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Guaranteed tours:
28 Jan - 4 Feb 2018: Nyiragongo Lava Lake & Mountain Gorillas - DR Congo + Rwanda
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Nyiragongo Lava Lake and Mountain Gorillas

- 8-days expedition to Nyiragongo volcano & mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park -

8 days itinerary (3 nights on Nyiragongo)

Note:
If you are not interested in the unique opportunity to visiting the mountain gorillas, you can shorten the itinerary by one day or have a relaxed day at the Kivu lake (refund of gorilla ticket: 400 USD).

Day 1: Arrival in Kigali (Rwanda)

Relaxing courtyard of the nice and comfortable Chez Lando hotel in Kigali
Relaxing courtyard of the nice and comfortable Chez Lando hotel in Kigali
We will meet you upon your arrival at Kigali international airport and transfer you to a nice mid-class hotel. If you arrive in the morning or around midday you can either rest at the hotel or opt to explore the city and visit the Kigali genocide memorial, local markets, ... In the evening, the group meets for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Acc.: Good hotel in Kigali (Rwanda) (D)
Hustle and bustle of Kigali city with many bike taxis and pedestrians
Hustle and bustle of Kigali city with many bike taxis and pedestrians
View onto part of Kigali, Rwanda´s capital that is spread across a number of hills and valleys
View onto part of Kigali, Rwanda´s capital that is spread across a number of hills and valleys

Day 2: From Kigali (Rwanda) to Goma (DR Congo)

The intensely farmed Rwandese countryside is a green patchwork of a large variety of crops
The intensely farmed Rwandese countryside is a green patchwork of a large variety of crops
We leave Kigali after breakfast and drive through western Rwanda, traversing a beautiful landscape of "the thousand hills" with spectacular views along the way. Rwanda has plenty of rain and fertile soils that are intensely cultivated, turning the countryside into a patchwork of green, from the bluish green of the eucalyptus trees planted on the hilltops, the dark green of the cypresses lining the narrow tracks, to the soft green of the tea plantations in the valleys. A temperate climate explains the extraordinary diversity of farming: coffee, tobacco, sorghum, potatoes, beans, bananas, tea, carrots, sugar cane, ... We stop at a local farmers´ market to buy supplies for our camping trip on Nyiragongo volcano. If the weather is clear, the curving road offers us some great first views of the Virunga mountain chain. At the border town of Gisenyi we cross into The Democratic Republic of Congo where we stop for the night at a comfortable hotel along the shoreline of Lake Kivu in Goma.
Acc.: Comfortable hotel at the lakeshore in Goma (B, L, D)
Young women selling their produce at a local farmers´market
Young women selling their produce at a local farmers´market
The landscape of western Rwanda: vegetable plots (beans) with a 1000 hills as background
The landscape of western Rwanda: vegetable plots (beans) with a 1000 hills as background

Day 3: Climb to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano

View of  Nyiragongo volcano, with the southern Shaheru crater to the left, on the way to the start of the summit ascent
View of Nyiragongo volcano, with the southern Shaheru crater to the left, on the way to the start of the summit ascent
Early morning departure from Goma to the Virunga National Park office at Kibati, the starting point of the hike (ca. 2000 m). Once all hikers for that day have arrived, the park formalities are completed and luggage is divided over the local porters, we set out on our beautiful climb towards the summit. The first part is mostly shaded as it goes through rainforest, but from the ca. 2250 m onwards vegetation becomes less and after the second resting point at ca. 2500 m we hike across the lava flows from the January 2002 fissure eruption. At about 2750 m we reach the large fissure from where all this lava was emitted in 2002 and continue our hike up to Nyiragongo´s summit across older, loose volcanic deposits. Areas covered only by groundsel, ferns, sedge and everlastings alternate with denuded stretches of land caused by the devastating effect of the volcanic gases. From the old camping hut at ca. 3200 m we can see the new campsite at the end of the final 200 m ascent. Weather permitting, our climb will be rewarded with a first glimpse of the volcano´s active lava lake. After some relaxing and a nice dinner prepared by our personal cook and his assistant, the rest of the evening and night is at your disposal to either rest or observe the red hot boiling lava some 400 m below the crater rim.
Acc.: Camp on Nyiragongo (B, L, D)
The hike starts in lush rain forest but this gradually gives way to sparser vegetation as the path goes along old volcanic deposits
The hike starts in lush rain forest but this gradually gives way to sparser vegetation as the path goes along old volcanic deposits
View toward the east halfway up Mt Nyiragongo: the border with Rwanda is across the flat plane where hills start to appear, silhouette of Mt Karisimbi to the left
View toward the east halfway up Mt Nyiragongo: the border with Rwanda is across the flat plane where hills start to appear, silhouette of Mt Karisimbi to the left

Day 4: First full day at Nyiragongo's summit

Nyiragongo´s summit caldera and its active lava lake in the early hours of a clear morning
Nyiragongo´s summit caldera and its active lava lake in the early hours of a clear morning
When the weather is clear, dawn and sunrise over the ca 1,2 km wide caldera is pure magic with shifting shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple and blue - slowly revealing the different volcanic layers and colours of the caldera cliffs. After breakfast, the volcanologist from the Goma Volcano Observatory who accompanies our group during their 3 days on Nyiragongo, will give more information on the volcano´s history, its structure and linked volcanic phenomena that occur in the wider area. There is the possibility to accompany him doing gas measurements and/or for a short walk exploring the western part of the caldera rim. When there are no clouds and the winds carry the volcanic gasses away from our observation point, the lava lake with its constantly changing black crust and exploding gas bubbles can be observed. In clear weather, there are fantastic views from Nyiragongo´s summit over Nyamuragira volcano and the Virunga chain (Visoke, Mikeno and Karisimbi volcanoes), as well as the town of Goma and the lake Kivu.
Acc.: as before (camping on Nyiragongo) (B, L, D)
Some of the campsite huts with Shaheru crater in the background
Some of the campsite huts with Shaheru crater in the background
As the sun sets, the intense glow of the lava becomes visible again and casts a pink shade on the escaping gasses
As the sun sets, the intense glow of the lava becomes visible again and casts a pink shade on the escaping gasses

Day 5: Second full day at Nyiragongo´s caldera rim

Night time observation and photography under a starry sky and the red glow from the lava lake
Night time observation and photography under a starry sky and the red glow from the lava lake
As weather conditions can sometimes obscure the view to the lava lake for up to one day, we spend a second day on the rim of the volcano´s summit caldera to increase the chances for good viewing and photography opportunities. With good weather there is the option for another short hike around part of the caldera rim to its eastern side and across the fracture zone that runs southwards through the Shaheru crater into Goma. You can freely assign your time between breakfast, lunch and dinner to rest or observe the volcanic activity. We enjoy a mesmerising last sunset over the caldera and night time view of the boiling lava lake and the red glow on its surroundings before taking a good night´s sleep for tomorrow´s descent.
Acc.: as before (camping on Nyiragongo) (B, L, D)
Nyiragongo´s lava lake chruning and degassing at night
Nyiragongo´s lava lake chruning and degassing at night
Lunch on the volcano´s summit, freshly prepared by our personal cooking team
Lunch on the volcano´s summit, freshly prepared by our personal cooking team

Day 6: Descend from Nyiragongo - Goma Volcano Observatory

Watching the sun rise between Mikeno and Karisimbi from he rim of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera
Watching the sun rise between Mikeno and Karisimbi from he rim of Nyiragongo´s summit caldera
After an early breakfast we break up camp and start the 3-4 hour descend from Nyiragongo´s summit back to the starting point at the Kibati patrol post, taking the same trail back down as two days before. From there we travel back to Goma and our hotel alongside Lake Kivu to take time for a shower before lunch. In the afternoon we pay a visit to the Goma Volcano Observatory where the scientists will briefly explain us the different ways they monitor the degassing, ground deformation and other volcanic phenomena around the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira volcanoes. If time allows we can also visit the town of Goma where the effects of the destructive eruption in 2002, when a large river of lava destroyed the city centre, are still visible.
Acc.: comfortable hotel in Goma next to Lake Kivu (B, L, D)
All packed up and ready to start the descend back down!
All packed up and ready to start the descend back down!
The wooden bike is common sight in Goma and the surrounding villages
The wooden bike is common sight in Goma and the surrounding villages

Day 7: Mountain gorilla tracking in Virunga National Park

Silhouettes of Karisimbi (left) and Mikeno (right) volcanoes during the hike to the National Park´s boundary
Silhouettes of Karisimbi (left) and Mikeno (right) volcanoes during the hike to the National Park´s boundary
Early morning departure to the patrol post in Goma from where we are escorted by a Virunga National Park ranger on our drive to the lower slopes of Mikeno volcano. Along the way we take in the beautiful scenery with views of the Virunga volcanoes mountain chain: Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira, Visoke, Karisimbi, ... At the patrol post, all travelers are divided over small groups and assigned a particular mountain gorilla family. The hike takes us through the farmed lowlands up to the National Park´s boundary from where we continue into the dense rainforest. Tracking the gorillas can take several hours of challenging walking in sometimes wet and muddy conditions. This hardship is however rewarded with spending ca. 1 hour with your gorilla family, observing and photographing them from closeby as the young gorillas play whilst the mothers and silverbacks eat and rest. Afterwards we drive back to Goma where the remaining part of the afternoon can be used to relax at the hotel or have a walk around the town.

Note: If you prefer NOT to take part in the truly unique experience of getting up close to the mountain gorillas, we can deduct the cost of this ticket for you (400 USD) and you can then opt for a relaxing day at the Kivu lake-shore and meet the group later, or arrange a private transfer back to Kigali at additional cost.
Acc.: as before (Goma) (B, L, D)
Each gorilla family is visited daily by the same Virunga ranger and hence know and trust him well enough to come near them and remove any branches that obstruct a clear view of them
Each gorilla family is visited daily by the same Virunga ranger and hence know and trust him well enough to come near them and remove any branches that obstruct a clear view of them
Female mountain gorilla sunken in thoughts
Female mountain gorilla sunken in thoughts

Day 8: Return to Kigali, departure (or own extension)

Streetview in Kigali with the typical motorcycle taxi´s
Streetview in Kigali with the typical motorcycle taxi´s
After breakfast we cross back into Rwanda and continue our return to Kigali which we will reach around midday for a goodbye lunch. If your return flight is that same day we will bring you to the airport, otherwise to your hotel or onward destination for your travel extension in Rwanda. Those flying back (late) in the evening can use the afternoon to explore Rwanda´s capital and visit the Kigali Genocide memorial or do some last minute shopping at the local markets.
Acc.: none (B, L)
The main exhibition centre at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
The main exhibition centre at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
During certain parts of the year, thousands of fruit bats reside in Kigali where they can be seen doing their daytime napping hanging down from the trees
During certain parts of the year, thousands of fruit bats reside in Kigali where they can be seen doing their daytime napping hanging down from the trees
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