Mount Nyiragongo is a stratovolcano located in the Democratic Republic of Congo within Virunga national park and is one of the top tour destinations in Congo. This mountain is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is part of the Virunga ranges.
The other mountains which are part of the Virunga ranges include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Visoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Mikeno, Mount Sabinyo. This mountain is surrounded by volcanic fields of Nyamulagira, in the north and in the west, karisimbi, Mikeno volcanoes in the east and Baruta in the north and Shaheru in the south.
Goma is the nearest town to Mount Nyiragongo and most of the itineraries for tourists crossing from Rwanda to Congo start from this town including the hikes on the mountain. Armed rangers accompany the tourists for security purposes as they enter Congo to carry out tourist activities.
In addition to Goma being the nearest town to Virunga national park and specifically Mount Nyiragongo, over the years this town was also affected by lava flows from the mountain which led to the evacuation of the locals for safety purposes.
The caldera of Mount Nyiragongo holds a lava lake which is about 1.2 kilometers wide and is unique to a few volcanoes. Tourists often question their safety in regards to trips to Mount Nyiragongo following the series of previous eruptions of the mountain.
Mount Nyiragongo is located in the western branch of the rift valley near Lake Kivu and not far from the Rwanda-Congo border. This mountain and Mount Nyamulagira are responsible for about 40% of volcanic activity in Africa.
Formation of Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Nyiragongo was formed as a result of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and volcanic ash building up to form a steep profile.
This mountain is characterized by outward dipping gentle slopes that surround the pit where the lava lake is found. The persistence of volcanic activity in the lava lake is a result of the shallow magma chamber which is directly connected to the lava lake.
The lava emitted by mount Nyiragongo is very fluid and flows at a high rate compared to lava emitted from other volcanoes due to its high chemical composition and it is known to have caused many disasters over the years during eruptions.
How to get to Mount Nyiragongo
To experience the hikes on mount Nyiragongo, tourists can access it through the following means;
- By road; from Kigali- Gisenyi- Goma and then proceed to the starting point of the hikes on Mount Nyiragongo in Kibati.
For the tourists to cross the border from Rwanda to Congo, they are required to have certain documents such as a valid passport, a visa, and a yellow fever card.
To acquire a Congo visa, tourists have to give a valid reason for the need for the visa which is the same procedure as in any other country. Certain documents are to be provided as proof of the reason for entry into Congo such as proof of purchase of a gorilla permit, proof of payment for accommodation and alternatively proof of payment for any tourist activity in the country.
Visas can also be got online and they take up to about 14 days to process and are received upon arrival in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo
Hiking on Mount Nyiragongo is considerate of both the slow and skilled hikers and the tourists hike up to the summit of the mountain. The best times for hiking this mountain are the drier months of June to September, December to January because the rainy seasons make the trails slippery and difficult to hike.
The hikes start in the morning and the altitude on this mountain is extreme and there is fog that can sometimes be seen at the top of Mount Nyiragongo. Porters, cooks and armed guards accompany tourists during their hikes to make sure no one is left behind.
Permits for hiking Mount Nyiragongo are booked early and they contain details such as the names of the person who is going to hike, the exact date of the hike and this helps in the securing of the accommodation for the hikers at the summit for the night.
Appropriate and favorable clothing suitable for the hikes on Mount Nyiragongo includes hiking boots, waterproof cloth, poncho, warm clothing, a sleeping bag, sunscreen, backpack, a torch.
The hikers are briefed about all the important aspects of hiking, the starting points, and the expectations during the hike on the mountain. Hikers are also made aware of the unpredictable changes in the weather on the mountain.
The terrain of the mountain is steep and rugged therefore hikers are expected to be well prepared for the hike. The hikes are in different segments which start with climbing the areas of low altitude and then progress to the higher altitude.
The high altitude hikes present the hikers with challenges of small loose lava rocks which require the hikers to have proper hiking boots in order to pass this stage of the hike. The next section of hiking Mount Nyiragongo presents slippery rocks in the path of the hikers.
The higher the altitude on mount Nyiragongo the steeper the slopes and the colder the temperature gets. In the final section of the hike, cabins are available for the hikers to spend the night and to get some rest.
Hikes on Mount Nyiragongo may take up to 3 to 4 days depending on the energy level of the hikers. The cost of the permit to hike this mountain goes for 300 USD and it can be obtained from the park headquarters of Virunga national park.
The hiking permit includes services offered during the hike excluding certain items such as porters who are responsible for helping the tourists with their luggage during the hikes on Mount Nyiragongo. For a successful hike on the mountain, rangers, guides, escorts, and porters combine their efforts to ensure the tourists get the best hiking experience.
The descent from the top of Mount Nyiragongo is faster compared to ascend and it may take the hikes up to about 3 hours to reach the starting point of the hike. The hikers may encounter sharp rocks during descend and they have to be very cautious to avoid getting hurt.
Hiking mount Nyiragongo is often combined with gorilla trekking in Virunga national park where tourists experience the endangered gorilla species for a satisfying tourist experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The previous volcanic activity on Mount Nyiragongo includes the following years in 1977 and in 2002. The eruption of the mountain in 1977 brought about many catastrophes due to the huge lava flow. The mountain erupted again in and flowed through Goma up to Lake Kivu.
Other attractions that can be seen include visits to Virunga national park where tourists can engage in activities such as gorilla tracking. Tourists can also view the beautiful scenery of Rwenzori mountains which are in the northern sector of the Virunga national park.
Accommodation facilities for tourists engaging in hiking include the following; Lulimbi Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp, Ihusi Hotel, Kibumba Tented Camp, Lac Kivu Lodge, Mikeno Lodge. Camping on the Nyiragongo mountain summit is also an accommodation option for tourists who engage in hiking the mountain.
“Visit Mount Nyiragongo for an experience of hiking a volcanic mountain and fill the thrill of seeing the boiling lava”