Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3470 m (11382 ft) in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. The main crater is about two kilometres wide and usually contains a lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3,175 metres (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft). Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history. The depth of the lava lake varies considerably. A maximum elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 3,250 m (10,660 ft) prior to the January 1977 eruption – a lake depth of about 600 m (2,000 ft). A recent very low elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 2,700 m (8,900 ft). Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
Nyiragongo is a beautiful stratovolcano that features the world’s largest lava lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees, monkeys, and bushbuck. Nyiragongo’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is frequently dusted with snow. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava. Although predictable and therefore safe for tourists, Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions. Because of the high silica content of its lava, Nyiragongo’s lava flows are extremely fluid. During the 2002 eruption, some of Nyiragongo’s lava flows were clocked at 100 km/hr (62 mph) and reached all the way to Lake Kivu.
Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, which is approximately 30 minutes by car from Goma. The patrol post is less than a one hour drive from the Mikeno Lodge in Rumangabo. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top (included in the permit fee). Trekkers are advised to bring raincoats and cold weather gear. Rain showers are a common occurrence on the climb up during the rainy season and temperatures at the summit can dip below 0°C/32°F.
Guests staying at the Mikeno lodge can arrange packed meal service for the trip, while those coming with tour groups must supply their own. There is no food service on Nyiragongo. Porters can be hired at the base of the climb to carry loads for $12/day ($24 for the overnight trip). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15kg.
Each of the twelve summit shelters contains two single beds on which visitors can put their sleeping bags. Although these shelters aren’t plush, they offer a welcome escape from the elements. The cost of staying in a summit shelter is included in the permit fee.
Just outside the Virunga National Park boundary lays the Bukima tented camp, which is one of the main starting points Virunga mountain gorilla treks. The camp was originally built for researchers, but is now used primarily by trekkers. As the name suggests, overnight guests at Bukima sleep in platform tents, but by camping standards they are quite plush. Each tent features an adjoining bathroom with running water and a nicely appointed bed and dresser for clothes. The views from the tent sites – or anywhere in camp for that matter – are spectacular. To the south, the view is dominated by Mt. Mikeno, whose 4437m (14,560’) summit towers over the gorilla sector. Across the valley is Nyiragongo volcano, whose lava lake colors the night sky with a red glow. Every few years, Nymulagira volcano erupts and steals the nighttime show by spewing hot lava hundreds of feet into the air. Occasionally, the mountain gorillas themselves wander into the Bukima tented camp. Although this is highly frowned upon by park staff, it never ceases to impress the guests.
Prices for the camp are based on double occupancy and include breakfast. Lunch, dinner, and drinks are available for an additional charge. Of the six tents, four feature double beds and two are outfitted with twin beds.
The Mikeno Lodge is a 90 minute drive from Goma and offers large bungalows and a good restaurant. The lodge and restaurant are located within a forest and offer beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes. Nature walks and visits to local places of interest can be arranged. There is an abundance of bird life, as well as resident blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are also frequent visitors to the area.
The amber glow of the active volcanoes Nyriagongo and Nyiramuragira can be seen on most clear nights especially in the low season of April, May and November from Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge accommodation in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Many visitors that stay at the Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge are always stunned by the amazing views of the Virunga Volcanoes.
With our experience walking safari guides we have led various trips to the Virunga Volcanoes and some clients have summited the Mt. Nyirangongo in Congo and where we have many trek the volcano Mgahinga, Sabinyo and Muhavura in Uganda and Karisimbi and Visoke in Rwanda.
NKURINGO SAFARIS our walking and trekking outfit prides itself in promoting exceptional walking safaris and trekking safaris in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.