Mount Nyiragongo is known to be an active strato volcano which has an elevation of 3,470m within the Virunga Mountains and they are associated with the albertine Rift. This mount is located inside Virunga National park in the country known as the Democratic Republic of Congo and it’s about 20km north of the town of Goma as well as Lake Kivu west of the border towards Rwanda. Its main crater is about two kilometers in width and also contains a lava lake. This crater has got two cooled lave benches with in the crater walls, and one is about 3,174m and a lower one at about 2,975m . The Nyiragongo lava lake is the most voluminous and it’s the most known lava lake in the recent history. The lava lake depth varies and its elevation was recorded at about 3,250m with the January 1977 eruption and its depth was about 600m. The lake low elevation was recorded at about 2,700m. Both the Nyiragongo and the Nyamulagire are responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
There is also the neighboring Nyamulagira which is a typical and very active shield volcano that is comparable with the Mauna Loa, it’s also 3470m high and it shows the steep slopes of a strato volcano. Its terraces that are inside the steep walled are 1.2km wide and the summit crater mark levels of this former lava lakes, which has been observed since the 19th century.
The two old volcanoes including the Baruta and Shaheru that are partially overlapped by the Nyiragongo on the north and the south that look like the lacteal cones. There are over 100 parasitic cones that are located along the radial fissures that are south of Shaheru, located east of the summit and along the North east zone that extends as far as Lake Kivu. These cones are also buried by the lava flow that extends long down the flanks of the Volcano.
Mount Nyiragongo Location
This mountain is located inside the Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ita about 20km north of the town of Goma as well as Lake Kivu. This is one of the active volcanoes in Africa and one of the eight volcanoes found in Virunga Mountains. Its main crater is 2km wide and contains a lava lake that appears in the Summit crater.
The Eruption History
In 1977, there was a drained lava lake that killed 1,000 people due to the fast moving flows
1944, the Rwandese refugees that flee during the eruption caused much destruction
2002; there were the last flows down the town of Goma and also reached Lake Kivu, it was 50km in depth and the recent large eruption of the Nyiragongo happened in 2002 when 147 people were killed. During this eruption, lava flows moved through the city of Goma along the shores of Lake Kivu as it destroyed 3% of the city and between 12,000 to 15000 homes were destroyed and thousands of people were displaced.
When to Visit
The country (DRC) tends to experience two main seasons, the dry and the wet season and therefore the best time to visit the Nyiragongo Volcano is all year round, but put it in mind that there is unpredictable weather changes like the regular rains that happen in certain months of the year since the Nyiragongo mountain is in the middle of the equatorial rain forest. i.e in mid-march to May and also in November tends to be a rainy season and the dry season is from June to October as well as December.
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo
Ascending the Nyiragongo takes 4 to 6 hours and is so back breaking and habitually in humid as well as rough conditions, saving for this trail is so simple and not steep, and expect to view some rare species of birds as well as animals like the monkeys, bushbucks and the chimps alongside the tracks and you will sight the apex which is also eye catching.
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo needs one to wake up early in the morning and then transfer to the Rwanda / Congo border post, then you cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo as you drive towards the Kibati patrol post at the end base of mount Nyiragongo which is 50km outside Goma town.
You will have a safety brief as well as a check of everyone’s pack as well as the equipment’s, you will then begin your climb towards the nyiragongo summit. The group will also be led by some rangers / Guides as well as a small group of porters.
The first two hours of your walk, you will pass through the lush pristine forest, where the towering trees also offer shelter from the sun until you emerge from the deep forest onto the small plateau with the beautiful views that stretch towards the concluding horizons, towards Lake Kivu, Bukavu and Burundi at your feet. You will now be standing on the lava flow that remnants mount Nyiragongo at 2002 eruption.
From here, you will climb the trail that becomes firmer and the forest that gives away many swathes of the recovering heath plus the vegetation that is dominated by the ferns, heather, sedges and the everlastings. After noon, you will then reach mount Nyiragongo’s crater and have your overnight at the cabins.
You will spend the afternoon exploring the craters edge and also soaking in the surrounding views as well as mount Nyiragongo’s lava cauldron. Fortunately the guide will know exactly to get to the best observation as well as photogenic spots safely. So when everyone had enough, you will then return to the camp in order to settle into the cabins, rest and enjoy dinner.
At exactly 18h00, you will return to the known spot at the craters edge to look and appreciate again the molten lava lake of mount Nyiragongo. Within the dark of the night, you will be able to view the dark crusty surfaces of lava that is spliced and splitting into over the changing plates. As these plates divide, a bright orange lava fills the cracks and a beautiful spider web pattern will emerge. These fountains of lava will flare now and then as they disturb the pretty patterns adding a surge of the dynamism as well as power to this spectacular sight, you will enjoy this experience as you take pictures as well as videos.
You also don’t require to be extra fit
This two day hike to Nyiragongo is so demanding and the most tiresome are the volcanic rocks which come under your feet as well as the sheer distance plus the altitude factor. You will also not be in a hurry as you climb, this trek is timed and it allows even the slow people to make it. But you will require 7 hours instead of 4 to reach the crater and also have a night of rest before descending. Your legs might also hurt for several days but afterwards, you will be fine.
About the Summit Shelters
The accommodation facilities at the top of Mount Nyiragongo is also inside smallish triangular tents which are pitched inside the rough frame building, some have got doors and other without. These facilities are so basic and have seen better days, and you will be provided with a mattress and a pillow. These tents are also not huge and you will be close to your tent buddy, most especially some of them seem to be built on a slight angle that means you will roll into them. This will also not bather you unless you are a single traveler and you might find yourself staying with a stranger, most possibly of the opposite sex. Also the guests that hike to the summit always hire a cook and porters to carry the heavy bags up the mountain, this will save you the energy to be able to reach the summit.
About the clothes & gears needed for the hike