Planning for an adventure in Africa? There are a lot of incredible places around the world, but today the CNN ranks the Virunga National Park as on of the best African National Parks to visit 2017. From this park you find the Nyiragongo Volcano as one of the top best active Volcano and offering interesting hiking experiences in Africa. Being in the Virunga National Park, it is exciting to begin with, but then doing this rigorous hike up the volcano and then experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon once you get to the top and are looking down into the bubbling, steaming lava crater is one in a lifetime experience one shouldn’t miss on a safari in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sure, you are traveling in an unsettled part of the world, but you can feel pretty safe throughout the trip. Don’t be put off by the fact that the volcano is in DRC Congo, Mikeno sector is relatively secure and the climb itself is organized quite professionally by the ICCU. Regardless of which tourist agency you choose, you will be picked up straight from the border by the park rangers. Armed security does not leave your sight at any time and the trek itself is also secured by guards who you will see on you comfort so appreciate it.
We chose to book through budget gorilla trekking in order to maximize the money going to support Virunga. They were to arrange everything including transportation, gear, meals, and porters through the park and we were very happy with the level of services they offered to us. We presented our passports and paperwork to the immigration official and our valid yellow fever vaccination cards to a health official. After about 20 minutes we were granted entry. All the officials with whom we interacted were friendly and professional and after a jeep from the Virunga National Park transferred us to our starting point of the hiking adventure.
If you choose to stay in park accommodation the night before your climb, you are offered the option of reserving a meal plan and gear for the climb at a cost of $80. If you go this, your cook included will carry all the food up the mountain including heavy jacket, rain poncho and rain cover for the pack, they also provided 4 liters of water per person and a packed lunch in the backpack and you pay $24 per porter at the park headquarter. You bring your own hats, gloves, warm trousers and socks as this isn’t included in the pack. A flashlight is useful to bring too.
Remember these people will be your best friends on your way up. This is a volcano after all so despite an easy start to your hike, every step becomes steeper and harder. The last kilometer is like 70 degrees incline on potato sized lava rocks. Unless you are an experienced hiker, after 5 hours of climbing, you will be dying to catch your breath, every step will be a struggle and you will feel absolutely grounded by your backpack. At the top, you need to be prepared before you go, read the instructions at Visit Virunga carefully and don’t underestimate them.
Prior to the hike we chilled out at the Mikeno lodge high recommended oasis within the park. We also spent a night at the Bukima tented camp which provides you with magnificent views of Nyiragongo, including a red glowing volcano viewing at night. It certainly whets your appetite for what is to come when you hike up to it. After the hike back down to the base, we went to Tchegera island tented camp, a totally chill out spot on Lake Kivu, which allows you to reflect on the amazing hike you just did.
And while you are there be sure to not miss out on another amazing experience of the mountain gorillas in Virunga. The next day we went to see the mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park. There are only 800 of these gorillas in the world and we were lucky enough to find a family of two males, two females, three juveniles and two babies deep in the forest. They are just like us it is extra-ordinary, definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Tipping and Extra funds, trekkers should bring small denominations US bills with them for the trek. At the ranger station, a porter to carry your gear cost $24 for the two day trip and hiking sticks can be purchased for $5. On the way down, your group will be encouraged to give a tip during the last rest stop.
Bottom line, this is one of the few places in the world where you can see such a sight and it is well worth the effort to come to the DRC and to climb the Nyiragongo Volcano.