Drive from Tchegera Island to Virunga National Park (Road Journey)
Virunga National Park is Africa's oldest national park and one of the most exciting. The park's 7800 square kilometres (3000 square miles) includes forests, savannahs, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is also the only park in the world to have populations of three great ape species - the chimpanzee, the lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla, but wandering through the shadowy forests can be found the Okapi, both forest and savannah elephants, large colonies of hippo's, numerous rare birds and even lion. Added to this, half of all the biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Virunga. It is perhaps no wonder that this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exciting places to explore in the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps in all of Africa.
Set off to climb Nyiragongo, an almost perfectly conical active volcano that rises to 3,470 metres and named after a local woman whose spirit is said to haunt the region. After a briefing from the head ranger, you start the ascent midway through the morning, at around 2,000 metres slowly climbing towards the rim, where the summit camp is positioned. The trek should not be undertaken lightly, with climbing time heavily dependent on fitness, but it typically takes between four and six hours, including plenty of stops.
The first part of the climb passes through the volcano's forested lower slopes, which are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees and numerous birds - all of which are slowly returning after previous eruptions. Then continue up to the higher reaches, devoid of vegetation, which offer a stark, beautiful landscape, before finally, ascend to the rim itself, to peer down into the world's largest lava lake. On a clear day, the views from the summit are spectacular, with the verdant plains below extending into the distance. A night spent at the top allows for views of a very different kind. From the crater rim, look down into the heart of the volcano; watch as the fiery lava glows and boils in the darkness, a full moon adding drama to the vast plains below, reflected in Lake Kivu. This is not for the faint hearted, but the spectacular night-time show and stunning summit views justifies every step of the climb.
You will be staying at Nyiragongo Summit Shelter