The Nyiragongo active volcano is one of Congo’s major tourist attractions. Located in the Eastern part of the country and overlooking the Virunga national park, Nyiragongo volcano is one of the 8 volcanoes within the Virunga conservation region. The other volcanoes include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Mikeno, Mount Gahinga and mount Nyamuragira. The Nyiragongo volcano rises at 3470 meters offering a medium hike to the top of the volcano approximately 5 – 6 hours.
Being one of the world’s largest active volcanoes, the Mount Nyiragongo volcano lava lake is very intriguing and impressive. Mount Nyiragongo hike tours were opened to tourism in 2014 by the Virunga National Park authorities. Visitors usually combine mountain gorilla trekking and hiking the Nyiragongo volcano Those who are looking for a unique and once in a lifetime mountain hiking adventure will find the answer in hiking Mount Nyiragongo.
Not only beautiful, Nyiragongo is the largest stratavolcano with the world’s largest lava lake. A variety of wild animals such as chimpanzees, monkeys, and bush bucks are habituated in the lower forested slopes of Mount Nyiragongo, the summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is frequently dusted with snow. Nyiragongo is one of the active volcanoes in the volcanoes national park and is highly feared during eruptions by both the hikers and the local people residing near the mountain. The activity of the mountain is evidenced by the churning lava lake and the hot gases that explode up though at a mosaic of molten lava. In 2002, the eruption at Nyiragongo was strong in that some of the lava flows were clocked at 100 km/hr reaching as far as Lake Kivu.
How to reach Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Nyiragongo can be reached from several areas but for security reasons, it is safer through Gisenyi town in Rwanda. From Gisenyi, visitors will be driven for 20 km to the border between Rwanda and DR Congo before crossing to Goma. From Goma town, a great black cloud is visible which is a reminder of the volcanoes last eruption in 2002. The lava that once flowed at great temperatures has now cooled to leave a black rock. After Goma, you will be driven to the head trail at Kibati village. You will be briefed on what to expect before starting your Mount Nyiragongo volcano hike. The briefing covers all important aspects of hiking the Nyiragongo Volcano and includes what to expect, the stopping points and what to pack. Hikers will need to move as a group for most of the activity except for the final part of the hike.
Climbing Mount Nyiragongo
Climbing mount Nyiragongo can be very challenging for those who are ill prepared and not good shape. One needs to be ready to deal with the steep slopes and rugged terrain. There are porters at the starting pointing in Kibati Ranger post who can be hired for a fee to help with carrying heavy stuff.
There are five segments when climbing mount Nyiragongo. The first part of the hike involves climbing through areas at lower altitude. Those who are not mentally or physically prepared usually quit at this point. After the first major stop, the altitude increases presenting more challenges. In this second part of the hike, one has to deal with small loose lava rocks. Those who have proper hiking boots should pass through this section with ease.
After completing the second part, hikers have to now deal with not only the small loose rocks but slippery stones and the difficult conditions of higher altitude. By the time you reach the fourth segment, the mountain slopes gets steeper and steeper with greater cold due to high altitude. Apart from the cold, it’s common to find rains at this section – Warm clothes and rain jackets will be required. The final part is the steepest but also shortest. The cabins can be sighted from this point and that is enough motivation for even the most tired hiker. Hikers who manage to reach this section are allowed to complete the rest of the hike at their own comfortable pace. You might find our 2 days Nyiragongo hike package interesting.
Hiking the Nyiragongo Mountains
Mount Nyiragongo’s eruptions are always predictable and hikers are normally warned when signs have been observed, they therefore go there when the area is safe.
For all hikers at Mount Nyiragongo, briefing from the guides is the first activity done; they are briefed about the dos and don’ts in the hiking process. Hikers are also reminded to hire porters who help to carry the baggage of the travelers for easy hiking. Walking sticks are also encouraged especially in descending back.
Although hiking time ranges from 4-6 hours, it is not a guarantee but mostly depends on the physical fitness of the hiking group or an individual. Hikes 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. 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.
Concerning health, Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. Honesty is encouraged especially for people who are prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), they should talk to their guides and physicians before hiking so that preventative measures are taken before making the climb. Hikers must carry enough drinking water and other snacks to keep them energetic during the hiking period.
- Although mount Nyiragongo seems difficult to hike, it is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day though most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top at the top of the mountain.
- The continuous change in climate at Mount Nyiragongo requires all hikers to carry with them emergency equipment such as the full rain and cold weather gear with moisture-wicking base layer, sweater or fleece, jacket, rain resistant pants, long underwear, warm socks, hat, and a sleeping bag which is at a 0°C/32° rate. It is believed that temperatures at the summit are routinely below freezing.
- While at the summit of Mount Nyiragongo, a complete change of base layers is a must. The sweating and hotness from the steep climb quickly gives way to coldness, it requires proper adherence to the cautions since a mere failure to bring proper gear will lead to hypothermia.
- It is an advantage for travelers who sleep in mikeno lodge. They can arrange packed meal service for the trip and may also add overnight gear which includes snack, hot dinner, breakfast, water, sleeping bag, kitchen porter, and cook. All this eases the hiking processes of traveler’s enabling them to be ready and catch up with the proper hiking time.
- NOTE: Due to the cold weather conditions and the likely impacts of hiking Mount Nyiragongo, all hikers are required to make advance preparations to get acclimatized to these conditions so as not to get serious problems during and after hiking.
Visiting the Volcano
Nyiragongo is open to tourists and is accessible all year round. A hike costs $200 for a foreigner and $25 for a Congolese national to hike up Nyiragongo. Travelers looking to hiking Nyiragongo need to get a permit from the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) office in Goma. You can also book a Nyiragongo Volcano Trekking safari from one of the tour operators listed on this website.
In conclusion, all travelers interested and planning to Climb Mount Nyiragongo, the real climb starts at 9:00 am where as descending the volcano is between 6:30 -7:00n am for those who sleep up at the summit of the mountain, all precautions should be highly considered.