Map of Virunga National Park: Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with an area of 790,000 hectares, contains an exceptional range of ecosystems, ranging from marshes and steppes to the Rwenzori snowfields at an altitude of nearly 5,000 m, and from lava plains to savannahs on volcanic slopes. The park is home to mountain gorillas, 20,000 hippopotamuses, and birds from Siberia that spend the winter there.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unlike any other African park due to its active volcanic chain and wide range of ecosystems. Its range includes steppes, savannas and plains, marshlands, low altitude and afro-montane forest belts, as well as distinctive afro-alpine flora with permanent glaciers and snow on the Mountain Rwenzori, whose peaks reach 5000 meters in elevation.
The national park contains the majestic massifs of the Rwenzori and Virunga Mountains, which include Africa’s two most active volcanoes. The abundance of environmental variety results in outstanding biodiversity, particularly endemic species and rare and internationally threatened animals like the mountain gorilla.
Map of Virunga National Park in Congo.
Congo’s Virunga National Park was created in 1925 as Africa’s first national park to safeguard and protect the endangered mountain gorillas. The national park is home to wildlife species like as elephants, hippos, lions, and okapis, as well as primate species such as the endangered mountain gorillas, over 2000 plant species from which the park’s animals graze, bird species, reptiles, and amphibians, among others. Because of the large number of qualified local game rangers, both men and women, Virunga National Park is a safe place to visit at any time.
Attractions and Activities in Virunga National Park.
Mt. Nyiragongo, the world’s biggest lava lake, is a picturesque volcano covered in greenery and occasionally coated with snow. It is home to a wide range of species, including chimps, monkeys, and bushbuck. During eruptions, Nyiragongo is feared due to the low silica concentration of its lava, which flows incredibly fluidly.
Trekkers to the top of Nyiragongo begin at the Kibati patrol post, which is 30 minutes by vehicle from Goma and one hour from Rumangabo. All hikes are usually led by park rangers, and porters are always available for rent. The fitness level of each group dictates the average time necessary to reach the top, which is normally 4 – 6 hours. As a result, there is no set time for reaching the peak of this volcano. This is because not everyone has the same degree of fitness and so cannot climb and reach in the same amount of time.
Climbs start at 10:00 a.m., with a ranger station. On the day of their ascent, they must arrive at the Kibati station by 9:15 a.m. Trekkers should pack complete rain and cold weather clothing because temperatures at the top are typically below freezing. Hypothermia occurs when suitable equipment is not brought.
Congo, like every other gorilla trekking site, is not unusual, with over six gorilla families. Because of the country’s security situation, no one knows the exact number of gorillas that live there. However, the most recent census, conducted in 2021, revealed that Virunga national park had over 350 gorillas, with around 7 new borns.
The Virunga gorilla trekking permit costs $400 USD and can only be obtained by applying and booking at the Virunga national park liaison office in Goma. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) manages Virunga National Park, and it is this organization that has the authority to award you this gorilla permit on behalf of the national park through their office in Goma. Once you have obtained this permit, you are free to proceed to the trek’s starting point at Bukima for briefing and allocation of a gorilla group to be seen, and it is from here that the real gorilla trekking exercise begins.
Chimpanzee Trekking and Habituation.
The habituation of chimpanzees in Congo’s Virunga National Park began in February 2014, when a Congolese team trained by the Frankfurt Zoological Society began living in the woodlands surrounding the park headquarters in Rumangabo. Though these chimps are not constantly visible, when they are, they are a fun pastime to participate in.
Guests that want to monitor these primates leave their hotels as early as possible in order to get a sight of them. However, the rangers head out very early in the morning to go into the jungle and first locate these chimpanzees before coming back for the visitors once they know they are present.
Groups are limited to four persons, and time spent with the chimps is limited to one hour. Chimpanzee habituation had come to a halt as a result of civil upheaval from 1992 to 2001, thereby ending chimp tourism.
Visitors are generally encouraged to cancel if they are not feeling well at the time of their planned walk, such as if they have a cold, fever, diarrhea, or a chronic sore throat, because chimps, like gorillas, are particularly sensitive to human infections. The majority of chimps have perished after being exposed to human respiratory infections and other prevalent illnesses.
Senkwekwe gorilla Orphanage
The Senkwekwe Orphanage Centre is a facility that was established to care for orphaned gorillas from Goma as well as those rescued from poachers. This centre is near the park headquarters at Rumangabo. This facility was named after Rugendo, a dominant silverback who was slain in 2007 along with three other members.
This is the only institution in the world that cares for orphaned gorillas, with four gorilla families saved from extinction, including Maisha, Ndeze, and Matabishi. Maisha and Koboko were the first to be saved from Rwanda, and they engaged with and connected with the other survivors.
Guide nature walks
Nature walking typically comprises moving from one location to another in order to relax the mind. Taking time to go over numerous trails in search of diverse types of nature, such as birds, and unwinding from the sounds of buzzling city and stress. During this nature walk, one walks through dense forest flora, particularly in Tongo’s dense forest, Map of Virunga National Park
How to Get to Virunga National Park.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is accessible from both Uganda and Rwanda. You may travel to Kigali International Airport and then drive to Virunga National Park through Gisenyi town and the Goma border crossing into Congo, which takes around 2 hours from Gisenyi town to Bukima, the park headquarters. From Uganda, travel to Entebbe international airport and then take chartered or scheduled flights to Kisoro airfield, or drive from Kampala to Kisoro through Mbarara and Kabale, a long route that takes around 8 to 9 hours, then pass the Bunagana border to Bukima headquarters, which takes about one hour.