Current situation in the Virunga national park

Current situation in the Virunga national park : The Virunga national park is one of the most bio diverse lands in Africa and this is backed by the numerous wildlife species and plant life. The Virunga national park has up to a thousand different species of mammals, reptiles, mammals and birds and among these wildlife species are the famous mountain gorillas. The Virunga national park is currently the home to a third of the total gorilla population.

The Virunga national park is located on the eastern land border between DR Congo and Rwanda within the Congo Basin. This park is also situated within the second largest tropical rain forest of the world. The Virunga national park offers a fire and ice experience as it is a home to the active volcanic Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamulagira as well as the Rwenzori mountains that get snow capped in the dry season.

The Virunga national park is the home of the mountain gorillas of the Democratic republic of Congo, the only country in the world where guests can enjoy a mountain gorilla trekking and a lowland gorilla trekking. The Democratic republic of Congo is the only country in the world that is a home to two of the gorilla sub species; the mountain gorillas and the lowland gorillas.

The Virunga national park is commonly visited for the mountain gorillas and also for a chance to hike up one of the world’s most active volcanic mountains whose boiling lava you can see at the summit and spend a night at the top. The Virunga national park also has the world’s only gorilla orphanage taking care of the orphaned baby gorillas. This gorilla orphanage is called the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage and is located in the compound of Mikeno lodge.

The Virunga national park is a UNESCO world heritage site and welcomes a great number of guests on an annual basis despite the disturbed past of wars and illegal activities in the area. The Virunga national park in the past once closed for more than a year after there were security concerns in the park. The Virunga national park reopened in February 2019 on a much stronger and secure note with a full time security personnel for all visitors to the park.

The Virunga national park lies close or even in one of the troubled regions of the Democratic republic of Congo, the Nord Kivu, however much the attacks rarely spread into the park. The Nord Kivu has for a long time been troubled by the ADF rebel group that is situated at the Bunagana land border of Uganda and the DR Congo, thus Current situation in the Virunga national park.

Efforts;

The Virunga national park is well aware of the security concerns of the area and have put a few measures in place to ensure the safety of the visitors coming to the park with an interest to explore it.

Current situation in the Virunga national park
Gorilla Trekking in the Virunga National Park

Security convoy team;

The Virunga national park after they reopened came up with a fully dedicated security team that escort guests right from the moment of check in at the Virunga tourism office at the Grande Barrier, on the activities until they are back to check out of the park. This security convoy is the reason as to why the park safari packages all have set off dates to ensure systematic running of all visits and also to minimize costs while maximizing the efficiency of the measure.

ICCN interference;

The Congolese Institute of Conservation of Nature (ICCN) is one of the greatest stakeholders of this park and with this there have been efforts to arrest the individuals responsible for terrorizing the communities living around the park. The ICCN on the 9th of January made a big arrest of a rebel leader called Jackson Muhukambuto who was known for trafficking ivory.

Ivory traffickers are also linked to poachers who kill the rhinos for their tusks and this was destructive to the resources of the park. The poachers also at a point target and kill the ranger guards who try to prevent them and this one Jackson and rebel group were associated with the killing of 19 rangers of the Virunga national park.

The ICCN also sets the guidelines to govern the running of activities in the Virunga national park and also ensures that these conservation guidelines are enforced.

Park closure

The Virunga national park is one of the parks that have had several closures with an aim to better the experience while in this park. The Virunga national park has had an experience of having their gates closed to guests. The past scenarios have been due to insecurity where the guests were kidnapped but safely returned, after the COVID-19 pandemic that required less movement.

The latest closure was recently in December 2021 where the areas near the park were attacked twice and the management saw it fit to close the park until the situation has been calmed. The Virunga national park looks at reopening by March 2022 after the situation has been calmed. The safety of guests is put as first priority and that is why this decision was made, Current situation in the Virunga national park.

The Mount Nyiragongo has been closed after the last eruption of May 2021 and a huge crack was spotted close to the Nyiragongo summit shelters thus the postponement of reopening this activity as they look for a new home for the Nyiragongo summit shelters.

A Congo safari is still possible as guests can take on a visit to the Kahuzi Biega national park for a lowland gorilla trekking experience.

Most frequently asked questions

Here are a few of the currently asked questions by the guests interested in taking on  Congo safaris to the Virunga national park and these have been answered by our knowledgeable and skilled tour consultants. If one of yours is not included here, you may contact us and let us share our knowledge.

Is the Virunga national park still closed? Yes, the Virunga national park is still closed since the closure in December after the park and the community around the park was attacked by one of the rebel groups known to be living near the park.

Why is the Virunga national park closed and why? The Virunga national park has been having smooth Virunga tours since it reopened in February 2019 so one would wonder why they would close again. In December 2021, the Virunga national park once again made the tough decision to close operation and also halt the building of the new luxury Ngila lodge and this was also factored by an attack that happened in the Bukima area of the park.

Current situation in the Virunga national park
Ngila lodge

The Bukima part of the Virunga national park is known for the gorilla trekking as this is where most of the treks start from.

When will the Virunga national park reopen? This may currently be the most asked question recently and the answer to this one fully lies in the hands of the Virunga national park authorities. Because of the attack on the park, the safety of the visitors of the Virunga national park was threatened and to minimize and erase chances of the tourist’s lives being put under known danger, the park continues to watch the security in the region.

Once the security is tightened and the area is deemed safe, the tourism in the park will resume. It is anticipated to reopen later in the year as there have been collective efforts to ensure the rebels are chased out and we continue to hope for positive news soon.

What is the current security situation? The Virunga national park and the surrounding areas still pose to be under threat so the security is still bad and with the recent attack in the park, we can say the area is still under attack. The rangers and security team along with the military are looking at all possible ways to redeem the safety and calm of the area.

What happens to my already booked and paid for Virunga safari? For the guests that had already paid their deposits or fully paid up their safari to the Virunga national park, the money is valid for them to postpone to a further date and once the park is open, they can take on the safari at no extra cost.

In case you prefer to change destination as the dates are not flexible, you can reach out to us and we can organize a safari to another destination you may be interested in on that deposit made.

What now? Are the gorillas still being conserved? Yes the gorillas are still being conserved and looked after. The ranger guides still do the routines walks through the park and still ensure the gorillas are safe and not harmed. The park has even recorded some new births since the closure of the park in December which is a great sign that it will ready for you once the tourism reopens.

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