Mount Nyiragongo Hiking
Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano located inside Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and good spot for hiking and climbing. The volcano is just 20 Km north of Goma town and Lake Kivu in the western region of Rwanda. Mount Nyiragongo rises 3,470 meters above the sea level, with a main crater covering about 2 Km wide, endowed with a lava lake. The depth of the lava lake at the summit of Mount Nyiragongo varies and at one time, it was recorded to be at 600 meters deep.
Nyiragongo volcano has hundreds of small volcanic cinder cones from edge surrounding it due to eruption. It is recorded that during eruption of this volcano, the lava flows quickly at an average speed of 100km/h. This rapid flow of mount Nyiragongo lava is a threat to both human and wildlife because it quickly gets to them even before getting to a safer place.
Nyiragongo volcano has erupted 35 times since 1882 to date. There were times when even after an eruption, the activity continued, creating a churning lava lake in the crater. The current lava lake on Mount Nyiragongo was measured with a size of about 120,000 square meters however its temperatures and depth keep on fluctuating.
Yes, the most recent volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo happened in the evening of 22nd May 2021. It took 9 years to erupt after the last activity that happen on 17th January 2002. During that time, 13km fissure opened in the southern flank of Mount Nyiragongo spreading in a few hours from 2800m to 1550m elevation, reaching the peripheries of Goma city in the northern shore of Lake Kivu. The lava streamed from 3 spatter cones at the end of the fissure and flowed in a stream of approximately 200 to1000 metres wide with a depth of about 2 metres.
Scientists from the Goma Volcanic Observatory monitor mount Nyiragongo 24/7, year after year and record seismic data every after 4 minutes and the temperature data is produced every after10 minutes.
Mount Nyiragongo Hiking Experiences
Mount Nyirangogo hiking begins normally at 10:00am however climbers are advised to be at Kibati ranger post at 9:00am for briefing and thorough arrangements. Therefore; travelers interested in booking the Nyiragongo volcano hike package must be at Goma boarder at exactly 7:00am for check in with Virunga tourism office and also have your volcano trekking permits. The tourism office is just opposite the passport control.
You are required to have a visa in order to access DR Congo and Virunga national park for hiking excursion as well as a yellow fever vaccination certificate as proof of receiving the vaccine shot. The price of a hiking permit to mount Nyiragongo is about $300 per person per trek. You can book a fully costed trip to the volcano from Virunga national park or a local tour operator at an average rate of $1000. That rate is inclusive of the permit, porter service, meals and accommodation at the summit. That rate may go down with an increase in the number of people in your party.
Climbing mount Nyiragongo is a bit challenging for travelers who haven’t prepared themselves very well for this tour and those who are not physically fit. You need to be ready to face the steep and rugged terrain during your hike to the summit of the volcano.
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. Some travelers tend to extend their trip to Tchegera island for relaxation
What To Pack For A Mount Nyiragongo Hike?
Travelers interested in hiking Mount Nyiragongo are advised to pack and carry the following items to make their trip successful;
A sleeping bag: This is highly advised especially as you sleep on the thin mattresses provided in the huts at the summit. Those without sleeping bags, the park improvises but strongly recommend to carry your own.
Warm Clothing: Just like any other mountain hiking safari in Africa, you need to pack some warm clothes to be used while at the summit of Nyiragongo volcano. The temperatures on this mountain vary from warm on the lower slopes to the very cold at the summit. Therefore, please do not be misguided by the fact that there is an active lava lake on the peak and you assume that the temperatures are warm up there. Failure to carry warm clothes, you will experience very cold nights throughout your stay at the summit. Remember that the higher you go, the cooler it becomes.
Change of clothes: The destination in located in the tropical region of Africa and receive ample rainfall throughout the year. Like any other part of the world, it can rain any day and any time, therefore, you need to carry extra changing clothes to cater for emergencies like getting wet from rain and mist in the forest. Those traveling during the wet season from March to May and again in November, you are highly advised to pack a change of clothes.
Good hiking boots: Pack comfortable and strong hiking shoes to offer adequate ankle support considering that the terrain on the mountain is rocky, steep and uneven
Enough Drinking water: Endeavor to pack enough drinking water before starting your trail to the top of the mountain in order to keep your body well hydrated.
Prescription for altitude sickness: Hikers should get proper prescription for Diamox to deal with altitude sickness.
Other things to carry include; a yellow fever vaccination card, a torch, portable charger, backpack, camera and binoculars, hat and sunscreen.
Best Time To Visit Hike Mount Nyiragongo
Many travelers always look for the best time to hike Nyiragongo Volcano. Yes, the Nyiragongo can be hiked throughout the year however the best time for climbing is during the dry season that runs from December to Mid-March and from mid-June to September. During this period, the temperatures are bearable compared to wet season. More so, on top of the volcano, there is less mist during the dry season hence giving clearer views into the lava crater.
The average temperature at the summit ranges between 10°C to 30°C with the lowest being 8°C while the maximum is 31°C.