Virunga national park is one of the famous destinations in Africa for gorilla trekking which has sold the country’s tourism industry in the whole world. Virunga national park is also the home of two active mountains. The park has been threatened by political conflicts in DR. Congo but it is still among the best destinations in Africa whereby recently it was reopened. Virunga national park was gazetted in 1925 by a researcher known as King Albert 1 of Belgium that is why at first it was called Albert national park. This park was established with the purpose of protecting endangered mountain gorillas. Albert national park deteriorated but in the 1970s is when the president of the country picked interest in conservation that the park was recovered and named Virunga national park. Virunga national park is covering an area of 7800square kilometers and expanses to the north of Rwenzori Mountain and in the north of the Virunga mountains. This park is popular not only in Africa but in the whole world because of its bird, mammal, and reptile concentration. Some of the wildlife animals in the park are chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, giraffes, buffaloes, and others.
This park is one of the oldest national parks in Africa, it was formed with the purpose of protecting and conserving the endangered mountain gorillas, research purposes, and protecting an indigenous threatened fruit-gathering community that is the Twa. The Virunga wildlife national park is neighbors Rwenzori National Park, Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
The Virunga national park is blessed with a various ecosystem that includes the Albertine rift, crater lakes, block Mountain, rainforests, open grasslands, savannah vegetation, forest vegetation, erosion swamps, and lava plains. A lot of wildlife animals in the park include elephants, hippos, lions among others, bird species, reptiles, amphibians, and primates like the red-tailed monkey, black and white monkey, mountain gorilla, bushbabies, vervet monkey, blue monkey, baboons, among others.
The park is popular in the whole world as a home of the few remaining mountain gorillas. Most of the tourists like to do gorilla trekking in Virunga national park because permit for trekking is cost low and the park is less congested than Volcanoes national park of Rwanda, Bwindi forest and Mgahinga national parks of Uganda. There is also oil mining in Virunga national park and they say that in the coming years, 80% of the Virunga land will be used up. UNESCO designated the park as a world heritage site in 1979.
What to do and see in Virunga national park.
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is among the top tourist attractions which have sold the country’s tourism industry in the world. Mountain gorillas are found in four national parks and Virunga national park of DR. Congo is one of them, others are Bwindi and Mgahiga national parks of Uganda plus Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Though Virunga national park holds few mountain gorillas with only 6 gorilla families which are already for trekking. Kabirizi gorilla family is popular for trekking by tourists than others. Permits for gorilla trekking in Virunga national park cost 400USD thus becoming the cheapest destination if compared to other gorilla trekking destinations like Uganda which is costs 700USD and Rwanda which costs 1500USD.
Chimpanzee tracking is also a wonderful experience in Virunga national park that was started in 1987 by Frankfurt zoological society for research study purposes. Chimpanzees tracking is done in Rumangabo sector and Mahura forest of Virunga national park. This activity in Virunga national park usually begins at 6:00 am with a brief about the dos and don’ts of chimpanzee tracking. The rangers take you through the rainforest looking for chimpanzees and you are supposed to spend only 1 hour with them. Tourists who wish to spend more time with these primates can do chimpanzee habituation which gives you more time and interacts with them, observing their lifestyle until the evening when they make nests for the night, you will take pictures as they are playing, jumping.
Only 4 tourists are accepted to do chimpanzee habituation. Permits for chimpanzee tracking in Virunga national park is 100USD per person.
Hiking the recent erupted Nyiragongo Mountain Volcano.
Nyiragongo volcano hike is a wonderful experience hike at an elevation of 3470m high and is above sea level. While at its apex, the Nyiragongo volcano features the largest crater on its peak. You need to be at Kibati patrol past as early as 10:00 am to be able to start the hiking safari. You can hire a porter who will support you during the hiking process like carrying your luggage, supporting you in a slippery place, hot volcano rocks. To enjoy this activity without disturbance please try as much as possible to carry equipment like waterproof, hiking boots for easy movement, warm clothing like jackets, hand gloves, snacks, and energy drinks. It takes 6-7 hours to complete the full hike but in most cases, this depends on the speed of hikers.
Senkwekwe orphanage center
Senkwekwe orphanage center was created in 2010 to take care of orphaned mountain gorillas which are rescued from poachers. This is the only place that caters to orphaned gorillas. There are 4 gorilla families that were rescued from the poachers which include Ndeze and Ndakasi. While Kaboko, Yalala, Matabishi, and Maisha were dead because of health conditions. There are also gorilla doctors who take care of them in case of anything. Visit Senkwekwe orphanage center where you will get more time and interact with them, seeing how they feed their younger ones, learning their behaviors, and among others.
Virunga National Park is the park with good landscape viewing among all the parks in Africa and includes the Volcanoes in the Virunga conservation area, the Rwenzori Mountains, afro-alpine vegetation, eroded valley in the Ishango and sinda region, snow summits, forest cover, and others, where you will get a good photograph and memorable experience.
While doing nature walks in Virunga, you will pass through the forest with the purpose of watching several wildlife species, insects, several bird species, and others. Nature walks may help visitors to be relieved from stress, relax, and many more. During nature walks in Virunga national park, you will see almost all wildlife in the park such as the lions, mountain gorillas, elephants, chimpanzees, baboons, antelopes, monkeys, buffaloes, okapis, hippos on the water banks of Lake Edward, and many bird species which includes the white-headed wood hoopoe, African olive pigeon and also visit Senkwekwe orphanage and so on.
The park hosts over 706 bird species. This is an interesting activity in the park whereby the visitors and rangers wake up early in the morning and go to the forest. Watching the bird species through binocular is advisable and that is why bird lovers are advised to come with their binocular, naked eyes or following the bird’s voice when singing. These are some of the bird species in Virunga national park which include the Angolan swallow, chestnut throated apalis, African olive pigeon, black-headed waxbill, grey throated barbet, Rwenzori batis, strange weaver, mountain greenbul, thick bellied sea eater, double toothed barbet, blue-headed sunbird, white-headed wood hoopoe, barred long-tailed cuckoo, handsome francolin, alpine swift, tropical boubou, blue-spotted wood dove, and among others.
When can you comfortably visit Volcanoes National Park?
Most of the tourists who are planning to visit Virunga national park have the same question about the best time to visit the park. The best time to answer your imagination is the driest months that are from June-September and December-February when the hiking trails are not too slippery and muddy. Virunga National Park can be done throughout the year but during the wet season that is from April-May and October- November. There is much rainfall which makes hiking trails slippery and muddy which may affect your safari tour in Virunga national park. Please note, this park is found in the tropical rain forest, we are expecting rain any time so you’re advised to carry the right-wear as it may rain any time of the day. Hiking boots, a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, a waterproof rain jacket, a hat, packed lunch, and energy drinks are very useful.
When you’re planning to visit the park, You should not depend on the weather but you should have to know what favors your interests as a tourist and this can be more arranged when you’re in touch with Africa Adventure Vacations.
Lodges, camps, or hotels in and around Virunga national park.
Virunga national park is surrounded by many safari lodges that range from budget to, midrange and luxury which is comfortable and fits your budget. These are some of the lodges where one can stay and complete his/her trip with no disturbance. These are some lodges below;
Mikeno lodge offers a restaurant and bar stocked with all types of drinks, a seating area, a natural stone shower, flush toilets, and others. While staying at Mikeno lodge, you will participate in activities like visiting mountain gorillas at senkwekwe orphanage center free of charge, bird watching, nature walks, and others.
Bukima tented camp is just outside Virunga gorilla park and in the most time gorilla trekking start from here. It has 6 tents which offer four double beds and one twin bed. Activities one can do while staying here are gorilla trekking, bird watching, nature walks, and others.
Kibumba Tented camp is a budget-friendly lodge and it is good ideal for tourists who wants to do hiking on Nyiragongo, gorilla trekking, bird watching among others. It has a well-furnished tent with all necessities like good food, a bar stocked with all types of drinks, a comfortable bed, a private shower, and so on. Other safari lodges in Virunga national park are Tchegera islands camp, lulimbi tented camp, and others.
Getting or Accessing Virunga national park by
By road, Air & Water Transport
Virunga National Park is the Democratic Republic of Congo oldest park established in 1925. Virunga national park is the home of mountain gorillas in the world others are found in three national parks, which are Mgahinga gorilla national park, Bwindi impenetrable national park of Uganda, and Volcanoes national park of Rwanda. The park marks the beginning point for hiking to the world’s largest crater lake which is found at the top of the active volcano mount Nyiragongo.
By road Transport
Virunga national park can be accessed from Uganda and Rwanda. Tourists who are from Uganda can reach the park by taking the route to Kisoro district and then continue to Bunagana border post which is between DR Congo and Uganda then after here you go to Bukima where park personnel will pick you up to Virunga national park.
While that one from Rwanda, you will take a route that takes you through Gisenyi town and continue your journey to Goma town where you will find the park’s security team who will take you to the park and start your activities.
Air Transport helps you to reach the park in the shortest period of time. Tourists with a short period of time can use air transport to reach Virunga national park without any exhaustion on the journey. Flights to Virunga national park are arranged by Ethiopian Airlines on a daily basis to Goma town where our tour guide will pick you and drives you to the park.
You can use a boat transfer which takes place between Goma and Bukavu. When you’re planning a gorilla trip to Kahuzi Beiega, you will book a morning boat transfer from Bukavu port to Goma port and then connect to the Virunga national park and enjoy a lot of tourist attractions such as mountain hiking at Nyiragongo, gorilla trekking, chimpanzee habituation, bird watching and among others. The boat ride cost 50USD and it takes about 3 hours.