An active volcano currently erupting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is attracting tourists from around the world to see its spectacular and explosive display.
Lying deep in a remote national park, Mount Nyamulagira is attracting daring travelers keen on witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The volcano began erupting on Nov. 6. Since then, news agencies and tourists have come to marvel at lava spurts up to 650 feet in the air.
But aside from the inherent dangers of witnessing a volcano up close, tourists must also navigate themselves into and through one of Africa’s most dangerous countries.
Virunga national park, the area where the volcano is located, lies next to the war-torn regions of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Violent sects spilled into Congo years ago, because the country, particularly the eastern region, is very lightly policed.
Congolese officials say war is over, and the tourism department is welcoming the rise in tourists that the country has experienced in recent years.
Around 3,800 tourists are expected to visit Virunga this year, which is up from 550 in 2008 when war in the area was raging.
Officials at the park cite the volcano and the relative abundance of endangered mountain gorillas for the rise in tourists. The park is set to open a lodge in January with 12 bungalows to house visitors.
"Clearly it's not Spain we're trying to sell," Cai Tjeenk Willink, the park's business development officer, told The Guardian.
"The good thing is we have high-quality attractions here: the mountain gorillas, the active volcanoes, 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," he said.
The park is expected to raise more than $1 million this year for the first time in its history. It is offering overnight trips to see the erupting volcano while searching for mountain gorillas.
As the volcano continues to erupt, local communities risk losing their homes. Though lava is an extremely dangerous and relatively unknown phenomenon to the layman, the lava flow is currently too slow to catch visitors by surprise.