After the gorilla experience we traveled to Mikeno Lodge – a true gem in the park in terms of luxurious accommodation. We had arranged Bukima to Mikeno transport. Mikeno accommodations were awesome – huge spacious rooms & a great restaurant and monkey viewing facility. We roamed around the forest to experience its fauna that afternoon. We had prepaid the meal backpack option for the Nyiragongo trek the next morning.
Using the excellent lodges of the Virunga National Park and meet the mountain gorillas on your gorilla trekking tours in the tropical mountain forest is an extremely moving experience. With your visit you certainly support the future of Africa’s oldest and particular valuable national park with its mountain gorilla population. Traveling around in Eastern Congo was not a problem at the time of writing. We were always accompanied by several armed rangers who dedicate their lives to protect the park, and the staffs are very attentive of any potential insecurity that could compromise the trip.
They provided it to us that afternoon. It included a great sleeping bag, first layer undergarments & snacks plus plenty of water. It would have been great to know the details of the goodies to avoid having packed extra warm clothes. We too visited the sanctuary that morning which is within walking distance – did not see much. We hoped on a car to head to Kibati, at the base of the volcano. Surprisingly, the food/backpack package included the chef that drove with us. Once we arrived & checked-in, we left our bags with the park chief at the base of the volcano.
We waited for two other visitors to make our way up after hiring help to take our bags, well worth it as the hike was tough. It took 5-6 hours mostly in part because one of the visitors had many issues with cramps on our way up. It is 5 hours non-stop & does require a good level of fitness not to be overseen. Make sure to take good non-slippery shoes that will likely be soaking wet & very cold by the time you get to the summit. An extra pair or two of wool socks, extra shoes to change once you arrive so your feet don’t freeze.
The thermal waterproof gloves we took were worth every penny especially at the top & on the very last leg of our climb. I had started taking high altitude medicine two days before to avoid issues – it worked awesome! A rain jacket & poncho were a must – the rain jacket was not provided in the backpack but a poncho was included. A warm head accessory was worth it at night. We arrived before sunset, which was amazing. Could not believe our eyes! All of this for one of the most amazing shows on earth – the volcano not only was fascinating to watch, but also to listen to, to smell, to experience the heat coming up from the crater floor 500 meters below us.
A massive lightning storm over night, combined with the booming of the volcano, was one of the rawest awe-inspiring experiences I’ve had. I’m not particularly in shape right now and I managed it so I’d say add a Nyiragongo visit no matter what if you have traveled as far as Virunga. The cabanas are simple but good – they have nothing inside. The cook prepared dinner & an amazing breakfast. It was so worth it. The views in the night after the sun went down were almost impossible to believe but worth to take good photo shots of the bubbling and sparkling volcano. I have never seen anything so spectacular in my life – truly surreal to see the active volcano from the rim & then the newly active area which created a lava waterfall that one can only imagine in a dream.
We woke up in the middle of the night to sit by the rim & continue experiencing this magical volcano. Truly worlds wonder that so few have the opportunity to see. The next morning the sunrise highlighted an amazing view, including a few extinct volcanoes that would be any country’s great attraction. The hike down was piece of cake compared to the hike up. We took the pre – arranged transportation back to Goma back to Kigali airport for our next flight back home.
I can definitely recommend traveling to Virunga to see the mountain gorillas as a top 10 experience on the planet. Particularly Virunga is good to see the gorillas if you are the type of person who wants to be a little more unique than the entire tourist going to Rwanda or Uganda to see them.