Nyiragongo is one of the most active in Africa. It is noted for long active lava lakes which appear in the summit crater. Nyiragongo is one of eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains. Hiking up the 3,470 metres Nyiragongo volcano is an experience of a lifetime. Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, which is 30 minutes by car from Goma and less than a one hour from Mikeno Lodge. Park rangers lead all treks and porters are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours.
Eruption in 1977
Between 1894 and 1977 the crater contained an active lava lake. On 10 January 1977, the crater walls fractured, and the lava lake drained in less than an hour. The lava flowed down the flanks of the volcano at speeds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph) on the upper slopes, overwhelming villages and killing at least 70 people. The hazards posed by eruptions like this are unique to Nyiragongo. Nowhere else in the world does such a steep-sided stratovolcano contain a lake of such fluid lava. Nyiragongo’s proximity to heavily populated areas increases its potential for causing a natural disaster. The 1977 eruption raised awareness of the unique dangers posed by Nyiragongo, and because of this it was designated a Decade Volcano, worthy of particular study, in 1991.
The 1977 eruption was preceded by the creation of a new small volcano, Murara, a short distance away on the slopes of Nyamuragira.
Eruption in 2002
Lava lakes reformed in the crater in eruptions in 1982–1983 and 1994. Another major eruption of the volcano began on January 17, 2002, after several months of increased seismic and fumarolic activity. A 13 km fissure opened in the south flank of the volcano, spreading in a few hours from 2800 m to 1550 m elevation and reaching the outskirts of the city of Goma, the provincial capital on the northern shore of Lake Kivu.
Lava streamed from three spatter cones at the end of the fissure and flowed in a stream 200 to 1000 m wide and up to 2 m deep through Goma. Warnings had been given and 400,000 people were evacuated from the city across the Rwandan border into neighbouring Gisenyi during the eruption. Lava covered the northern end of the runway at Goma International Airport, leaving the southern two-thirds usable, and reached Lake Kivu. This raised fears that the lava might cause gas-saturated waters deep in the lake to suddenly rise to the surface, releasing lethally large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane similar to the disaster at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986. This did not happen, but volcanologists continue to monitor the area closely.
About 147 people died in the eruption from asphyxiation by carbon dioxide and buildings collapsing due to the lava and earthquakes. At least 15% of Goma comprising 4,500 buildings were destroyed, leaving about 120,000 people homeless.
Immediately after the eruption stopped, a large number of earthquakes were felt around Goma and Gisenyi. This swarm activity continued for about three months and caused the collapse of more buildings.
Six months after the start of the 2002 eruption, Nyiragongo volcano erupted again. Activity at Nyiragongo is ongoing, but currently confined to the crater, where another lava lake has formed about 250 metres below the level of the 1994 lava lake.
It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top. The shelters are essentially two-person tents inside small wooden structures; this is not a luxury overnight!
There are 4 permanent lava lakes in the world, but Nyiragongo is the largest and the Most Active, You can book on the Congo Gorilla Safaris (www.Congo gorilla safaris.com) official page to enjoy the Climbing Adventure to Nyiragongo Mountain, and you can choose if you want transport included (from Goma or Mikeno lodge) or you can take a motor bike from Goma it is not far. Here are some tips:
- Remember to bring: Rain gear (trousers, rain jacket), head lamp, sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothes.
- A porter costs 24US$ and can carry 15 Kg. You probably want to buy a bag of coal at the station (5$, 5 kg) which the guide and porters will light for you at the rim huts, and you can cook whatever food you brought.
- Bring walking poles. You can buy a Nyiragongo stick
- You need to bring all your food and water. 5 liters.
- You leave Goma around 8:30 am.
- Always difficult trek, We give each person (2 guides for 2 people) each 10$, and the porters 5$ .
- The rangers speak very little English just so you know.