Tourists invited to see erupting Congo volcano

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In this photo provided by Virunga National Park Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, Mount Nyamulagira in eastern Congo is seen erupting Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. Virunga National Park in Congo is inviting tourists on an overnight trek to view a spectacular eruption of Mount Nyamulagira, where rivers of incandescent lava are flowing slowly north into an uninhabited part of the park but pose no danger to its critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo — A national park in Congo best known for its endangered mountain gorillas is now inviting tourists to go on overnight treks to see a volcano spurting fountains of lava nearly 1,000 feet into the air.

Mount Nyamulagira began erupting on Nov. 6 and could continue to do so for days, or even months.

“Last night’s was the most spectacular yet,” spokeswoman LuAnne Chad said Monday from Virunga National Park.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano attracted tourists earlier this year when a fissure had lava spurting 65 feet high. In comparison, volcanologist Dario Tedesco estimated that the lava on Mount Nyamulagira in Congo is spewing up to 980 feet high high.

Park wardens have named the latest Nyamulagira eruption “Kimanura,” after the name of the area along the volcano’s flank, spokeswoman Chad said.

Rivers of incandescent lava are flowing slowly north into an uninhabited part of the park, but that the lava flows pose no danger to the park’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, a statement from the park said.

Virunga Park is home to 200 of the world’s 790 mountain gorillas, as well as lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants and buffalo.

The park has set up a tented camp nearly one mile south of the eruption where tourists can spend the night. For $300, the park provides transportation for the hour-long drive from the eastern capital of Goma and wardens to guide visitors on the three- to four-hour hike to the camp.

Virunga is located in eastern Congo, where numerous militia and rebel groups continue to terrorize the population nearly a decade after the country’s civil war ended. Some 360 park rangers protect the park and its wildlife from poachers, rebel groups, illegal miners and land invasions.

Rangers worked through the civil war in eastern Congo’s five parks, with more than 150 killed in the last 10 years, according to the statement.

The 3,000 square-mile Virunga National Park is a World Heritage site containing seven of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga mountain range that sprawls across the borders of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Only two are active — Nyamulagira and, closer to Goma, Mount Nyiragongo.

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: Congo invites visitors to see volcano erupt