Goma town is located in Africa’s biggest country the Democratic Republic of Congo and is found in the eastern region of the country on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Rwanda bordering Gisenyi town. This town lies on the northern shore of Lake Kivu is the capital town of the Northern Province of kivu, Goma town covering an area of 29.24 square miles together with Lake Kivu are situated in the Albertine Rift in the western arm of the rift valley. Goma town is approximately 20 kilometers from mount Nyiragongo an active volcano. 30 miles from Virunga national park and 97 kilometers from Kigali airport located in Kigali the capital city of Rwanda.
Goma town experiences tropical savanna climate with annual average temperatures of 18 °C and an average rainfall of 1192 mm annual. These climatic conditions are conducive both for the ecological system and the life of tourists during their stay in the town. Goma town is an exciting tourist destination with a lot of choices to choose from for a fun filled safari experience in the town, safari activities in Goma include Virunga community walks, city tour, beach activities on the shores of Lake Kivu, Ubuntu voyages, canoe ride on lake kivu, hiking on mount Nyiragongo and many more.
Goma town was once famous for its nightlife which is currently no more due to conflicts, the town hosts a lot of history and significant past events which are of interest to the people of Goma and the tourists from all over the world.
Rwanda genocide and 1994 refugee crisis
Being located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Goma town was greatly affected by the Rwandan genocide of 1994 as many refugees crossed over to Goma in search for survival, Rwanda genocide was a conflict between the Hutu and the Tutsi of Rwandan Patriotic Fund. This conflict resulted in the overthrow of the ruling Hutu government and generated over 12,000 daily from 13 June to 14 July 1994. The massive refugee influx of an estimated one million refugees resulted in much humanitarian crisis but the Zaïrean government took over responsibility for attention. The climax of the refugee influx was the outbreak of cholera claiming thousands of lives in the Hutu refugee camps.
First Congo war
Among the refugees who flooded into Goma town from Rwanda in 1994 were Hutu militias and some of the members of the Hutu provisional government, these people devised operations aimed at attacking the Tutsi in kivu and Rwandan government forces at the border. These attacks were supported by the government of joseph Mobutu the then ruling president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda and Ugandan government through a rebel movement Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire led by Laurent Kabila went against Mobutu for his support for the attacks, they stormed the camps at Goma resulting into the overthrow of Mobutu’s regime in a war termed as the first war which ended in 1997.
Second Congo war
A year after the first Congo war, a dispute between Kabila leader of movement Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire and his allies of Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwanda government went supported Congolese Rally for Democracy made up of Banyamulenge people related to Tutsi against Kabila their former ally leading to the capture of Bukavu town and other towns which sparked off the second Congo war. Hutu in the Goma town refugee camps created a militia in the names of the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the crisis continued with numerous attacks from both forces of the Rwandan government and Congolese Rally for Democracy resulting into death of many civilians. By 2003 the Banyamulenge people of Congolese Rally for Democracy got tired of the war.
Democratic Republic of Congo and Goma town continued to face conflict outbreaks since 2003, the remaining Hutu refugees in forests and mountains of North West Goma town kept carrying out on the Rwanda government through the border and the Banyamulenge rebels. The defense unit of Congolese government are unwilling to put a stop on the attacks due to Rwanda’s continuous support to Banyamulenge rebels.
In September 2007 Goma town faced another conflict as a strong militia of generals Nkunda based around Rushuru broke away from the Congolese army, they started attacks in the town of Masisi north-west of Goma. On October 27, 2008, another conflict referred to as Battle of Goma broke out in Goma town, it was fought between the Congolese army which was supported by the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People rebels. On 3 November 2012, another clash on the border north of Goma town between Congolese and Rwandan troops broke out.
These never-ending conflicts have greatly affected tourism and development Goma town and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today the Democratic Republic of Congo is politically stable though faced several Ebola outbreaks.
Goma town is adjacent to mount Nyiragongo standing an active volcano, in January 2002 the mountain erupted making lava through the city of Goma causing people to evacuate to Gisenyi. The lava destroyed 40% of the city including houses and buildings. 1 kilometer of the northern runway of Goma international airport was filled with hot lava. In 2005 there was another threat of volcanic activity which is still being monitored by scientists in Goma.
Goma town is served by Goma international airport and Kigali international airport of Rwanda.
Attractions within and around Goma Town
Goma town is a place of numerous breathtaking wonders which attract a large number of tourists to Goma and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Main highlights in and adjacent to Goma city include
- Mount Nyiragongo: Mount Nyiragongo an active volcano that is found on the outskirts of Goma town is a magnificent feature to look at while in Goma. Mount Nyiragongo stands at an altitude of 3,465 meters above the sea level, the magnificent has Lava Lake on top of it (this lava lake is ranked as the most fluid lava lake in the world) and lava in this lake flows at a speed of 97 kilometers per hour. This volcano offers intoxicating hiking and views of the lava lake where lava is seen bubbling in the lake at night.
- Lake Kivu: Lake Kivu has a great scenery to witness while Goma town, the lake of 50 kilometers wide and 90 kilometers long with a depth of 475 meters deep found in the Albertine rift valley is the eighth deepest Lake in the world. Lake Kivu is a bilharzia perfect location for beach activities like sunbathing, fishing sports, swimming, and canoe rides.
- Virunga National Park: Virunga national park found in the Democratic Republic of Congo is famous for harboring the highly endangered mountain gorillas offering mountain gorilla trekking experience. Virunga national park is a wildlife haven with many animals offering safari services like mountain gorilla trekking, nature walks, hiking and bird watching.
Activities done in and around Goma
Goma town is a wonderful destination offering many safari activities to tourists which include.
- Hiking/ climbing Nyiragongo volcano: Hiking mount Nyiragongo is an unforgettable experience of 6- 8 hours from the bottom of the mountain to the top, hiking begins at Kibati ranger post and the climbers get a chance to spend the night at the top of the volcano while enjoying the adjacent views of the surrounding including lake kivu, forests, and plains.
- City tour: City walks in Goma town are carried offering the tourist an opportunity to see and enjoy the different sights in the city, through the markets and shops where you get to buy souvenirs like locally made necklaces.
- Hakuna Matata safaris: On a tour in Goma town, touring the city on Matata tri-cycles is an exceptional memory. These tours take the tourist through the sections of the city while enjoying the beauty of the city which is filled with rocks left by volcanic activity.
- Canoe rides: Canoe rides in Goma town take place on Lake Kivu in a dugout canoe taking you on a cool breeze filled trip. Most tourists go for canoe rides to enjoy the beautiful terrain from the lake and also to relax from hiking and mountain gorilla trekking.
- Beach activities: Beach activities in Goma town take place on the shores of Lake Kivu, these activities include sunbathing, swimming and beach soccer. These games are loved by tourists as they relax from tiring gorilla trekking in Virunga national park and hiking in mount Nyiragongo.
As a tourist the best time to visit Goma town in the dry months of July to October because all the roads are dry and passable.