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Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

karatu Activities to Do in Karatu Tanzania

Karatu, Tanzania is a colorful  town which serves as a relaxing pause after wildlife safari. Located along the northern safari circuit, Karatu serves as gateway to the Ngorongoro Highlands and is located between Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Due to its location, many safari goers end up overnight or stopping here for a quick break earning it the nickname “Safari Junction”. The busy downtown of Karatu is a mix of old and new with safari vehicles, local buses, and brightly colored  tuk-tuks riding alongside Maasai herders and ox-carts, while just outside town cultivated Iraqw farms and villages merge into the green vegetation of the Ngorongoro Forest.

Whether you are looking for cultural tours, hiking and biking opportunities, a chance to enjoy a slice of peaceful rural Tanzania, or simply a break from the dusty safari game drives, we think you should consider a stop in this underrated town. Here is our list of the top 10 things to do in Karatu Tanzania based on our visit. 

Top 10 Things to Do in Karatu Tanzania

As we noted, there are few guides written on things to do in Karatu. In fact, here is Lonely Planet’s description of Karatu: “This charmless town 14km southeast of Lodoare gate makes a convenient base for visiting Ngorongoro if you want to economize on entry fees” and the popular guidebook lists practically no suggestions for things to do.

We would not say Karatu is charming exactly (not sure we’d describe any of the towns in Tanzania as “charming”), but we found Karatu to be a delightful bustling town that serves as a great stop for a bit of relaxation between game parks and an excellent place to engage in some cultural tourism.

We chose to explore the area with a local guide and specifically arranged a few different guided tours with friendly and knowledgable Richard Njuga, coordinator of the Ganako Karatu Cultural Tourism Program. Proceeds from the cultural tours are used to support local environmental, educational, and health projects through KCECHO, a non-profit organization in Karatu. Almost all the listed experiences in this article can be arranged through Ganako Karatu and your hotelier who might offer additional options as well. Below is our top 10 things to do in Karatu in no particular order.

Take a Karatu Town Tour

A great way to  spend a couple of hours is to take a stroll around the town of Karatu. Visit the marketplace where you can explore rainbow-colored stalls and small shops that sell a bit of everything from vegetables and spices to Tinga Tinga paintings and carved wooden ornaments. This is a great place to barter for souvenirs and mingle with the locals. Along the way you might want to stop at a street vendor for a local snack such as fried cassava, chapati (fried flat bread), or fried bananas.

Keep a look out for the little mobile kiosks alongside the main road which have some colorful American namesakes such as the Mrs. Obama and John Kerry gift shops (there is also a Obama Hotel in town) which were featured in the The Amazing Race. In addition to the marketplace, we’d recommend venturing to one of the local brickmaking sites as brickmaking serves as a major industry in the area and the process is interesting to watch. If you are interested in a richer exploration of the town, consider booking a guided tour which can likely be arranged from your hotel or through the Ganako Karatu Cultural Tourism Program. 

Drink the Local Coffee

Tanzanian coffee may not have the international recognition of coffee from nearby countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, but coffee has been grown in Tanzania for centuries and is one of the country’s largest exports. Karatu is an ideal growing area because of the mineral-rich volcanic soil and the altitude of the northern highlands.

There are a number of coffee plantations in the area, including the plantation at the well-known Gibb’s FarmShangri-La Estate  which produces NgoroNgoro Mountain Coffee, Blackburn Coffee Estate, and Ngila Coffee Estate. You can decide your level of interest in the local brew from simply sipping some of the local coffee at your lodge, buying a bag of beans to take back home, visiting a coffee plantation to learn the coffee production process, or actually staying on a working farm and coffee plantation such as Gibb’s Farm or the Shangri-La Estate.

Visit a Local Brewery

Travelers should try the local coffee while in Karatu; however, we also found out that Karatu has another type of brew for those wanting to be a bit more adventurous. It is probably best to visit with a guide but almost any local can also point you towards the brewery. We followed our guide Richard away from the market and through a maze of streets to the local brewery. The beer is boiled in one smoky room and stirred, fermented, bottled, and drank in another large room.

For less than a dollar, you are welcome to sample a cup of the beer. Richard asked that they give us beer that had been recently boiled to avoid any gastrointestinal issues (the safety and sanitation standards are not exactly up to par with Coors). A woman used a ladle to scoop a plastic cup full of beer from a plastic bucket of warm beer. The beer was warm and chewy as there were grains still remaining, but surprisingly it was mild and smooth in flavor. We made some quick (and tipsy) friends at the brewery before parting who seemed amused at our visit. We also walked by some other local people nearby who were grinding corn and other grains to be used for beer and spirits.

Volunteer your Time to a Worthy Project

There are a number of potential volunteer and charity opportunities in and around Karatu where you can benefit the local schools and orphanages, community centers, churches, or environment. Such opportunities can take place over the course of a day or last months depending on your interests and background. Remember that while you may want to work directly with kids, unless you can devote a significant amount of time (e.g., be a steady presence), it is less disruptive to children to help in other ways such as building school furniture, putting up a fence at the local orphanage, collecting school supplies, or painting a classroom.

It is best to commit to a project in advance so that the organizer can be prepared for your visit. Even if you don’t want to volunteer your actual time, you can still donate to a local project by donating money or supplies (e.g., school or medical supplies). Given our healthcare background, we took the time to visit the non-profit Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME) clinic and hospital founded and run by American husband-wife team Dr. Frank Artres and Susan Gustafson. Our visit here and discussion with both “Dr. Frank” and Susan was really inspiring and the clinic is an amazing example of what people can do when they dedicate their time to making a difference! Free guided visits to FAME can be arranged but must be done so in advance.

Explore the Karatu Iraqw Market

On the seventh day of each month a large market springs up in Karatu with a smaller version also taking place on the 25th of each month. This bimonthly market with local Iraqw vendors sells handicrafts, livestock, food, spices, clothing, household goods, pottery, and other items. A visit to the market is a great opportunity to pick up some unique souvenirs and stretch your legs. If your visit doesn’t correspond with the dates of the market, you can still visit the marketplace in Karatu town. 

Learn about the Iraqw culture

The Iraqw people are a Cushitic-speaking ethnic group who are well-known for their agricultural skills. The Iraqw have a large presence in the Karatu region and you can learn more about the Iraqw culture by interacting at the local markets, visiting a village, or even arranging a homestay. We took a hiking tour with Richard at Ganako-Karatu to an area studded with small Iraqw villages, farms, and homes just outside of Karatu. While many Iraqw now live in more modern housing, some Iraqw still live in traditional Iraqw houses made of mud, sticks, and straw.

Historically, the Iraqw and Maasai were warring tribes (there is still some animosity between some members of these groups) and the Iraqw devised a way to keep the Maasai from being able to steal their cattle by building their homes up against hillsides and keeping the animals inside the home. At night Maasai raiders would not be able to locate the homes or animal pens as they’d walk right along the roofs without realizing the Iraqw were dwelling inside with their goats and cattle. Along the hike we were able to see some of the traditional homes, meet some locals tending to their animals and crops, and even got to both try our hands at grinding and pounding maize.

We also visited a homestead of a lovely Iraqw woman who lives with her eight children and her mother in a traditional home. Sadly the husband/father ran out on the family several years ago, making it very difficult for the family to earn a living. We were offered seats on wooden stools and cups of hot tea. While no one in the family speaks English, we were able to converse a bit with the family with Richard serving as a translator.

Chickens, goats, and dog walk in and out of the home with a goat pen located in the center of the home and a cattle pen outside. It was very humbling to see how simply the family lives and it is clear that they sometimes struggle to be able to feed and clothe themselves. There was definitely something voyeuristic about the visit akin to slum tourism, but we learned from Richard that this family depends on the supplemental income from visits (Richard provides them with some money from each tour and they often receive tips from visitors) to be able to provide for the children. If you visit a homestead, it is appreciated if you leave a small monetary (preferably in Tanzanian shillings) or food donation to the visited family if you enjoyed their hospitality.

Search for Elephant Caves and Waterfalls in the Ngorongoro Forest Highlands

Nature lovers will want to consider a walk in the Ngorongoro Forest Highlands which is a nice compliment to a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater. With a guide, you’ll learn about medicinal plants, view a number of bird species, watch waterfalls tumble down a cliff, and see the elephant caves. If you are lucky, you may also see a number of animals who live in the forest such as elephants, buffalo, baboons, and various reptiles. The so-called elephant caves are where elephants, as well as a number of other species, come to extract salt and other minerals from the soil.

We saw lots of evidence of elephants and buffalo along the paths in the form of dung, vegetation destruction, and footprints, but the only animals we spotted were baboons and birds. The entrance to the trail is located near Gibb’s Farm and while you can come here independently or with a local guide, you’ll be required to have one of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority guides with you once you pass the entry booth. The Endoro Gate Post is open from 7:30am – 4:00pm (7:30-16:00) and the hike is best done in the cooler morning hours as it requires some moderate exertion. Come prepared with sun protection, good walking shoes, and insect repellent and remember that while your chances of seeing a buffalo or elephants aren’t high these animals walk these same paths every day.

Hike or Bike in the Countryside

If you need a break from being cooped up in a safari vehicle all day, Karatu is a place where you get out and explore on your own two feet. Whether you want to bike along a dirt country road to take in pastoral scenery, hike inside the lush Ngorongoro Highland Forest, or climb a hill for some great views, you can find something that will appeal. Tours catering to specific interests such as medicinal plants or ornithology can also be arranged with a local knowledgable guide.

Also, just because you are outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area doesn’t mean the animals stick to the boundaries, and buffalo, elephants, baboons, hyena, bushback, and other animals are often spotted around the countryside of Karatu. Ask your hotelier for help in arranging for bike rentals (consider if you’ll need regular bikes or mountain bikes) and to find out about scenic walking and hiking opportunities.

Use Karatu as a Base for Day Trips

Many budget and camping safari operators use Karatu as a base for visits to the nearby Ngorongoro Crater as the town is located not far from the gate to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and a stay in Karatu may save money on entrance fees and lodging. In addition to visits to the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, Karatu can also be used as a base for day trips to Lake Manyara, Lake Eyasi (where the Hadzabe Bushmen reside), Mlima Nyoka (climb “Snake Hill” for some great views), Oldean Village (a historical German settlement), and hikes along the Rift Valley. It can also be used as a base to visit Tarangire National Park, but we would not recommend it as it is a long drive. Depending on the day trip, you’ll want to take into account the extra time you might need to spend driving back and forth in relation to any cost savings or added convenience of staying in Karatu. 

Relax and Recharge 

Most travelers arriving in Karatu have been riding along dusty, bumpy roads, standing in Jeeps to observe the local wildlife, and eating lunches out of a box. Some are only a day or two into their safari while others have been at it for a week or more. Karatu is a perfect place to relax and recharge your traveler batteries. It can be the perfect place to enjoy a soft bed, a day without a full safari sightseeing schedule, and the peace of rural Tanzania. Karatu offers a range of accommodations from basic campsites to luxury lodges.

We stayed for two nights at the Karatu Simba Lodge and enjoyed having two full days to sleep in, relax by the pool, do some reading and blogging, go hiking, and take in cultural activities. If you are looking for some extra luxury, consider booking a lodge with massage and spa services such as Gibb’s Farm or Kitela Lodge. As amazing as seeing lions and elephants every day can be, sometimes you need a break to better appreciate the experience and to give your back a break from those bumpy roads!

So there are our top 10 things to do in Karatu Tanzania! We found Karatu to be a delightful bustling town that serves as a great stop for a bit of relaxation between game parks and an excellent place to engage in some cultural tourism. Those traveling through Karatu may want to spend a day or two exploring this often overlooked town.

Do you agree with Lonely Planet’s opinion or would you consider a stop here to explore this colorful town? If you’ve been, we’d love to hear about your visit and opinion on things to do in Karatu. Any questions about visiting Karatu, just ask us!

Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah

Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah.

Marangu Market Africa Tales About Animals of African Savannah

History shows that before the coming of colonialists in Kilimanjaro, the Chagga were well organised under small chiefdoms ruled by local ruler called Mangi or Wamangi. These chiefs ruled their subject using forces which were blessed by history, culture and traditional believes whereby the African leopard was regarded as spiritual symbol of the ruling class.

It said the pre-colonial traditional way of life in many parts of Tanzania including Kilimanjaro rain forests was a favourite home to big mammals of the savannah including African leopards which wander freely around villages in the whole area.

Different factors contributed to conservation of wild animals including the flourishing of the African leopard inside forest around Mount Kilimanjaro which was enabled by customary laws and traditional beliefs protected these big cats.

In Kilimanjaro those days, the leopards thrived in tropical rainforest which stand from 2,800 to 1,300 meters above the sea level through the Agro forest which today is found between 1,600 to 1,200 meters above the sea to the savannah forest which is on 1,600 to 700 meters above sea level.

It’s also said that due to the public support, during those days leopards of Mount Kilimanjaro were big but not dangerous although it is believed sometime they were able to break into a house to snatch a sheep or goat.

In those days the number of African Leopards grew bigger in the forest around mount Kilimanjaro because rules of pre-colonial Chagga did not allow anyone to hurt the spotted cat because it was regarded as sacred animal of the land.

In those good old days it was common to see a leopard during day time, not only that the big cat was allowed to wander into a house whenever it feels threatened by uncouth people.

From Machame, Rombo, Kibosho and Marangu it is believed that every clan had its own spiritual leopard which is believed to be responsible to protect members of the whole family at night.

Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro

Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro

Lake Chala Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro

Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro is a unique caldera lake, and is thought to be the deepest inland body of water in Africa. This lake is fed by underground springs from Mount Kilimanjaro.

The lake has a great diversity of life. From lush lake shore forest to stunning volcanic savannah; from river beds marvelously carved through ancient rock, to thick bush or open ‘mbuga’. Walking at Lake Chala is a magical experience that will put you back in touch with nature.

The lake is fed by groundwater flows, which come from Mount Kilimanjaro, fed and drained underground with a rate of about 10 million m³ / year. Depending on the time of year, it ranges in colour from deep blue to turquoise and green, it is surrounded by a 100 metres high crater rim.

Chala has a huge variety of amazing trees, grasses and plants; some are unique to the area. According to the time of year there are hundreds of species of butterflies and birds, including spectacular birds of prey. The African Fish Eagle, with its haunting techniques, Verreaux’s Eagle, Augur Buzzards and many other species of birds can be seen around the crater walls. Wild mammals do vary including Blue Monkeys, Colobus Monkeys, baboons, dik-dik, kudu and elephant. Chala is an untouched part of a truly ancient land and a must visit place.

Activities at this lake: walking safaris, canoeing, swimming and fishing.

In the early 1900’s crocodiles were introduced to the lake. However, over the years local fishermen have killed them and it is highly likely that none exist there today.

Local fishermen can be seen in their dugouts drifting silently along, they come to fish there almost daily.

Lake Chala Boat Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro

Myths and legends surround the lake and the local people believe a whole Maasai village disappeared into the lake. It is said that the spirits of those people still haunt the lake today…

Lake Chala and the surrounding area is spectacularly interesting, not just because of Kilimanjaro that can be seen on clear days towering in the background but also because it thrives with life. Walking around you can spot plenty of birds (about 200 species) and small mammals such as blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, baboons, dik-dik and kudu. Being so close to Tsavo National Park you might be able to see large herds of elephants that migrate back and forth between Kenya and Tanzania.

Probably a must-do when at Lake Chala is to go on a walk down the steep crater walls to the water. The walk is very scenic with great views of the lake and vegetation. Swimming is possible but it is advised to stay close to the shore. 
Another interesting walk is the river bed tour. There is a seasonal river nearby where the water has eroded the walls into beautiful shapes.

1 1 1 Lake Chala a crater in the shadow of Kilimanjaro

This is also a good place to spot baboons and other wildlife.

Accommodation is possible at Lake Chala Safari Camp. There are luxury tents and well-equipped campsites with hot water ablutions. Visit Lake Chala on a day trip or stay overnight to experience the tranquility of the lake and wake up by birdsong. A visit to Lake Chala makes an excellent day trip.

Africa Luxurious Safari Lodges

Africa Luxurious Safari Lodges

1. Angama Mara, Kenya

If the epic views from Angama Mara provoke a sense of déjà vu, it might be because you have seen them before on the silver screen. Taking its name from the Swahili for “suspended in mid-air”, the mesmerising vista of the remote Mara Triangle is the same as the one depicted in the 1985 film Out of Africa starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. This new camp, which opened last year on the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment, is the culmination of the work of safari lodge veterans Nicky and Steve Fitzgerald, who have many years of African hospitality between them. There are two camps of 15 tents created by one of the continent’s finest tent-makers with a contemporary, minimalist chic look that incorporates 33ft-wide, floor-to-ceiling windows. The lodge is also committed to the local community; among other features, there is an in-house artisan workshop where Maasai women create beaded jewellery.

Angama Mara, Maasai Mara, Kenya . Doubles from $825 (£570) per person, full-board.

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2. Ruckomechi Camp, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is back on the safari map. Peeping out from the shade of acacia and mahogany trees, right on the banks of the Zambezi river, the 10 rooms of Wilderness Safaris’ Ruckomechi Camp reopen later this month with a new look. It is set in the Mana Pools National Park; this part of the country is known for its large numbers of elephant, buffalo, hippo and eland, which can be seen on wildlife drives, walks or afternoon boat trips on the river. In July a new, smaller satellite camp, Little Ruckomechi, will open further downstream, with just three tented rooms.

Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. Doubles from $702 per person, full board.

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3. Makanyi Lodge, South Africa

One of the newest arrivals on South Africa’s safari scene is this seven-suite lodge in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve on the edge of the country’s vast Kruger Park. The Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo – proliferate here and there are game drives as well as bush walks, birdwatching, painting, guided stargazing and photographic safaris. Each of the rooms is designed in rustic yet slick safari style with a main lodge and an infinity pool, which proves the ideal place to lounge after a dusty drive.

ALSO READ  World’s Top 10 Countries That Save The Most (3 Countries from Africa make the top 10)

Makanyi Private Game Lodge, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Kruger Park, South Africa. Doubles from R8,000 per person, full board including game drives.  

 
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4. Limalimo Lodge, Ethiopia

The jagged, gasp-worthy peaks of Ethiopia’s Unesco-listed Simien Mountains National Park are one of the country’s natural highlights. So too are the large colonies of Gelada monkey that populate it. Opened in January, the Limalimo Lodge is its newest place to stay, with just 12 guestrooms constructed in the vernacular style using rammed earth, wood and thatch. Guests can spend their days exploring the vastness of the surrounding landscape with its walia ibex, leopards and Ethiopian wolves.

Limalimo Lodge, Simien Mountains National Park, Debark, North Gondar, Ethiopia. Doubles from $200, full-board.

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5. The Highlands, Tanzania

Tanzania’s Unesco World Heritage-listed Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most spectacular and richest wildlife spotting areas on the continent. Both the Big Five and countless other species live and visit this vast caldera that formed two to three million years ago.To escape the crowds fully, check into Asilia Africa’s newest camp, the appropriately named The Highlands, set on the slope of the Olmoti volcano. When it opens on 5 June – in good time for the spectacular annual wildebeest migration between July and October – it will become the highest of all the camps fringing Ngorongoro. There will be just eight futuristic looking, luxuriously decked-out domed canvas tents. You can be down on the crater floor for dawn safaris, enjoy bush picnics and just revel in the isolated tranquillity of the setting, when the sun begins to set over the African wilderness.

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 The Highlands, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Doubles from $710 per person, full-board

Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa

Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa  

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Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania named as one of the Most Dangerous Volcanoes in Africa. Parts of Africa are highly volcanic, especially the East African Rift Zone. Ethiopia alone has 50 volcanoes that are still active. However, other countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon and DRC also have volcanoes.

So how dangerous or deadly are these African volcanoes? Below is the top 10 most dangerous volcanoes in Africa!

10) Dabbahu, Ethiopia

The Dabbahu Volcano is also known as Boina, Boyna, or Moina locally. It is an active volcano in the Afar region in Ethiopia and is part of the Rift Valley volcanic system. An eruption in 2005 created a fissure in the earth with a length of 60km.

Ash of the eruption reached villages up to 40km away. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5 hit three days after the eruption started. In total 11,000 people fled the area due to the eruption and earthquake.

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The eruption created a massive fissure in the earth – Image credit to Anthony Philpotts

9) Marion Island, Prince Edwards Islands, South Africa

Marion Island is the top of a 5000m high shield volcano (similar to Hawaii) that rises 1242m out of the Indian Ocean. The volcano is active and erupted in 1980 and 2004 and is the only active volcano in South Africa. The only inhabitants are a changing crew of approx. 50 scientists who can only escape by boat.

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The Marion Island shield volcano

8) Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania

Ol Doinyo Lengai means “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language. An eruption in 2007 caused a number of earthquakes. The strongest of these had a magnitude of 6.0. Older eruptions caused ash fall as far away as Loliondo which is more than 100km away. The volcano remains highly active with eruptions in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

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Ol Doinyo Lengai erupting in March 2008 – Image credit to Cessna 206

7) Manda Hararo, Ethiopia

The Manda Hararo is a group of volcanoes that first erupted in 2007. There were no warning signs according to the local population. The violent eruption continued for three days while the local people fled the area. In 2009 the volcano erupted again and lava flows were seen up to 5km away from the Volcano. No casualties were reported.

The volcanic field around the two main volcanoes is considered the most active volcanic field in the world.

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The Manda Hararo volcano system – Image credit to Earthweek.com

6) Mount Cameroon

Mount Cameroon is the most active volcano in West Africa. Locally it is also known as Mongo ma Ndemi or Fako. It is one of the largest volcanoes in Africa with a height of 4040m. In 2000 lava flows caused by two eruptions came very close to the town of Buea. In 2012 there was a small eruption, but this time it mostly produced ash that posed no danger in the area. It did however injure two guides that were on the mountain at the time.

With around 500,000 people living or working on the flanks of the volcano a larger eruption would cause catastrophic damage.

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Mount Cameroon – Image credit to Savannawood.com

5) Nyamuragira, Democratic Republic of Congo

This is the most active volcano in Africa. It erupted roughly every two years for decades. However, it has been fairly quiet since 2011 when the last major eruption occurred. In 2014 the volcano became active again creating a lava lake in the caldera (crater) with a depth of 500m.

There are no villages close to the volcano fortunately. However, its lava flows could still be dangerous as the volcano lies only 25km north of Lake Kivu. A large lava flow into the lake could lead to lake overturning. Lake overturning is when a sudden change in the lake brings CO2 and other dangerous gasses to the surface. In 1986 this caused the death of around 1700 people at nearby Lake Nyos.

Lake Kivu is almost 2000 times larger and around 2 million people live around the lake. An event like that at Lake Nyos could have a devastating effect. The chance of this happening is luckily quite low as the CO2 concentrations in the lake are not as high as in Lake Nyos.

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Nyamuragira volcano eruption in 2014 – Image credit to MONUSCO Photos

4) Mount Fogo, Cape Verde

After a few days of increasing seismic activity the eruption of Pico de Fogo started on the 23rd of November, 2014. Local villagers spend the first night outside because of the strong earthquakes. Evacuations started once the eruption got underway. The eruption only stopped after a total of 77 days. By that time two villages were destroyed and over 1500 people had been evacuated. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

The entire island of Fogo is part of the volcano that has a diameter of 25km. A major eruption would give the 37,200 people living on the island little chance to escape.

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Mount Fogo – Image credit to Aldo Bien

3) Karthala, Comoros

Mount Karthala (or Karthola) is an active volcano with a height of 2361m above sea level. It is one of two volcanoes that form the Grande Comore Island. With more than 20 eruptions since the 19th century it is considered highly active and dangerous.

After a long quiet period the volcano blasted into action in April 2005. The large lava flows and deadly volcanic gases that were spewed out by the volcano caused the evacuation of 30,000 people. In 2006, 2007 and 2012 the volcano erupted again, but these were much smaller than in 2005.

With over 300,000 people living on the small island a large eruption would cause massive damage and loss of life.

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Mount Karthala is very active – Image credit to Afrotourism.com

2) Nabro, Ethiopia/ Eritrea

On June 12, 2011 the Nabro volcano erupted and spread its lava and ashes over hundreds of kilometers. The eruption caused a series of earthquakes with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 5.7. The ash plume reached a height of 15km and reached a size of 50km by several hundred km. The ash cloud severely disrupted air travel in the region.

Afar, a state in Ethiopia, felt the brunt of the impact. By the time the eruption ended at least 31 people had died and thousands had been evacuated.

The worst part is that this was the first eruption in recorded history. The volcano was considered extinct so very little research was done before 2011. This means that the danger of the volcano is not known.

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Image showing the massive size of the 2011 Nabro Volcano eruption – Image credit to Phil Plait

1) Mount Nyiragonga, Democratic Republic of Congo

Mount Nyiragonga is the most dangerous volcano in Africa. Since 1882 it has erupted at least 34 times and at times remained active for years. The lava from Nyiragonga is very fluid and lava flows can reach speeds of 100km/h when racing down the mountain.

In 1977 an eruption cracked the walls of the crater and the lava lake inside was released in just one hour. The lava reached speeds of up to 60km/h, destroying villages and killing at least 70 people.

In 2002 another massive eruption happened. A large fissure quickly spread from the volcano that reached the nearby city of Goma. Lava flows between 200 and 1000m wide with a depth of 2m streamed through Goma. 400,000 people were evacuated. A combination of noxious gasses, earthquakes and lava flows killed around 147 people. At least 4500 buildings were destroyed (about 15% of Goma) and around 120,000 people were left homeless.

Another danger of this volcano is that carbon dioxide seeps from the ground. When this can’t be spread by the wind (like in buildings) it can cause death by asphyxiation. This has happened to several children very recently.

The most dangerous part of this volcano is that Lake Kivu is very close. In 2002 lava flows reached the lake causing fears that the lake could see a similar event as that at Lake Nyos in 1986. Fortunately this did not happen, but scientists are still monitoring the situation.

The 1986 Lake Nyos disaster killed 1700 people. Lake Kivu is about 2000 times larger and over 2 million people live closeby. A ‘Lake Nyos event’ could cause damage on an unimaginable scale.

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Mount Nyiragonga lava lake – this is the most dangerous volcano in Africa – Image credit to Cai Tjeenk Willink

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