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 for 2011. As a result, this year the oldest national park in Africa expects to raise more than $1-million.
Among the attractions on offer are an overnight trek to the eruption of the Mount Nyamuragira 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 January 1, 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, and about one in 10 is British.
The Nyamuragira volcano began erupting on November 6 and has several lava fountains spewing up to 200m 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.