Mount Nyiragongo Africa’s most active volcano is situated inside the famous Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mount Nyiragongo is part of the Virunga mountains. The Virunga mountains are 8 in number including mount sabyinyo, mount muhavura, mount gahinga, mount Nyamuragira, mount karisimbi, mount mikeno, mount bisoke, and mount Nyiragongo. Mount Nyiragongo standing at the altitude of 3470 meters above the sea level lies in the Albertine rift valley. The mountain has the main crater of 2 kilometers wide on top of the volcano.

The Crater Lake has 2 distinct cooled lava benches with in the Crater Lake, one benches is of 3175 meters and the lower bench is of 2975 meters. The crater on top of the volcano contains the world’s largest lava lake, and many times history has referred to Nyiragongo Lava Lake as the most voluminous lava lake. Lava depth in the lake varies considerably and as prior to 1997 eruption lava elevation was reordered to be 3250 meters, according to statistics mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira are responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.

Mount Nyiragongo overlaps with 2 older volcanoes of Baratu and Shaheru. The volcano is also surrounded by numerous small volcanic cinder cones which are a result of eruptions from flanks.

The existence of lava in the volcano was suspected not until 1948 when it was scientifically confirmed, at this time lava was estimated to be 120,000 square meters and as time has gone by the lava lake has fluctuated in size, depth, and temperature. Lava lake activity still continuing but as for 2010, the lava lake is limited within a broad, steep-sided cinder cone which is estimated to be 18 meters high and 180 meters wide on a crater floor.

Mount Nyiragongo an activities volcano has erupted a couple of times, since 1882 the volcano is said to have erupted at least 34 times. The notable eruption incidences are 

1997 eruption of Mount Nyiragongo

On 10th 1977 the walls of the lava-filled crater fractured causing the lava lake to drain in less than 60 minutes, the lava flowed down the flanks of the volcano at a terrible speed of 60 kilometers per hour.  In not more than 30 minutes the lava lake had become empty as the lava continued to flow in the directions of north, south, and west of the volcano. Due to the heavily populated adjacent to mount Nyiragongo, eruptions of the volcano pose hazardous threats to the community as seen by the eruption of 1977 which resulted in the death of at least 70 people. This eruption resulted in the creation of a new small volcano called Murara which is of a short distance away from the slopes of mount Nyamuragira.

2002 eruption

After several months of increased seismic and fumarolic activity, a major eruption took place on January 17th 2002. A 13 kilometers linear volcanic vent of elevation of 2800 meters and 1550 meters were lava streamed from three spatter cones reaching to the outskirts of Goma city, northern shore of Lake Kivu and also covered the northern end of the runway at Goma international airport. Those this eruption   cause fears of possible rising of gas-saturated waters in the deep end of the lake to the surface it did not happen, though people were warned before and evacuated to Gisenyi border town of Rwanda an estimated 245 people died from asphyxia a condition caused by deficient oxygen due to too much carbon dioxide discharge by the eruption. 15% of Goma town was destroyed by eruption causing 120,000 people homeless.

Immediately at the end of the eruption large number of earthquakes in the towns of Gisenyi and Goma which continued for three months leading to more collapsing of buildings, six months after the volcano experienced another eruption which is still ongoing but currently limited to the crater resulting into the formation of another lava lake of 250 meters. The volcano is always being monitored 24/7 by a team of professional scientists at GVO (Goma Volcanic Observatory), though the monitoring is crucially done there is an ongoing threat caused by localized carbon dioxide toxicity locally referred to as mazuku, the discharge of this gas from the ground at high levels with no dispersing effect of wind has caused a number of deaths mostly in children.

Mount Nyiragongo is an enchanting Congo tourist destination offering the best memorable hiking experience in democratic republic of congo, hiking on the Nyiragongo volcano is a slightly hard as you have to trek/ climb an altitude of 11400 feet to reach the top of the volcano but the hike is very rewarding as you get to enjoy the phenomenal view of hot lava boiling/bumbling in the lava lake. The breath taking hike of 5 to 6 hours begins in the morning in Virunga national park at kibati ranger post, at this post you are brief on the dos and don’ts while on the hike. Hiking to the top of the volcano greatly depends on the strength and ability, the hike cannot be done in one day that is why spending a night on the top of the volcano is expected and while on the top you spend the night in the small tents and hut. Before it gets dark you get to enjoy the breath taking a view of the lava lake.

Mount Nyiragongo
View of Mount Nyiragongo From Goma Town

Fear of unexpected eruption while on top of the volcano is one of the main concerns of the tourists going on the hike but it proved that people on the top of the volcano are safer than people on the bottom of the volcano. For a wonderful hiking experience, there are do and don’ts which must be followed by the tourists such as 

  • Always hike in a group not alone, hiking takes the tourist through trails in deep thick forests on the slope and these forests contain dangerous animals which are a threat to human lives
  • Always hike through atrial which is the best suit for your ability, before the hike tell your guide about your strength ability, the will choose a suitable trail for you.
  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes, appropriate shoes are very crucial on a hike as you abound to hike through slippery trails.
  • While hiking through the densely forests on slopes of mount Nyiragongo it is important not to touch all the vegetation you come across as most of them contain hooks and cause skin irritation 
  • Always carry a waterproof jacket as it might rain anytime while on the hiking
  • In your bag pack always keep a small garbage bag to keep your rubbish 

There is also a list of things you must carry with you when you are going for the Nyiragongo hike

  • Hiking bag back
  • Plenty of water and energizers like chocolate
  • First aid kit 
  • Waterproof clothes like a raincoat
  • Hiking stick 
  • Porter to help you carry your bags.

Mount Nyiragongo can be reached through Kigali using Kigali International Airport then you connect to Gisenyi via Goma.

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