Congo volcano eruption helps boost tourism

By » Thu, November 17 2011

By , the Guardian

Its status as the battleground in “Africa’s world war”, and possibly the worst place on Earth to be a woman, makes it arguably the world’s most counterintuitive holiday destination.

Yet tourism in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ravaged east is doubling by the year as intrepid travellers set out to witness its natural wonders.

From a standing start of zero in 2008, when war was still raging, Virunga national park’s visitor numbers climbed to 550 in 2009, then 1,800 in 2010 with an expected 3,800 due for 2011. As a result, this year the oldest national park in Africa expects to raise more than $1m (£629,000) for the first time in its history.

Among the attractions on offer are an overnight trek to the eruption of the Mount Nyamulagira volcano and tracking through forests to glimpse critically endangered mountain gorillas.

In a sign of growing confidence, Virunga is also due to open its first tourist lodge on 1 January, with guests paying $200 a night in 12 bungalows boasting lava rock walls and thatched roofs.

“Clearly it’s not Spain we’re trying to sell,” said Cai Tjeenk Willink, the park’s business development officer. “The good thing is we have high-quality attractions here: the mountain gorillas, the active volcanos, safaris with elephants, lions and leopards, the lake, a lowland forest and one of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. We have a lot to offer.”

Willink said that most visitors were from Belgium, the former colonial power, while about one in 10 is British.

The Nyamulagira volcano began erupting on 6 November and has several lava fountains spewing up to 650ft (200 metres) into the air, with lava flowing slowly north into an uninhabited area of the park.

The park, a Unesco world heritage site, has set up a tented camp in a safe area close to Nyamulagira, where visitors can stay overnight. Treks to the site will continue until the eruption ends, which could take a few days or several months.

Dr Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist in nearby Goma, said: “This is definitely the best and most spectacular eruption of Nyamulagira I have ever seen. The 200-300 metre lava fountains, the closeness and the arrangement of the camping site, and finally the incredible show given by the lights of the incandescent lava made everything special … more than special.”

Continue reading @the Guardian

article 2061109 0EC97F3100000578 519 964x627 Congo volcano eruption helps boost tourism

By Erik Klemetti, Wired

I thought I’d post this picture of a tourist group who happened to be near the new Nyamuragira eruption last week. Talk about an added bonus to a trip (albeit one that required quite the armed escort). The Democratic Republic of the Congo has opened up the eruption for tourists to visit – all it requires is (a) a ticket to the Congo and (b) and overnight stay in the jungle. On the Rwandan side of the volcano, officials are more concerned about the volcano driving away tourists.

The eruption at Nyamuragira has produced 200 meter tall fire fountains and in this new video (along with the image above), it looks like the curtain of fire appeared at the start of the eruption has already coalesced into singular vents along the chain. This eruption at Nyamuragira is apparently the largest in the last 100 years at the remote volcano.

Read @Wired

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