Situated in the Virunga National Park, Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most Africa’s most exciting and rewarding hiking experiences for travelers going on Congo safaris. It is rising majestically to an altitude of 3470m overlooking the Virungas National Park and associated Albertine Rift. The mountain is a spectacular stratovolcano that hosts one of the world’s largest and rarest lava lakes and the route to climb Nyiragongo was re -opened to the mountain climbers in October 2014. At the summit of the mountain are craters and the main crater is about two kilometers 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 m (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft). The most impressive forms of volcanic activity at the lava lakes are no doubt and travelers are assured of witnessing these formations.
It is so interesting that after arriving at the summit, travelers are able to observe its bubbling lava cauldron but viewing from a safe distance and feel this volcano’s energy, as it heaves and breathes. Once travelers opt for an overnight stay at Mount Nyiragongo’s crater edge allows them to enjoy this spectacle in the dark, but also at dawn and dusk when its alluring beauty is enhanced. Trekking takes a maximum of 5 hours and therefore travelers have ample time to observe fully and acquire great experience never to forget.
Nyiragongo Volcano Treks
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 sometimes dusted with snow. This is an active stratovolcano which has an elevation of about 3470m with in Virunga Mountains and is greatly connected with Virunga Albertine rift valley. This volcano is located within the Democratic Republic of Congo inside Virunga National Park. It’s also located 20km north of the town of Goma as well as Lake Kivu. It has a crater which is two kilometers wide and also contains a lave lake. This lake which is located in the crater has got two different cooled lava benches in the crater walls. One of the lava benches is about 3,175m and another one is about 2,975m. The Nyiragongo Mountain and the Nyamulagira are responsible for about 40% of historical volcanic eruptions in Africa.
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. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but the vast majorities choose to overnight in the basic accommodations available at the top (included in the permit fee) because the best time to view the lava lake is at night.
Overnight on top of the Nyiragongo volcano cabins
12 summit cabins are provided at the top of the volcano each comprising of 2 single beds where hikers can put their sleeping bags. The cabins have a mattress and pillow. While at the cabin hikers are provided with snacks, breakfast, dinner, water and sleeping bags. The mountain top can be freezing cold with strong winds. You need to be to go prepared with warm clothing. The cooks and porters will help prepare hot tea and coffee to help relieve hikers from the cold. The cost of an overnight at the summit is included on the permit fee. From the cabins you can smell the boiling and bubbling lava.
After marveling at the boiling lava lake and magma, it is time to descend. Descending is much faster and it takes about three hours to reach the starting point. However it is not as easy at it seems. Climbing down through sharp rocks and steep sections can be very challenging and one needs to be cautious so not to be hurt by the sharp rocks. The great thing about descending is that you have a sustained view of the great Virunga National Park and distant Volcanoes including the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Lake Kivu.
The cost and requirements for getting a Congo Visa
Nyiragongo hiking permits can be obtained from the Virunga National Park directly or through a Tour operator at a cost of $300. Once bought, Nyiragongo Hiking permits do not attract a refund. You need to first secure the hiking permit before applying for a Congo Visa. A single Congo tourist entry visa costs $105 per person. This single entry visa is valid for 14 days from the day of entry.
A part from the VISA, you need to have other documentation with you to cross the Congo border from Rwanda. A Valid passport is a must as is a yellow fever vaccination card. A good tour company should help you acquire the VISA as well as arranging for transportation, accommodation and porters. We have an interesting 3 days Mount Nyiragongo Climbing Package that you will find interesting.
Packing List for hiking mount Nyiragongo
A rain jacket: This should be light so as not to inconvenience you while climbing the mountain. The rain jacket will help shield you from the heavy rains.
Suitable hiking boots: The shoes should have a good grip (rubber soles), water proof, comfortable and able to keep your feet warm.
Warm clothes and sleeping bag: The Mountain gets colder as one ascends higher and you need to be prepared in the best possible way. Go with warm clothing to stop protect you from the freezing cold at the summit. You will need a sweater, rain resistant pants, jacket, long underwear, warm socks and hat.
Packed lunch and Water: Climbing Mount Nyiragongo can be very tiring leaving you thirsty and even hungry. Carry along packed lunch and enough drinking water
Hire a porter: Hiring a porter at the base of the volcano costs about $15 per day. These porters are used to climbing the volcano several times a week and have no difficulty helping with heavy luggage. They will also help you climb the most difficult parts of the mountain.
A hat and sunscreen: These will come in handy when there are heavy downpours or during the hot/dry season.
Camera and Binoculars: You cannot go for such a great experience without a good camera or photos to show of your time at the volcano. Watching a live Volcano is an experience only few ever get in their lifetime. You need good photos for your record and to also show off to friends and family. Binoculars will enable you spot amazing scenery particularly while climbing down the mountain.
Backpack: This is where you would be keeping all your gadgets – phones, ipads, camera, binoculars and more. Ensure that it is rainproof.
Portable charger: This will ensure that your ipads, Laptops, phones are powered while in your cabin at the summit.
A Torch: The summit has no electricity. Power is got from solar but is not available everywhere. You will need a torch to move about to the kitchen or bathrooms.
Additional Information about Climbing Mount Nyiragongo
The best time to Hike Mount Nyiragongo: Hiking mount Nyiragongo can be done throughout the year but dry season is preferred by tourists. The dry season fall between June and September and also December, January and February. The rainy seasons cause the trails to be more slippery and difficult for hikers.
Be in Good Shape: Climbing mount Nyiragongo is challenging and requires one to be fit. The mountain becomes steeper as one ascends while climbing down has its own challenges – Knee and ankle pain because of pressure. The weather conditions get more challenging as one ascends the mountains. You need to take that into consideration especially if you are sensitive to extreme weather changes.
Mental Preparedness: This is key because it is not all about being fit. You need to be determined to complete the hike despite all the challenges you may face. One can prepare the mind and body weeks before the hike by going for minor hikes on rocks or hills around your home.
Use a stick for hiking: A hiking stick will help you climb up and down steep slopes by helping you maintain balance and relive the knees from greater strain. Climbing sticks are available at the starting point.
Keep your valuable safe: Always keep your valuables like cameras, money and laptops close to you even while at the cabins with fellow hikers.
A yellow fever vaccination card is important: To cross the border to Congo, you will be required to show your passport and yellow fever card. Without the card, you may not be allowed entry to Congo.
Here are some important notes for those looking to hiking Nyiragongo Volcano;
- All climbs begin promptly at 10:00 am. Late arrivals will not be allowed to climb and permits are non-refundable. For security reasons, there will be no exceptions. The Kibati ranger station, which is the trail head for Nyiragongo, is approximately 30 minutes from Goma by car. All climbers must check in at the Kibati station by no later than 9:15 am on the day of their climb. Climbers typically descend the volcano at between 6:30 – 7:00 am the next morning and arrive back at Kibati station by 11:30 am. If one intends to fly out of Kigali on the same day, please make sure not to schedule your departure flight before 6 pm.
- Trekkers are strongly advised to bring full rain and cold weather gear (moisture-wicking base layer, sweater or fleece, jacket, rain resistant pants, long underwear, warm socks, hat, and a 0°C/32° – rated sleeping bag). Temperatures at the summit are routinely below freezing. Although most people arrive at the summit sweating from the steep climb, this sense of warmth quickly gives way to cold. A complete change of base layers is a must. Failure to bring proper gear will lead to hypothermia. Please do not endanger yourself and others by coming unprepared for these conditions.
Guests staying at the Mikeno Lodge, Bukima Tented Camp or Tchegera Island Camp can arrange 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 15 kg.