Mount Nyamuragira is an active volcano found in the Virunga mountains national park in the Democratic Republic of CONGO. Described one of Africa’s most active volcano is situated about 25 km north of Goma town and Lake Kivu in the Virunga volcanic province. It’s recorded that the volcano has erupted more than 40 times with the most recent volcanic eruptions occurring in 2010 and 2011.
The active volcanic mountain covers an area of about 1,500 sq km which is found within the western branch of the great east African rift valley. Because of the active lava activity on the volcano, it has attracted many travelers who come to witness the natural volcanic eruptions offering yet amazing volcano hiking opportunities through the Virunga rain forests that harbor the two great apes that are the mountain gorillas and the chimpanzee.
The broad shield volcano stands at an altitude of about 3,058 meters above sea level with hiking possibilities to stand on top of the 2 km wide caldera lake with steep walls of over 100 meters. Due to its frequent eruptions that produced a 400 meter high column of lava which resulted into formation of a 500 meter deep lava lake on top of the summit and emplacement of parasitic cones, new smaller volcanoes on the flanks of Nyamuragira volcano.
The erupting volcano has helped to attract many tourists into the DRC boasting tourism on top of the critically endangered mountain gorillas as a result tourists who come to see gorillas end up hiking the volcano to spend an overnight looking down into the molten lava lake. Hikers come for volcano viewing with spectacular sights. In 2010 and 2011 when the recent eruptions took place, many travelers found their ways in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite Eastern DRC used to be feared due to past civil wars and rebel activities over the past 10 years; however with the increase in security by the deployment of UN peace keeping forces and the DRC government, the region is safe for tourists who are always protected by armed rangers.
Nyamuragira rises above Africa’s oldest rain forests with unique vegetation and ecosystems making it the most biologically diverse region. Ranging from savannahs, boggy swamps, bamboo forests, lava plains, woodland forests, alpine and snow capped mountains of the Rwenzori in eastern side of the region. These habitats are a home to the last surviving population of mountain gorillas about 880 gorillas divided between bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in south western Uganda where half (400) of the gorillas live, volcanoes national park in Rwanda and the Virunga mountains national park in DRC. Other Wildlife which includes forest elephants, chimpanzees, species of primates, birds, antelopes also live in the forests which compliment the volcano viewing.
Nyamuragira can be hiked during day with the help of guides, armed rangers, and porters the trek can only take 3- 4 hours. For overnight trekkers to Nyamuragira, there are bungalows built with lava rock walls and thatched roofs at USD 300 per night per visitor. Normally, you would also want to camp, its advisable to come with your own tents, camping and hiking gears.
Trekkers must be equipped with solid walking shoes, walking sticks, sun hut and screen, rain jackets, bags, a pair of warm clothing to prepare for the showers at any time of the day. Packed foods or snacks and drinking water are essential.
The weather is pleasant all year round but the best time to hike is between Januarys, July and august with short and long dry periods. June and September are good for hiking as well. Weather is unpredictable because of the equatorial climate hence expect some showers. Hikers are advised to take preventive medicines against yellow fever, malaria and acute mountain sickness before attempting to climb.
Nyamuragira can easily be reached by public transport, from Kigali it takes 2 hours to Goma town in DRC and then continue north of Lake Kivu to the starting point.