Climb the Nyiragongo Volcano
The Virunga Mountains
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.
Nyiragongo, one of the world's most beautiful and active volcanoes, is a large stratovolcano. This type, also known as a composite cone, is the most picturesque of the volcano types with gentle lower slopes that rise steeply near the summit, and then break to reveal the smoking caldera.
The summit stands at 3,468m (11,380 ft), has an average diameter of 1.2 km (0.7miles), and holds a deep crater. In the center of the crater is the world's largest lava lake. It is so bright that on a clear night, the glow can be seen not only from Goma but also from Rwanda
In the most recent volcanic eruption of 2002, a fissure opened on the south side of the volcano sending a lava flow toward the city of Goma, covering one-third of the city's airport runway, and reaching Lake Kivu.
Climbing the Nyiragongo
The two-mile-high volcano is located 20 km (12 miles) north of Goma near Kibati where the hike begins. The trek takes approximately five hours and involves walking through lush forest and lava fields with a steep incline near the top. Please note that this is a serious hike and visitors need to be fit.
The standard trip includes an overnight stay on the rim of the volcano, although a one-day trip may be organized upon request. The overnight stay is highly recommended, as the view of the lava lake at night is stunning.
Nine small wooden shelters are provided for accommodation on the volcano rim. Porters can be hired to carry up luggage for $12 a day ($24 for the overnight trip). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15kg. Please make sure you bring warm clothes - it can get very cold at the top.