Nyiragongo trek in Virunga
Nyiragongo trek in Virunga is one of the most done activities in the Virunga Massif and travelers get fascinated when they view the boiling Lava at the top. Africa is one of the six continents with active volcanic mountains and the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the few African countries with active volcanoes. The country has Mount Nyamulagira and Mount Nyiragongo. Mount Nyamulagira has been active since the late ’80s with the first recorded eruption in 1985 and these two volcanoes have been said to be responsible for up to 40% of the volcanic eruptions that have occurred in Africa. They are close to each other. Mount Nyamulagira lies in the coordinates 1°24′29″S 29°12′00″E while Mount Nyiragongo lies in 1°31′S 29°15′E
Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one major attraction in the country and half of the visitors that book a visit to the country for gorilla trekking top up their safari with a hike up the volcanic mountain. Mount Nyiragongo has the world’s largest lava lake in the crater with a width of 2 kilometers and has in the past been recorded as the most voluminous lava lake in the world. The lava that erupts and flows from Mount Nyiragongo is more fluid compared to other volcanoes so it tends to flow at a faster rate of 100 kilometers per hour downhill equivalent to 60 mph. The high levels of melilite nepheline which is an alkaline-rich volcanic rock could be a factor to the fluid composition of this lava and this poses a greater risk of destruction as compared to other volcanoes as the lava from Nyiragongo will reach further places in a shorter time. Another factor could be the physical build of Mount Nyiragongo as the summit is a steep-sided cone as compared to the other wide and shallow shaped volcanoes that slow the movement of the lava.
The Nyiragongo trek in Virunga National park is a 2-day activity if you are not looking to add any other activity. This trek starts off every day of the calendar where you are expected to report at the Grande Barrier border building by 7:00 am for check-in with the tourism office latest 8:00 am and this is also where you will acquire your 14-day tourist visa and hike permit. This Grande Barrier building is strategically located opposite the passport control and is where the Virunga tourism office is located. We advise you to book your Nyiragongo trek permit a few days ahead at least to avoid disappointment where the tour is fully booked out on your preferred date. On acquiring the visa and the permit, you will then connect with the Virunga security team and join the convoy to transfer you to the trailhead of the hike. This trailhead is known as Kitabi Ranger post where all Nyiragongo hikes start and end. This ascent uphill will start usually with a briefing and get some time to hire porters and any other necessary equipment for this overnight trip. You will hike up for about 5 hours with two stopovers to rest and catch a breath. Continue to the summit of Mount Nyiragongo where you will enjoy the breath taking views of Goma town and the lava lake from above. This is not the easiest hike and could the most refreshing once conquered.
Spend a night at the top of the volcano in the shelters. Your personal chef will prepare you a tasty dinner which if interested, you may take part in the preparation or use that time to take the night photos of the volcano with the lights of Goma town on the clear nights. The temperature at the volcano can get as low as 0 degrees so ensure to pack enough warm clothes and a sleeping bag to keep warm in the night. There are about 8 summit shelters at the top of the volcano with basic accommodation facilities so ensure to check what extras you may need for this overnight at the summit experience.
The Virunga national park offers its visitors an opportunity twice in every month to spend two consecutive nights at the top of the volcano and this can be arranged by a trusted operator after putting your interest forward. The next day, you will rise up early to catch the sunrise from above, have a simple breakfast and leave the crater rim to descend back to the trailhead of the mountain to end your tour if you opt for the one night stay at the volcano. If you opt to spend two nights at the volcano, you will get to tour around the volcano a bit all day with all meals. This offer is only valid if you are four travellers or else you will have to foot the extra spaces’ expense. This is a 4-hour descent so you usually reach the trailhead at about 11:00 am and connect with your driver to get you to your preferred drop off point either in Kigali City or Goma. This activity is done every day but you need to take note of the departure time from the border to avoid confusion or being left behind by the day’s group.
If you have more time in Virunga, you may opt to take on another Virunga package that gives you the opportunity to not only see and experience the world’s largest lava lake but more of the hidden jewels in the park-like the mountain gorillas, chimpanzee family, gorilla orphanage in the Rumangabo sector or the black sand Island- Tchegera Island. Note that Mount Nyiragongo is still active until date today but has not erupted since 2002 but you can’t afford to miss out on the thrill you get from hiking this mountain.
The Virunga national park has in the past years been shuddered by international visitors but with the reopening in February 2019, there have been up to 2,500 visitors which means the tourism in the park is now safe and successful.
Nyiragongo hike packing list
- Good and trusted hiking shoes. I say trusted because if you hike in shoes you are not sure of or have not used before, they can surprise you and kill your experience which you wouldn’t want.
- A good and fully charged camera and phone with extra batteries
- Warm clothes, a hut, body covering tops and trousers to avoid irritation from the bushes you will be passing through, sunscreen.
- Insect repellant or any medications you might need before descending the next day.
- Sleeping bag
- Waterproof backpack, rain jacket in case it rains while on the hike up and other personal effects to mention but a few.