Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano situated in Virunga national park, well known for unmatched hiking experiences and one of the major attractions of the park. Nyiragongo is one of the 8 spectacular volcanoes that form the Virunga massif; located in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. The other volcanoes in the Virunga conservation area include Mount Muhabura, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Gahinga Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Mikeno and mount Nyamuragira.
Mount Nyiragongo volcano rises at 3470 meters and offers a medium hiking adventure in Virunga national park. A hike to the summit is approximately 4- 6 hour depending on the physical fitness of the hikers.
Nyiragongo mountain is one of Africa’s largest active volcanoes with a lava lake on top, offering a very fascinating and impressive feature. Nyiragongo mount hiking tours started in 2014 by the Virunga national park authorities and it has attracted hundreds of tourists all over the world.
Travelers interested in exploring Virunga national park usually combine mountain gorilla trekking experience with an adventurous hike to the summit of mount Nyiragongo. And those looking for a life time adventure vacation in Africa, hiking mount Nyiragongo is the best travel destination. This volcano is the only place in Africa where tourists are allowed to go and see a lava lake.
Hiking mount Nyiragongo can be very challenging more so to those who are physically unfit ad not well prepared for the hike. You must be ready to face the steep slopes and rugged terrain in order to reach to the summit of the volcano. If you have a heavy back pack, you are advised to hire a porter at the starting point of Kibati ranger post to help you during climbing.
Climbers encounter five segments when hiking mount Nyiragongo. The first hike involves climbing through a lower altitude. Most unfit hikers usually quit at this point. After the first major stop, it becomes more challenging with an increase in the altitude. Hikers start to deal with small loose lava rocks however those with strong hiking shoes pass through this section with ease.
After finishing the second segment, hikers deal with not only the small loose lava rocks but also slippery stones and difficult conditions of higher altitude. By the time you reach the fourth segment, Nyiragongo mountain slopes get steeper with greater cold due to higher altitude. Besides being cold, hikers often find rains under this section hence warm clothes and rain jackets are required.
The final section is the steepest but also shortest. The sleeping cabins can be seen from this point. This motivates the would-be tired hikers to climb to the summit. When you reach at this point, you may be allowed to complete the rest of the trail at your own pace.
A total of 12 summit cabins were constructed at the top of the volcano, each comprising of 2 single beds to accommodate hikers. Sleeping bags, mattresses and pillows are provided. Hikers are also provided with snacks, breakfast, dinner and water. The top of volcano can be freezing cold with strong winds; therefore, you need to put on warm clothing. The cooks and porters always prepare hot tea and coffee for hikers in order to relieve them from coldness.
The cost of accommodation at the mount Nyiragongo summit is always included on the permit fee.
After experiencing the top of Nyiragongo, its time now to descend. Get ready by 6:30am and start to slope down to the base of the volcano. Descending from the summit of mount Nyiragongo to the bottom takes approximately 4hours. During this journey, you will have a sustained view of the great Virunga National Park and distant mountain ranges including the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Lake Kivu.
Getting to Virunga National Park for Mount Nyiragongo Hiking
You can get to Mount Nyirangogo in Virunga national park for hiking experiences using several routes. However, for security and safety reasons, you are highly recommended to drive through Gisenyi town in Rwanda for travelers who fly through Kigali international airport. From Gisenyi, it is just 20kms away from Goma boarder. Actually, some visitors opt to have a night in Gisenyi and drive to the Grande barriere border the following day for check in with Virunga tourism office and also getting the volcano hiking permits.
From Goma town, a great black cloud is visible and it reminds people of the last Nyirango volcanic eruption that happened in 2021 and 2002. The lava that once flowed at great temperatures, cooled to leave a black rock.
From Grande barriere border, you will be driven to the head trail at Kibati ranger post for briefing and later start your hike to the top of Mount Nyiragongo volcano.
Packing List for hiking mount Nyiragongo
The temperature at mount Nyiragongo summit regularly drops below freezing, with occasional high winds and rain, therefore, you are advised to pack and carry a number of items to make your hiking adventure successful and memorable. These include;
Strong hiking boots
Warm clothes such as sweater, long underwear, rain resistant pants, jacket and warm socks
A hat and sunscreen
Camera and Binoculars
Water proof backpack
It is recommended to hire a porter at Kibati ranger post to help you carry your backpack if it is heavy. More so, you will be creating employment opportunities to the local people. In return these porters use this wage to look after their families and also educate their children for a better generation.