Guide to hiking Mount Nyiragongo Volcano in Congo
Mount Nyiragongo is a volcanic mountain located in the Democratic republic of Congo. This is the most active volcano of the Virunga Mountains. There has been little scientific monitoring of this mountain due to the unfavorable political environment in the DRC for along time. In the recent times, this volcano has erupted two times and there has been devastating effects to the people around it due to poor monitoring. Mount Nyiragongo's lava lake is found at a maximum elevation of 3250m (pre-disaster), inside a 3465m tall stratovolcano; the lake is about 600m deep and has one of the most fluid lava in the world. The lava from an erupting volcano is not usually so dangerous as it travel at a slow sped of about 1 to 10km/hr. When an eruption occurs, residents have a chance to out compete the speed of the lava and escape. The lava in Mount Nyiragongo is completely different because it is highly fluid and flows at about 97km/hr.
In the early 1997, there was an eruption and within just 30 mins the entire lava lake had been drained. This unpredictable nature of Nyiragongo volcano is the reason why more study has to be done to control the unpredictability. There were about 5 million cubic meters of lava to the north, south and west of the mountain and about 300 people were killed. Within just 20 minutes of the eruption, the lava had already reached the nearby town of Goma according to eye witnesses. Mount Nyiragongo is attached to the great East African Rift Valley and is one of the Virunga Massif. It lies in the Congo, close to the border with Rwanda (Goma – Gisenyi Border). Mount Nyiragongo is in Virunga National Park and is of Africa's most active volcanoes. Most Recent Eruptions Recorded: 1884, 1894, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1905, 1906, 1908(?), 1911, 1918, 1920-21, 1927-77, 1977, 1982, 1994-96, 2002.
Mount Baratu and Mount Shaheru are the nearest of the other volcanic mountains to Nyiragongo each with visible signs of past volcanic eruptions. Cinder cones, dried volcanic rocks, empty craters, steep sided summits and other volcanic land features spread in all corners of the larger Virunga volcanic massif and need no interpretations.
Mount Nyiragongo has erupted 34 times since 1882, sometimes the lava flowing long distances at high speed causing destruction to anything standing in its way. Such was the 2010 eruption that claimed more than 100 human lives, destroyed wildlife, livestock and to the lakeside town of Goma was in ruins with high refugee statistics.
Travelers taking a one night hiking safari to the summit of Mount Nyiragongo get outstanding thrilling once in a lifetime experiences. Under the cover of darkness in the night, the hikers clearly observe the red-hot bubbling of the lava lake underneath the earth crust and the gushing red smoke paints the sky a galaxy of colors. Not many people on earth get this physical experience. The hikers with pre booked hiking permit assemble at Kibati Ranger Post, approximately 30 minutes drive from Goma town after sunrise. The rangers cross check the hiking permits, brief hikers on the Mount Nyiragongo hiking regulations, share their everyday hiking experiences and give brief orientation about the entire hiking safari. Shortly, an entourage that includes armed guards, porters, guides and the visiting hikers set out on an expedition into the mountains. Note the elevation is high, terrain may be rough, it rains at anytime and though the hike is not necessarily so tiresome but hikers need some degrees of body physical fitness. The hike to the summit takes 4-6 hours on average and the beauty of the adventuring on Mount Nyiragongo surrounds hikers from all corners.