Situated in the east of the country, some 20 km north of Lake Kivu, the Niyiragongo volcano rises to an impressive 3,470 metres overlooking the town of Goma. The volcano is situated in the eastern stretch of the Rift Valley and belongs to the Virunga chain.
Niyiragongo is a stratovolcano with two
additional satellite volcanoes: Shaheru (2,800 m high, with a crater 80 m deep) and Baruta (standing 3,100m high, with a crater of over 300m in depth) as well as a number of other smaller scoria cones. At the summit is a crater almost 1,200m in diameter.
Since the volcanic eruption in 1977 the area had enjoyed a period of relative calm until volcanic activity started again in 1994. The volcano then erupted on 17 January 2002, sending a great cloud of smoke and ash into the sky, and three rivers of molten lava forced their way through the western flank of the volcano at a speed of 60 km per hour. One of these rivers of lava destroyed several neighbouring villages, while the other two passed through Goma cutting a trench 60m wide, before finally reaching Lake Kivu. Once again on 16th July 2002, fountains of molten lava exploded hundreds of metres into the air, from the lake of molten lava at the bottom of the crater.
From Goma to the Park Office it takes approximately 1 hour. Once all the park formalities have been completed, we set out on our 1,250m climb towards the summit, accompanied by our guide and porters. The climb takes between 5 and 6 hours. After roughly 2 hours, we come upon the lava flows left behind when Shaheru, the volcano we are actually climbing, fractured in January 2002. Increasingly the forest gives way to sparse, often denuded stretches of land, caused by the devastating effect of the volcanic gases. These areas are covered only by groundsel, ferns and sedge and everlastings. Finally we arrive at the summit, and discover for ourselves the volcano’s vast crater. After exploring the crater rim, we set up camp for the night and enjoy dinner prepared by our porters. For the rest of the evening, and part of the night, we wonder at the lake of molten lava below us. Night under canvas. The next day, we spend the early morning hours at the summit, walking, studying and observing the volcanic activity with fantastic views over Nyamulagira. Our backdrop to the west is the imposing forest of the Congo and the other extinct volcanoes which lie to the East (Bisoke, Mikeno and Karisimbi whose summits can appear snow-covered, shrouded in cloud).
We dismantle the camp before setting out on our descent (3-4 hours). Return to Goma. Cross to Rwanda and enjoy some hours relaxing on the shore of Lake Kivu.
Goma 1 night