Nyrangongo volcano within the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo near Goma.
Just over the border from Rwanda and Uganda in the Virunga Mountains where the endangered mountain gorillas live. After a magical experience with the DRC gorillas, we couldn’t help but be drawn by the possibility to hike to the rim of Nyrangongo and spend the night next to our planet’s largest active lava lake. A Nyrangongo eruption destroyed 15% of Goma in 2002 and remains an active threat to the region. The hike was very hard starting at 1999 m (6500 ft) and summiting at 3470 m (11,400 ft) - 1470 m elevation gain in a mere 8 km (5 miles) on sharp, wet lava rock!! But the reward was one of the most epic travel adventures of my many epic travel adventures. The sound of the lava lake exploding and churning just below us, the power of the earth’s insides bubbling out into the crater, the smell of the sulphur, the exposure of the lean-to tents where we spent the night, the new fissure that had just opened up the week before and the speculation of our guides that it could ‘go’ at any time, the very intense lightening and thunder storm that raged all night, and the intense cold air at 11,000 feet. During the hike, the joy of the rangers jamming to Stromae on their phone speakers with my husband singing along, the intensity of hearing gunshots as we struggled through the sharp lava rock trail (they claimed it was over the border in Uganda), seeing local women carrying very large buckets of water on their heads and zipping past us (!) with only flip-flops on their feet.
A note for the brave and dedicated rangers of Virunga National Park who risk their lives every day to guard this national treasure - both the gorilla habitat and the rest of this historic and important park. Many tragically lose their lives each year. I hope our visit helped celebrate your mission and helped bring needed money to contribute to an alternate financial success for DRC and the Goma region.