
Please note that as you plan to have a hike on Mount Nyiragongo ensure that you have clear information about the current news concerning both the political and volcanic eruptions.
In conclusion; this hike is a bit terrifying but above all it is a beautiful experience, after the night, the next morning you descend back to the base of the volcano with great memories from the world’s active volcano.