Since November, when rebels entered the embattled city of Goma, signaling the latest chapter in eastern Congo's seemingly endless cycle of conflict and atrocity, Virunga National Park has been closed to visitors.
But the park will eventually reopen, enticing adventurous travelers back to its forested volcanic slopes to view its resident mountain gorillas.
There's more here than gorillas. Located deep within the summit of Mount Nyiragongo (3,470 meters/11,384 feet), just a few miles from Goma, is the world's largest lava lake, a roiling 250-meter wide cauldron that ranks among the most spectacular natural marvels on the planet.
Prior to the latest upheaval, tourists had been defying the volatile human backdrop and the volcano's hyperactive reputation (its last eruption, in 2002, engulfed 14,000 homes) to spend a night on the crater rim.
"I'd never climbed a mountain, let alone an active volcano," says Lucy Owen, a Londoner who decided to make the trip after an agent bent her ear in the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi.
"But it turned out to be one of the most memorable things I've ever done. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts, and hope you don't regret it."
For updates on the park's status, visit www.visitvirunga.org.