A Travelers’ Guide to Virunga National Park: Virunga National Park, established in 1925 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, is one of Africa’s finest (and most endangered) assets. It stretches across 3,000 square kilometers of land on the outskirts of the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest. Its boundaries contain a diverse range of ecosystems, ranging from the wetlands of the Semliki River valley to two active volcanoes and the snowfields of the Rwenzori Mountains.
A third of the world’s last living mountain gorillas take refuge in the misty montane forests of the Virunga Mountains Massif in the park’s southeastern section, which borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
Gorilla trekking is the primary tourist attraction in Virunga National Park, as it is in Rwanda and Uganda’s neighboring parks. For most gorilla fans, the latter two nations are substantially safer and more popular. Nonetheless, daring adventurers are lured to the DRC by its reputation as the final frontier of Africa’s untamed wilderness.
Prices are also far lower, and a visit to Virunga National Park provides two unique attractions: the opportunity to ascend the still-active Mount Nyiragongo volcano and the chance to see the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla, a subspecies found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Continue reading to learn how to visit this remarkable park. Below is A Travelers’ Guide to Virunga National Park
What can I do during my visit to Virunga National Park?
Visitors to the park will be greeted with breathtaking landscape dominated by beautiful volcanoes. The park’s environmental diversity results in an astonishing array of flora and wildlife. The park is home to over 1,000 animal species, 44 of which are endangered, and many more are Albertine Rift endemics.
One of the park’s most notable features is that it is the only protected region in the world that is home to three species of great apes: mountain gorillas, eastern chimps, and the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla. However, given that they are presently on the verge of extinction, chances of witnessing the latter are small.
Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to 22 distinct primate species, ranging from the critically endangered golden monkey to the extremely uncommon Hamlyn’s monkey. Elephants, buffalos, lions, the biggest concentration of hippos in Africa, and a variety of antelope are among the other creatures. Regional specialties include the bongo, the water chevrotain, and the rare and endangered okapi, a species found only in the DRC.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park.
There are roughly 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the wild, with Virunga National Park housing one-third of them. Among them are nine troops that have been socialized to people, providing visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch one of our closest living cousins in their natural environment.
The major reason for visiting Virunga is to go on gorilla trekking led by armed rangers. Each party is allocated a troop, and depending on which one you receive and the conditions of the day, finding the gorillas can take up to three hours of difficult hiking. After that, you’ll have up to an hour with the big apes before returning to base. When you visit Mikeno Lodge, you may also see rescued gorilla orphans at the Senkwekwe Centre.
Bird Watching in Virunga National Park.
Birders on a birding tour in Virunga national park are well supplied for as well, with at least 16 Albertine Rift endemics found inside the park’s boundaries. Keep an eye out for colorful rarities like Shelley’s Crimsonwing and Rwenzori turaco, and look for over-wintering Palearctic migrants in the park’s Ramsar wetland regions during the rainy season.
Hike Nyiragongo Volcano
The Nyiragongo volcano walk guides hikers to the peak of this active stratovolcano, whose crater holds the world’s biggest lava lake. The trail starts at the Kibati Ranger Post (6,135 feet above sea level) and climbs for about 4 kilometers to the summit at 11,385 feet.
It takes four to five hours to get there, and along the journey, you’ll pass through five unique ecosystems, including lower slopes forests with fauna such as chimps, monkeys, and bushbuck, as well as ancient lava flows and high montane forest. The walk includes an overnight stay in a mountain shelter to view the sunset from the peak.
You might also want to know that the Nyiragongo backpacks for those hiking Mount Nyiragongo, cost $100 and include everything you’ll need for your stay on the volcano, such as a sleeping bag, warm clothes, and food. Unless you hire a porter from the ranger station for $25 per 33-pound bag, you will have to carry everything yourself.
Is It Safe to visit Virunga National Park?
Before visiting Virunga National Park, it is critical to realize that the park is regarded as one of the most hazardous in the world. This is because the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide and the First and Second Congo Wars led in hundreds of rebel groups staying in and around the park, unlawfully using its natural resources to support their activities. Violent clashes between insurgents and park rangers are regular. Since the early 1990s, nearly 200 rangers have been slain.
The park was closed to tourists from June 2018 to February 2019 owing to persistent violence, and even though it has reopened, there have been tragic occurrences as recently as February 2021. With all of this in mind, it is usually rangers who are the victims of these crimes rather than tourists, and every precaution is made to keep visitors to Virunga National Park safe. Continue reading this article that acts as a travelers guide to virunga national park to learn more.
Where can I stay during my visit to Virunga National Park?
Mikeno Lodge in Virunga national park is located near the park headquarters in Rumangabo and is surrounded by magnificent woodland and breathtaking Albertine Rift vistas. You can see them from the main lodge’s balcony, which has a complete restaurant and bar. Alternatively, from the terrace of your private hut, keep an eye out for blue and colobus monkeys. Each of the 12 cabins has a fireplace lounging area, a soaking tub, a natural stone shower, and flushable toilets.
Kibumba Tented Camp
Because of its position in the park’s southeast section, Kibumba Tented site is the preferred site for gorilla hikers. It has 18 deluxe safari-style tents on Mount Mikeno, each with an en-suite bathroom with hot water and flushable toilets. The main lodge has its own dining area, and the balcony provides opportunity for al fresco eating as well as sightings of golden monkeys and uncommon montane bird species.
Tchegera Tented Camp
Tchegera Tented Camp is located on the crest of a collapsed volcano caldera in the midst of Lake Kivu. It’s the most intimate accommodation choice, with only six tents, and it provides water-based activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. Each tent has its own bathroom with hot water and a flushable toilet, and the entire camp (including the restaurant and bar) is powered by solar energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In summary; The above article acts as a travelers’ guide to virunga national park.