Post Covid travel in Virunga
Post Covid travel in Virunga : Virunga national park is one of the most visited national parks in the Democratic republic of Congo majorly because of its presence of the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorillas are an endangered species are there are about 1,000 individuals left in the entire world and the Democratic republic of Congo is one of the countries that you can visit for this experience.
Mountain gorillas however can be found in two other countries that is Uganda and Rwanda which implies Africa is the only continent where you can see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Mountain gorillas are famous for their similarity with humans and they are said to share up to 99% of the human DNA but keep in mind that these are wild animals. Mountain gorillas were critically endangered but with the combined efforts of the stakeholders and tourism bodies in each of the above mentioned countries, the numbers of the mountain gorillas have been see to grow over the years and by 2018, they had been moved from critically endangered on IUCN’s list to now endangered species which is a plus for the future of the gorillas.
Virunga national park is a rich national park in the ape species sense as it is a home to three great apes that is the mountain gorillas, the lowland gorillas and the chimpanzees. The mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga is the most popular however this rain forest has a chimpanzee family that guests can visit and the lowland gorilla stay further in the forest that is not developed for tourism as yet.
The closeness of the mountain gorillas DNA with human DNA has proved the vulnerability of the mountain gorillas to the COVID-19 thus the suspension of activities in this park for some time. The Corona virus is suspected to be able to affect the mountain gorillas even if there has not been a case yet. After the global pandemic had been studied and measures to limit the spread were deemed effective, the authorities in charge of the Virunga national park saw it safe to reopen the gates to tourists. Virunga national park began welcoming visitors again on the 1st of April 2021 for the Mount Nyiragongo hike on a daily basis as opposed to the daily set off schedule and reopened for mountain gorilla treks on the 15th of April 2021.
Tours following the standard operating procedures have been ongoing successfully since the reopening however Virunga park has resolved a few more guidelines for tours in the park. If you are interested in trekking the mountain gorillas in Virunga national park, you will be expected to have a valid and certified negative PCR test result that you have taken in the last three days or better yet present a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate.
All guests headed to the Kibumba tented camp or the Mikeno lodge will be subjected to a compulsory rapid COVID-19 test ahead of transfer and this test will be done at the Grande Barrier border building where the Virunga tourism office is set up. The PCR test taken on arrival will cost 45 USD and there will also be test centers at the Goma General Hospital where the test is at 50 USD.
Test results in the Democratic republic of Congo may take up to 48 hours for results so ensure to take the test in time with when it will be needed to avoid having to wait for the test results and miss out an activity of the day. For example if you have a gorilla trek on day 3,it is advisable to take the test at least on Day 1.
Temperatures of visitors will be taken on arrival and at several points on the safari as protocol also every guest will be expected to have a face mask and hand sanitizer on them throughout the safari while maintaining social distance. Also the rangers of the park will receive vaccination or take tests ever 2 weeks to ensure the guests of their safety while interacting with them. All guests are expected to be aware of these guidelines ahead to avoid misunderstandings on arrival.
Should a guest have to cancel their trip due to unforeseen circumstances, some policies are in place to guide them. If the client tests positive for the virus and is unable to come to the country or access the park, the guest will be given a voucher for the trip to be valid for up to a year minus visa fees. Visa fees will have to be paid again when you opt to travel and even have to reapply for the visa.
Should a guest be tested positive when already in the country, you will be put in quarantine in the DR Congo and after the quarantine when you finally test negative, you may access the park.
New departure days for safari packages
The Virunga national park is currently open for only the hike up Mount Nyiragongo and the mountain gorilla trekking experience staying in the Kibumba tented camp. This is majorly because of the less traffic and the COVID-19 protocols that have to be put in place. The packages are meant to monitor the tourism in the park post Covid. After a tough decision, the Virunga national park has changed set off from Goma departure schedules for the safari packages.
The Nyiragongo package will be setting off from Goma on only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays unlike the daily schedule as before COVID.
The Mikeno Mist safari package will be setting off from Goma on Wednesdays and Fridays only which was a different case as it would leave on a daily in the past.
The Le Petit Mikeno package which used to leave on Fridays will be leaving on Wednesdays only throughout the week.
The Virunga Classic and the Great Ape package will be setting off on Mondays only and not on Wednesdays anymore.
The Virunga national park was also ready to add another hotel for guests called the Ngila lodge that was under construction but this was put on hold until further notice anticipating around late 2021 or early 2022. The other Virunga safari packages besides the Nyiragongo and the Mikeno mist will be available for booking from the 18th of June 2021.
The Virunga national park, on the other hand is picking up and so are the gorillas that have been busy in this period and 17 new born gorillas were birthed in 2020 after the lockdown and 6 new births already for 2021 which is a good sign for the park. We look forward to hearing from you when you are ready to visit the Virunga national park Congo.