Post-Covid travel in the Virunga National Park
Post-Covid travel in the Virunga National Park: As the Virunga national park looks forward to reopening its gates to tourism exactly a year after it closed in response to the world pandemic – COVID-19, a number of guidelines have been put in place by the park to ensure safe and seamless post-Covid travel to the park, within the park and back home. The Virunga national park is a home to the only mountain gorillas left in the world along with the Volcanoes national park of Rwanda and the Mgahinga forest national park and Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park of Uganda. The Virunga national park is one of the national parks of the country and is the most visited park of the country.
The COVID-19 global pandemic forced most public places to close to limit the spread and contraction of the virus. The Virunga national park sent out a statement closing the park indefinitely on the 1st of April 2020 and is scheduled to reopen on the 1st of April 2021 which is exactly a year and is the last one among the other three gorilla parks to reopen its gates. The Volcanoes national park of Rwanda reopened first on the 1st of August 2020 and the two Uganda gorilla park followed suit a month later.
The major reason for closing the parks was to protect the endangered mountain gorillas that have a weak immunity and yet can contract disease from human. Keeping the tourism ongoing would be a potential threat to the animals. There are mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the Virunga national park and these primates have close DNA relation to humans. Both Rwanda and Uganda put up strict guidelines to monitor the guests in and out of the country and also the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national park has issued a number of guidelines.
Most guests headed to the Virunga national park fly into Rwanda at the Kigali International airport and one of the protocols that Rwanda put in place for travellers wishing to fly into the country is mandatory 24 hour quarantine at designated hotels as you await test results for a must COVID-19 test done on arrival. You are only allowed to check out and meet your driver guide to start your trip upon receiving of negative COVID test results. The hotel you have booked yourself into will pick you up from the airport on arrival and transfer you for your quarantine stay.
One of the requirements all travellers headed to the Virunga national park will need is a valid and certified PCR test result taken in the last 72 hours or a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The guests headed to the Kibumba tented camp and the Mikeno lodge will be subjected to a mandatory rapid COVID-19 test before they set out to join the convoy headed to the lodge. This rapid test will be done at the Grande Barrier and this is majorly because the travellers headed to these lodges are scheduled for the gorilla trekking activity.
Temperatures of every individual will be taken as a must upon arrival at all destinations in the park on a daily basis and this will help monitor those whose temperatures may be a bit higher than normal. Fever is one of the most common symptoms of the virus so if found with any of this symptom or any other, you will be expected to report to the management for further assistance.
Putting on a facemask has become a new and obvious look so all guests will be expected to carry their own masks and keep them on at all times within the park as well as a hand sanitizer. There will be hand sanitizers spread out at different places in the park but you are still encouraged to carry one of your own incase.
The social distancing will also be practiced on all treks and also all through your stay at the park. You will be expected to maintain a 2 meters distance between you and another visitor at all times even if they are family. Also rangers and driver guides who will be taking on the treks will be subjected to a rapid COVID-19 test every two weeks or be given vaccines as soon as they are availed in the country.
Before you exit the park or the country, guests can take a COVID-19 test at the Goma General Hospital with a test costing 50 USD and wait up to 48 hours until the test result is processed and availed to you. You are encouraged to plan according with the number of days you have in the country to avoid disappointment upon departure. Guests are also advised to have one driver guide all days in the country to limit risk and monitor him. Every car will have to have a sanitizer to help sanitize surfaces and maintain hygiene in and out of the car.