The ascent to the summit of Nyiragongo Volcano’s active crater promises an awe-inspiring experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand on the edge of a colossal crater gazing into the depths of a red-hot, bubbling lava lake, mere hundred feet below. Nestled within the heart of Virunga National Park, this exhilarating hike is a must for any traveler venturing into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the challenges of sweat, breathlessness, and altitude sickness, the journey to the active volcano’s peak is a testament to nature’s grandeur, delivering both a thrilling adventure and a humbling encounter. Particularly enchanting is the view of the bubbling lava lake, casting a crimson glow against the night sky. The ascent, spanning approximately 11,500 feet (8.5 km), demands physical prowess and unwavering dedication.
Ascending Mount Nyiragongo is not a casual stroll; it’s a daring escapade tailored for the intrepid. This undertaking necessitates careful planning and early preparation, entailing physical conditioning to ensure fitness. Equally paramount is timely booking, at least two months ahead, securing accommodation in the summit cabins and evading last-minute disappointments.
Due to the nature of volcanic terrain, characterized by hot, uneven rocks, hikers are advised to don sturdy hiking boots for agile maneuvering. Hand gloves provide protection against sharp stones and searing surfaces in case of accidental contact on steep slopes. Waterproof attire, rain gear, cozy sweaters, and insulated jackets are indispensable for tackling unforeseen weather fluctuations and the chilling cold of the night. The trekking poles distributed at the briefing point serve as essential aids for stability on uneven ground. Hiking gaiters and bicycle arm warmers prove invaluable, while provisions of ample drinking water and energy-rich snacks fuel the travelers’ stamina throughout the expedition.
Like other Virunga National Park activities, travelers must gather at Kabita Patrol by 9:00 am for essential safety briefings. At 10:00 am sharp, under the guidance of an armed and seasoned ranger, the ascent commences. The hiking pace corresponds to the slowest member of the group, fostering unity in progression. Therefore, punctuality is paramount, ensuring all participants begin together. Rest points pepper the slopes, preventing an arduous tempo. The journey takes about 5 hours, revealing captivating vistas of Virunga National Park and its neighboring communities.
Securing a hiking permit from Virunga National Park is an indispensable prerequisite for every Nyiragongo volcano hiker. These permits must be acquired in advance, with a deposit ensuring access on the designated day. This document stands as your gateway to the breathtaking summit.
In contrast to many activities, a porter becomes a pivotal companion on the Nyiragongo ascent. As the journey involves an overnight stay at the volcano’s peak, the need for carrying substantial baggage—comprising food, water, cameras, and clothing—arises. Porters, available for a fair fee of 24 USD for both ascent and descent, shoulder the load and provide indispensable support during treacherous sections. While tipping porters and guides is discretionary, these gratuities offer indirect support to the local community’s livelihoods.
Remarkably, the journey to Nyiragongo’s summit can harmoniously intertwine with Gorilla Trekking, forming an exceptional dual adventure. This dynamic pairing can unfold in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, as well as Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. This possibility accommodates diverse preferences, interests, and budgets, as Gorilla permit prices vary. In Rwanda, permits cost USD1500 per person per trek, while Uganda offers Gorilla permits at USD700 per person per trek, offering a choice tailored to your desires.