Erupting volcano in Africa provides sight-seeing opportunity for tourists

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Mount Nyamulagira erupts recently. (Photo by Cai Tjeeenk Willink.)

Story from PRI's The World. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

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In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there's a volcano that's putting on quite a show.

Virunga National Park has a front-row seat to Mount Nyamulagira's eruptions. In the park, guides are leading overnight expeditions so tourists can get an up-close view of what the volcano looks like as it erupts.

The groups pitch tents near the south slope to give tourists a view to watch lava shooting up 500 feet into the air.

It’s cold on the way up the mountains, but the campsite itself is actually warm because of the heat from the lava that radiates almost a mile from the mouth of the volcano to where the campsite is.

Cai Tjeeenk Willink, a staffer at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said his group regularly conducts reconaissance missions to make sure the volcano is safe to show tourists.

"It's an abosolutely amazing site," he said. "You approach through forests, so you can't see it. You just hear it like rolling thunder or roaring seas."

Once you break out of the trees, you can immediately see the lave fountaining out of the volcano. And it's not a crater, it's more of a crack in the earth launching lava 200 meters into the air.

The volcano has erupted about 40 times in the past 100 years, though they're of varying lengths of time. The last eruoption lasted just a couple of days, but this one has already gone on more than a week, Willink said.

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